When Sugarland announced their Incredible Machine tour this spring, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush did a series of interviews in which they talked about their new “steampunk” aesthetic, leading many to believe that their similarly titled new album, The Incredible Machine (due Oct. 19) would share that artistic theme. This belief has caused much consternation among critics and fans alike, with endless speculation about how on earth all that creaky Victorian-era steam engine machinery would influence the sound of one of country’s sunniest acts. Further investigation, however – and by “investigation” I mean “listening to the five new songs Sugarland has debuted live or on radio so far” – would seem to indicate that this speculation is unfounded, or at least based on bad intel.
And now, straight from the horse’s mouth, we have proof that in fact Sugarland has not recorded the musical equivalent of that awful Will Smith/Kevin Kline movie Wild Wild West: “I find it oddly interesting that people made a jump from a visual aesthetic to think that’s musically what’s gonna happen,” Jennifer Nettles told EW this morning. “But I think that’s really our fault for the way that we explained it, to be honest. It has everything to do with the visual. We wanted another world on stage. We wanted something fun, a visual aesthetic to be inspired by. We chose that one. It has nothing to do with the music. I definitely put the brunt of that on our shoulders for anyone who didn’t understand that.”
Nettles also expanded on the thinking behind the occasional bursts of Auto-Tune and the fancy reggae-rap section in new single “Stuck Like Glue.” “[The Auto-Tune] is almost like a comic piece for us,” she said, “because everybody is doing it, and we thought, ‘Oh god, yes. If we’re gonna be able to put it anywhere, please, let’s put it right here.’ It was really just a moment of fun for us in the studio. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh yeah, this is cool.’ It was like, ‘This is hysterical.’ I mean, we’ve already put in a reggae breakdown. Which by the way, it’s not reggae country. It’s a breakdown. I think you’re allowed anything in a musical breakdown. Maybe I do have an inner Sean Kingston, or an inner Bob Marley. Something is going on here, I’m sure of it.”
Although at least one radio station is apparently editing out said breakdown, Nettles is unconcerned. “I’m hoping that’s just gonna blow over,” she said, “because it seems quite honestly a little silly. I mean, obviously, I am that good at reggae.” The song has already cracked the top 10 on iTunes, which Nettles attributes in part to them “going dark” for a bit after 2008’s Love on the Inside, and in part to the fans being psyched for the shock of the new. “With each record we try to grow artistically, we don’t try to regurgitate the same ol’, same ol’,” she said. “People get excited about hearing what kind of fun or crazy or artistic stretch we’re gonna do next. Apparently, this was what happened. Reggae. Of course.”
There ya go, Mixers. So: How you feeling about the state of the Sugarland union and The Incredible Machine now? Better? Or did all you steampunk fans out there just toss your top hats in disgust?
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