UK Americana band Loud Mountains, whose brand of roots meets power-pop always found a place in my affections, broke up in 2019. That band’s one-part head honcho Sean Duggan is back in the recording sphere with his new band, Steady Habits, formed after his brother and co-leader Kevin returned to the states to pursue a solo career. ‘Hold In Your Breath,’ the band’s wonderful debut EP released this month is, ironically, nothing short of a breath of fresh air on a roots scene that seems to have turned its back a little on the old ‘Alt-country’ vibe of old. Echoing the likes of Whiskeytown, surely an influence here, Oxford-based Duggan has produced his finest work to date. Whereas ‘Borrowed Time’ soars high on barrelled, chiming guitars. the title track meanders its way straight to the heart with melodic magnificence. It truly is an impressive debut from a band made up of alumni from fellow Oxford bands Dreaming Spires, Speedbuggy USA, Great Western Tears and The Greasy Sticks. Americana-UK spoke to Duggan about finding himself with an EP to release in what is far from a perfect environment, how lockdown is playing out and, more importantly what is keeping his ears alive sound-wise.
As a newer band with our first release in the works, we were pretty upset when the pandemic hit. We had just played our first couple of successful shows together and were looking forward to promoting our release over a run of festivals this summer. It was especially tough to see friends having shows cancelled while on tour and to go back home nearly empty-handed.
Playing for a few different bands, I was unaccustomed to having so much time to myself, so I enjoyed the first few weeks, cleaning house & watching Tiger King with the rest of the world. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly live-streaming picked up & how enjoyable it was to connect with other musicians I wouldn’t normally encounter through songwriting rounds & live-stream festivals.
I’ve tried to use this time to consider the content I’m consuming. I’ve taken to reading more than I ever imagined. I just finished Tuesdays with Morrie House of Leaves which couldn’t be more on opposite ends. I’m even eating all of my veggies and calling home once a week. But even so, I miss my bandmates and my friends. This time has really made me value my relationships and the privilege I have to make music with such talented folks.
Ultimately, our decision to release our EP ‘Hold In Your Breath’ was because we wanted to share something while everyone is home & listening. A lot of the songs deal with a sense of self-reflection, which I think a lot of us have been doing and it felt like the right moment.
So, what are those must have records you have been digging into these past couple of months, Sean?
‘LP5‘ – John Moreland
Despite the current pandemic, 2020 has been a gift of new releases. John Moreland’s new record is high up on my list for this year. I first put this album on early in the morning & it put me in such a good place.
‘Reunions’ – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
This is probably no surprise to make the list. I’ve been a long time fan of Jason Isbell. He captures subject matter that is often difficult to talk about in such a beautiful way and his newest album does not disappoint.
‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ – Bright Eyes
I was introduced to this album when I was 13 and it always manages to come back into my life. I know this record front to back and it has influenced me so much as a songwriter. I heard my younger brother playing a cover of ‘Train Under Water’ in his room upstairs and it nearly knocked me off my seat.
‘Color Theory’ – Soccer Mommy
I saw Soccer Mommy open for Kacey Musgraves on her last tour she blew me away. Her new album is just pure grunge-pop that makes me nostalgic of being a chubby kid in the early 2000’s.
‘Alonesome’ – Malin Pettersen
Seeing Malin perform with her band at the AMA UK showcase this past year was easily one of the highlights of the conference. Her latest EP is just an example of her dynamic of her voice and her songwriting.
‘Red Headed Stranger’ – Willie Nelson
I’ve been digging into the Willie Nelson catalogue recently. This album has been a recent discovery of mine. I apologize for being late to the party.
‘Real’ – Lydia Loveless
Lydia Loveless is a powerful songwriter and can make me laugh and cry in the same song. I love a lot of her releases, but I often glazed over this one. After watching her documentary, I became immediately attached to this album.
‘Expectations’– Katie Pruitt
Katie has a powerhouse voice & her songs about struggling with & embracing her sexuality were all too relatable. Therefore, I was really looking forward to her debut album which she released earlier this year, and it was everything I wanted.
‘The Reminder’ – Feist
I appreciate that this might be a little cliche with the break-out single ‘1234’, but this album is stunning. Her albums are highly conceptual and it’s a joy to listen to experience it the whole way through.
‘I See You’ – Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe’s recent singles ahead of her upcoming album have been giving me something to look forward to. Songs like ‘Kyoto’ are an unexpected change of pace from her last album, and I can’t wait to hear more.
‘Hold In Your Breath’ is out now