Two years after returning to active duty from a five-year-hiatus, Squirrel Nut Zippers will release their first album in nine years -- and also their first live album -- with the Oct. 27 release of "Lost at Sea" on Southern Broadcasting/MRI.
Drummer Chris Phillips tells Billboard.com that the group decided to bring out a concert souvenir first because "it's been awhile since we've really been out in public, and I felt it was a great reintroduction for people who knew the band and knew the catalog. The band has grown and changed a lot, musically and is playing the catalog with a lot of command that we didn't used to have. So it felt like a live album was a great first step into re-launching the band...and a great segue into better things to come."
Phillips says the group had culled together performances from about a dozen shows it had recorded and was planning to release that until it "offhandedly listened" to a tape of a Dec. 4, 2008 show from the Southpaw in Brooklyn. "As soon as I heard it, it totally jumped off the page," he recalls. "We're a very spirited band and can be ragged sometimes, but as soon as I heard the recordings from this night I knew I had to roll with them and scrap everything else."
Phillips and his mates -- Jim "Jimbo" Mathus (vocals, guitar), Katharine Whalen (vocals, banjo, ukulele), Je Widenhouse (trumpet) and Stuart Cole (bass) -- are also eyeballing a new studio album, hopefully for 2010. The group has been gathering at Mathus' studio in Mississippi, and has "been recording a lot of new material, according to Phillips. He says the more than 20 songs recorded "are a little more representative of some of our heritage as Southern folks. There's a little more of a Southern roots approach to what we're doing. Katharine is writing material now, which is really exciting. And Jimbo spent so many years playing with Buddy Guy and the Fat Possum folks and soaking up that. So we're stretching it out a little bit."
Phillips won't predict exactly when the new music will see the light of day, however.
"A new studio record is definitely in the works -- or three," he says, "but I'm not feeling anxious to crank out something that isn't an accurate representation of what we want to broadcast. I think the wrong move would be just to crank something out because we feel pressure to fly our flag. We feel very patient to wait 'til the record is the right record.
"But I have a tremendous amount of faith in the band's future. It's great to be at this point. This is definitely a going concern."
The full track listing for "Lost at Sea" includes:
"Good Enough For Grandad"
"It Ain't You"
"Put A Lid On It"
"Fat Cat Keeps Getting Fatter"
"Suits Are Picking Up The Bill"
"Happens All The Time"
"Ghost Of Stephen Foster"
"You Are My Radio"
"Missing Link Parade"