Rock outfit Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is moving in new musical directions on its first album since leaving Virgin, which is nearing completion, according to bassist/vocalist Robert Turner. He and gu

Rock outfit Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is moving in new musical directions on its first album since leaving Virgin, which is nearing completion at Sandbox Studios in Los Angeles, according to bassist/vocalist Robert Turner. He and guitarist/vocalist Peter Hayes are pressing on without drummer Nick Jago, whose status in BRMC remains uncertain after he left the band in late summer for personal reasons.

"This is not an acoustic record, but some of the songs don't lend themselves to a lot of clutter," Turner tells Billboard.com of tracks like "Complicated Situation," "The Devil's Waiting" and "Shuffle Your Feet." "A couple of them have our friend Paul [playing drums]. Some of the stuff me and Pete just did ourselves."

And while BRMC is not abandoning the propulsive, layered rock of its first two Virgin albums, Turner admits, "there's one in the vein of an old, Johnny Cash song, and there are a couple of songs that sound like Dylan's first couple of albums. On the songs that do have a fuller sound, they're more produced and layered. We used that setup more for our first album than the second; just having fun in the studio layering things, rather than the live electric band, throw-and-go sound."

"When we were on Virgin, we knew this album was coming because we had it in our heads for awhile," he continues. "We also knew our relationship with them wasn't good enough to survive a musical directional change. It was barely holding on as it was. That's why were persistent about parting ways. If we'd stayed, we knew we'd be recording a record that would have been saddled from the beginning, and that would have f***ed up the music."

With good reason, Turner says he and Hayes were uncertain how the new material would be received by the many record labels bidding for BRMC's services. "But the first meeting we had, we played the music and it was a strange feeling of confidence in what we'd done," he offers. "It came over really strong in that environment. We ended up in the exact opposite of where we'd expected, and now we can take our pick of where we want to sign. It's really bizarre. We expected the worst and would still be happy with it."

Turner reveals that the band is hoping to make a decision within the next six weeks, and is considering T-Bone Burnett's DMZ imprint through Sony, Warner Bros., Sanctuary, Independiente and XL, among others. Ideally, the new album would be released in the first quarter of 2005. And with no live shows planned for the next several months, BRMC doesn't yet have to confront the possibility of Jago not returning to the fold.

"We're trying not to rush into the decision of rehearsing drummers or having people we know step up and take that role, because it's not 100% clear what's going to happen with Nick and us," Turner says. "We're going to let him take his time to clear out his head and play with other bands if he wants to. The door's always open for him to play with us if he wants."