Southeast Engine at the Treehouse

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

One way to ensure proper promotion for your band's album: Take over your record label.

That's what Southeast Engine drummer Leo DeLuca did last year when the owners of Misra Records ceased operations and started looking for a successor. DeLuca, who had been running a tiny imprint called Moon Jaw Records in affiliation with Misra, jumped at the chance to bring the label back to its glory days, before it merged with stalwart indie label Absolutely Kosher in 2007.

"They created this aesthetic that was kind of psychedelic folk, like unorthodox folk music," DeLuca said. "It wasn't straight roots like whiskey train track Jesus music at all. When it went under the management of Absolutely Kosher, it kind of got away from that. And I just wanted to bring it back to the old days of what the label was pretty much loved for."

His first order of business is releasing his band Southeast Engine's latest LP, "Canary." The Athens, Ohio folk-rockers usually tackle album-length concepts; "Canary" tells the tale of a southeast Ohio family struggling through the Great Depression.

Singer-guitarist Adam Remnant was inspired when a man who lived at Remnant's Athens home during the Depression paid the house a visit. Remnant began imagining life in the 1930s, a struggle not all that foreign to many modern-day residents of dirt-poor Athens County.

"I mean, in Trimble I don't even think you can get cell phone reception," DeLuca said.

Southeast Engine had gradually moved from rootsy folk into expansive indie rock in the decade since Remnant and DeLuca founded the band as Ohio University undergrads. To complement the sepia-tone Appalachian narratives of "Canary," they reached back into their old-timey bag of tricks, though not deliberately.

"Authenticity to time period was never a goal," DeLuca. "The subject matter naturally lends itself to a more rootsy and folk sound. Singing about certain things like 'Adeline of the Appalachian Mountains,' that's not something that you really rock out to."

"Canary" definitely rocks in spurts, though. Consider the psychedelic organ squalls of "At Least We Have Each Other" or the rollicking rumble of "1933 (Great Depression)" and "Summer and Her Ferris Wheel." It's just that fiddles and fingerpicking get plenty of play, too.

Speaking of play, "Canary" has been getting spins on influential radio stations such as Seattle's KEXP, a major step up from the deafening silence that greeted 2009's "From the Forest to the Sea." DeLuca is psyched to glean similar exposure for the rest of his Misra roster, which features Misra vets Summer Hymns, Moon Jaw alums Theodore and Columbus weirdo folkies The Black Swans.

Those same Black Swans will join Southeast Engine on Thursday at The Treehouse.

Hear some folk:

The Treehouse

10 p.m. Thursday, April 28

887 Chambers Rd., Grandview