Commander Keen | Dying in the South


"Do the ghosts in your bones rattle and moan? I don't know."  I am excited to have Commander Keen on the site this week! They are a fantastic band from Cookville, TN. Their new record Dying in the south is the perfect soundtrack for all these long hot summer days and warm cicada nights. If you have ever lived in a town that a parking lot is the coolest place to hang out, everything is closed on Sundays, the county fair is one of the most exciting events of the year and local shows helped raise you, this record is for you. If not, I still think you will like it a lot and think it's great. Dying in the south very much reflects a life of living in the south. Get a coke, sit a spell, eat your supper and listen to this record.

Thanks y'all, 



Commander Keen...

Blake Marlow - guitar/vocals

Matt Billings - bass guitar 

Zach Ramsey - percussion

Commander Keen became a band around the fall of 2012 in the depths of Zach's basement at his dad's house outside of Cookeville. That place was a cigarette bunker full of musical equipment and I really miss it. If I won the lottery I would buy that house in a heartbeat to get that room back. There's something about getting drunk in a windowless hot box that was really magical. Living somewhere with a lower population density than Nashville is sometimes viewed as a detriment to the artistic mojo, but I've always enjoyed creating music in a smaller town; the pressure to follow trends and scenes isn't as overbearing and you have a greater freedom to make the art and the sounds you want. On the downside, you're not as plugged into the machine and it's harder to get gigs. There's always a trade off somewhere right? I never thought the project would go on to take us all over the country and act as a catalyst to all the crazy adventures we’ve had, but if you drive around in a Honda full of gear, and play anywhere that will let you, you’re bound to have a weird time. Isn’t that what it’s all about?


We're from Cookeville, TN which is a small college town nestled right between Nashville and Knoxville. Word on the street is that we're supposed to be the next Asheville? We've acquired three breweries, a distillery, and we're getting a Publix. I'm glad we're developing, but I really don't want Cookeville to turn into a giant strip mall like Mt. Juliet. There's a small dedicated scene that has produced some absolutely wonderful, albeit underrated, bands: The Hosemobile, Hellbender, Nose!, Holy Mountain Top Removers, KMA, Glomus, Bloc, Sheep Bella Tine, Finda Brita, Pumpkinseed, Fatman Drool, Humps and the Black Outs, Flea Market Hustlers, and so many others I'm forgetting. There aren't exactly a great number of places for bands to really play, but there's not shortage of talent from this area. I know some bands will identify with the nearest, closest, largest music city (for us that would be Nashville), but I like to own where we're from and take that little slice of earth with us wherever we go.

Dying in the south

The new record is called “Dying in the South” and we released it on the 4th of July. It's the first time we've ever released an actual vinyl record, so we made sure that we didn't cut any corners or have an ounce of
fat on the record. Knowing that the album was going to be branded into a physical form made us feel especially accountable and meticulous in what we were doing. We didn't want this record to be just a collection of songs thrown together haphazardly. As a band, we wanted to make an album with a capital “A” and showcase only our best. In the process, several songs got the axe, but I have no regrets to what we did or didn't include. Thematically, the title and cover is a pretty good indicator of what you're getting into. As a songwriter, I wanted to make a Southern record in the same way Faulkner wrote Southern novels. Being a Southerner and having progressive ideas are often viewed as being mutually exclusive, and I wanted to shine a small light on what growing up in the South can be like. It's a narrative completely unique to anywhere else in the world. The results of the Civil War still have implications here and theres still underlying narrative of defeat deep in the fabric of Southern culture. Faulkner was writing about that during his career, people are still writing about it now. It's deep in the bones. Ultimately, my hope is that the record shows more than it tells and the listener can get a small view of life in the modern South. I think the record's title track does that best, and I think it's the best track on the record. Zach and Matt have their picks, but that's mine. I really think it's the best song I've ever written. As a whole we're all genuinely proud of this record. It represents our best efforts, and it embodies a sound we've been developing over years of making the music we want to make. I know I've said a lot, but I hope the album speaks for itself.

Commander Keen will be on tour in August. 


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anna howard