Q & A with The Constellations at Bonnaroo Music Festival



By Donald Mason

You never know what kind of talent you will find at a music festival. At Bonnaroo, music lovers of all kinds will surely find something new and fresh, it just depends on how well you can navigate Centeroo.

I was fortunate enough to spend a little time with some members from The Constellations before their Thursday show at the Troo Music Lounge: Elijah Jones — lead vocals, Trevor Birdsong — guitar, Alania Terry and Shab Bashiri — vocals, claps and percussion.

Q. So, I have to ask you about the “Perfect Day” video you had on Playboy.com. This was my first experience getting a taste of the group. It seemed provocative and edgy, yet was well directed and seemed to cater toward your demographic. Tell me what all went into the video.

A. Elijah Jones: That video was shot in an old 1800s cool house in midtown Atlanta with about 70 friends of the band. It turned into a party with friends, not staged, all real. Eric De Fino was the director and did a great job capturing the moment. All that were involved were comfortable with their bodies, no hired video hos.

Q. There is one part of the song that pulls it all together — the cowbell. There is a band, Here Come The Mummies, that uses a cowbell. Any chance that will be added to the instrument list?

A. EJ: We’ll definitely add cowbell in the future. No objects or materials are exempt from being used.

Q. Who are some of your influences?

A. EJ: I grew up on funk, listening to Bootsy Collins. I would say that my two main influences are Cee-Lo and Tom Waits. I pictured Cee-Lo’s voice in the streets of Atlanta.

Q. Trevor, what style of guitar do you prefer?

A. Trevor Birdsong: I like Teles, prefer Fenders.

Q. Not often do you get to work directly with one of your influences. How was the experience with Cee-Lo on the track, “Love Is A Murder”?

A. EJ: Cee-Lo actually approached and introduced himself. Having him work with us was a blessing from God. He has impeccable taste.

TB: ­Individually hung out with crew. Couldn’t find a nicer, more genuine guy.

Q. Speaking of influences, you have a Tom Waits tribute on the album “Step Right Up”. When I heard this, it reminded me of Heath Ledger’s voice in “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”. Is there any correlation?

A. EJ: Even though the voice sounds a lot like Heath Ledger in the “Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” it was made a few years back. It was one of the first tracks to gauge outside interest. (I) changed lyrics and was nervous about writing a Tom Waits song, and that’s just what came out. I would love to meet Tom Waits, he is a great influence.

Q: How did you end up getting signed?

A: EJ: Virgin Records bought album as is, which is rare. Rob and Alex had four favorites, not “Felicia,” while other record companies wanted “Felicia” and carbon copies of that.

Q: Tell me about opening up for Snoop Dogg.

A: SB: We had to fight against the Snoop crowd. Doors opened at 7, DJ for 2 hours, movie for 45 min, then The Constellations go on stage. Crowd booed because it wasn’t Snoop.

TB – The crowd thought we were the backing band for Snoop. The cool thing about an 8 person band is there is still a crowd to play for.

EJ – “Felicia” was dedicated to the ladies, except the one who was heckling all night.

Q: We know the face of the franchise is Elijah, tell me a little about the front man.

A: SB: Elijah wrote a song on a box as it was the nearest material. Music plays in that man’s head, real music comes to him that way. Ben Allen saw something in Elijah and opened his studio to him.

AT: I remember seeing him conduct with his finger, orchestrating his musical thoughts

Q: Coming up in competitive ATL, is the competition healthy or hungry?

A: EJ: No competition in ATL other than hip-hop. Very supportive of music, receptive to different styles. Fuels and pushes envelop to get best out. We have actually played with B.o.B.

TB: Any genre works in Atlanta

SB: More known for hip-hop, like Black Lips and Deerhunter.

Q. It took you a little over two years to develop the album. Do you think the follow-up will be easier or more difficult?

A. EJ: (There are) no expectations on the second album, just as there were no expectations on the first. (We’re) just having fun without worrying about the product. Pressure might actually be good, so bring it on!