As far as rock and roll bands go, Jackson, Miss., combo the Overnight Lows are definitely late bloomers. “That’s one way of putting it,” says the band’s guitarist and vocalist Marsh Nabors, laughing.
Although the group has been a stalwart of the Southern garage rock scene since the ’90s, they’ve yet to put out a single recording. That will change this week, as the local Goner Records label releases the band’s long-awaited debut, City of Rotten Eyes. The Overnight Lows will mark the occasion with a CD release show Friday at Murphy’s.
As it happens, the band — led by Nabors, his wife/bassist Daphne and drummer Paul Artigues — will also celebrate its 10-year anniversary in a couple of weeks. “So it’s kind of ironic that the record is coming out now,” says Nabors. “After this many years, most bands would probably be breaking up. But after a decade we’re just kind of getting started.”
In a way, it’s been longer than a decade, as Nabors and his wife first emerged with mid-90s Mississippi outfit the Comas. That group ended abruptly in 2000, and Marsh and Daphne — who were married that same year — formed the Overnight Lows with drummer Jamie Pittman.
At the time, Marsh never expected an Overnight Lows record to take so long. “The original idea was that we weren’t going to mess around at all. We were going to come right out and record and put out an album,” says Nabors. “Needless to say, that didn’t really happen.”
A variety of personal and professional delays, as well as several false starts at recording, conspired to put off a release year after year. “One thing led to another, and life got in the way,” says Nabors. “But we’d always keep writing songs and practicing and playing shows.”
In a way, Nabors says he’s glad that the band didn’t start putting out material immediately. “We actually kind of messed around with recording some, but they were pretty lighthearted attempts,” he says. “A lot of the early stuff, I’m glad it never got released. I’m fine with it being lost to history because it wasn’t all that good.”
The critical shift for the Overnight Lows came in 2005 with the departure of drummer Pittman — a technical virtuoso with a flashy Keith Moon flair — who was replaced by the more driving, punk-styled percussionist Artigues. The switch in drummers solidified the Overnight Lows sound.
“I grew up on the Ramones, and that’s how I learned to play guitar, listening to those records,” says Nabors. “I was attracted to the simplicity and the idea of things being really direct musically. So when we started playing with Paul, things started going in that direction and got more unified and tighter.”
Finally, after several more years of studio inaction, in 2008, Goner Records pledged to put out a record by the group. The Overnight Lows convened at Midtown’s Rocket Science Audio studio over the course of a couple weekends last winter to cut City of Rotten Eyes.
Evenly split among newer songs and older material (like the Comas holdover “Bad Times”), the album is highlighted by propulsive eighth-note riffage redolent of the Ramones and intertwined male/female vocals that recall L.A. punks X. It might have taken the band a long while, but the 12-track disc was well worth the wait.
“We wanted to include a couple of the older songs because they were real representative of a certain period,” says Nabors. “And I think, overall, we’re real happy with the way it came out.”
Following the release show at Murphy’s, the band plans on hitting the road, making its first national tour.
“Having a record out is a motivating factor. We’re dead set on touring for real, and we’re all in a situation where we can do it,” says Nabors. “Now we’ve got a record and a tour — it’s all taken a while, but after 10 years, it’s finally time.”