July 23rd 2016, by Cory Chambers
– Savannah’s status as a historical wonderland brings many academics to town each year. Historians are mesmerized at our region’s ability to be of another era.
This weekend, our historical relevance brings a Charleston, W.Va., rock band to the Lowcountry.
Nationally recognized author and historian Phil Hatfield plays guitar and writes songs with Under Surveillance. The band released “Savannah Moon” in February and is touring to promote the LP. The quartet will be at Richmond Hill’s Flashback on July 23.
The new recording is indeed a nod to the Hostess City, as Hatfield says the album was born from his ties to Savannah.
“It is our first time performing in Savannah, but I have fairly deep ties to the city,” he says. “I started visiting there while I was in the military over 10 years ago, and fell in love with it then. I wrote most of the songs on ‘Savannah Moon’ in Savannah, and the title song is about when my wife and I fell in love there. It’s a very special place to me.”
The album is chock full of anthem-style rock ’n’ roll. Vocalist Eve Marcum-Atkinson is a dynamic frontwoman. Her voice adds grace and charm to the hard-edged rock trio that is Hatfield on guitar, Phil Crace on bass and Randy Brown on drums.
Often drawing comparisons to classic rockers like Cheap Trick and modern heroes like Foo Fighters, Under Surveillance offers a clean yet rigid sound for heavy music enthusiasts.
“Savannah Moon” manages to sound classic while not cornering itself into the classification of revivalist music. The influences of the 1970s are always present, but a modern tilt is unceasingly at the forefront for the band.
Hatfield, Crace and Brown are veterans of rock music, having played together since grade school. Like a family band, they deliver a tightness that can only come from years upon years of working and performing together.
Hatfield says playing with childhood friends can be a balancing act for all parties involved.
“Working with guys you grew up with is definitely a positive, but it can be difficult too,” he says. “On one hand you know each other so well, personally and musically, that the creative and performing aspects become very intuitive; you just sort of know what the others will do or are hearing. We can be like a family, but at times, we can also be a dysfunctional family.
“We always joke and say that we put the fun in dysfunction. We can fight like siblings, but we always resolve the issues and have kept the music and people who follow us first. That’s why it’s lasted so long.”
Under Surveillance has recently been signed to New York’s Factory Fast Records, and will travel all over the East Coast and Midwest in support of the new album. Concertgoers can expect to hear “Savannah Moon” played live in addition to some new material. The band will of course pay homage to the classics, covering the likes of Blondie, The Pretenders and U2.
While this will be a business trip for Under Surveillance, a historian like Hatfield says he will be unable to resist the opportunity to soak in the local charm in between shows.
“I always make time to tour historic sites in Savannah,” Hatfield says. “It’s a national treasure for architecture, colonial and Civil War-era history. I could easily spend years just walking around the different circles and gardens, quite mesmerized by the beauty and stories.”
Don’t miss Under Surveillance this weekend to hear the rock versions of those Savannah stories.
IF YOU GO
What: Under Surveillance
When: 10 p.m. July 23
Where: Flashback, 10010 Ford Ave., Richmond Hill
Cost: Free; 21 and older