48Volt turns traditional by not really trying

48Volt performs "Girls of West Texas" at The Soul Bar in May 2008. Watch more of 48Volt and other local bands at augustalounge.com

For members of Augusta act 48Volt, shedding their former identity as American Skin was more than a change of lineup and name. It was an act of honesty.


As American Skin, the group trafficked in a rock sound that drew inspiration from the hard and heavy. Think Sabbath on the Sunset Strip. The 48Volt sound, by comparison, draws more from American roots music, incorporating country and soul in addition to rock. The change occurred when the band stopped trying to sound like a rock band and chose instead to serve its songs.

"This is much more of an organic vibe," said Brian Allen, the band's drummer. "With American Skin there was always a metric ton of push and pull, all of the time, and we never really found our voice."

Finding that voice involved shifts in personnel and a new approach to song-writing. Chris Livingston, who had played bass in American Skin, switched to guitar and began writing music. Vocalist Brian Panowich began writing songs that were more personal, and, as it turned out, less hard rock.

"The stuff this band did before was good rock 'n' roll," said bassist David Newhall. "But once we started writing with this lineup, it became a whole different monster.

''In the end it just seemed right to change the name because what we were doing was going in a whole different direction."

Instead of writing what they thought a rock song should sound like, they began to write tunes that reflected how they felt.

"At one point, we actually discussed direction," Mr. Newhall said. "It was quickly decided that we wouldn't. We wouldn't try to go in any direction. We would just play. We thought if we tried, what was starting to happen would just get screwed up."

There are traces of American Skin in the 48Volt material. It is still based around a lockstep back beat, and big growling guitars still make frequent appearances. Mr. Livingston said it would be disingenuous for the band to divest itself of American Skin. He said American Skin was, in fact, a reflection of who the band was at a certain place and time.

"We were going with what we knew, which is rock music," he said. "Now, it is something different. In a year, it could be something different again. But I think there is something to be said for that."

Mr. Panowich equated the band's new attitude of natural evolution with looking for love. Working too hard, he said, is never successful.

"When you are looking for that girlfriend, out there smelling good and looking for it, you always go home alone," he said with a laugh. "It's when you stop trying that you meet the girl of your dreams. That's what happened here.

"We stopped trying."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.