Hot Rod Circuit brings sweet home Alabama to the ears of Northern aggressors.

Song of the South 

Hot Rod Circuit brings sweet home Alabama to the ears of Northern aggressors.

Back in 1998, Hot Rod Circuit moved from Auburn, Alabama, to New Haven, Connecticut, on a single day's notice in an effort to snag more exposure. Now singer Andy Jackson is back in Alabama with his wife and daughters. If ever something good has come out of a long-distance relationship, it's the band's new album, Reality's Coming Through, a crisp, hard-pop rhapsody that can be exhibited as proof that the foursome never should have been lumped in with the mewling throng of bands that will live and die by the "emo" label.

"People still don't know what the hell emo is," says Jackson, who lists post-hardcore luminaries Superchunk and Dinosaur Jr. among his band's influences. A quick glance at the cultural lexicon of the waning emo phenomenon suggests that no one knew what it was in the first place: At the Drive In, Weezer, the teen drama Felicity, Father Guido Sarducci ... the list goes on. Just where Hot Rod Circuit fits -- aside from its sincerity and flashes of hardcore influence -- is anyone's guess.

Just in case Jackson wasn't annoyed enough by being saddled with the emo tag all these years, we thought we'd grill him on the fickleness of his regional affiliations.

You moved to Yankee territory. Now you're back in Alabama. Why should we trust you? Are you a spy?

"No, I'm not a spy, but you should trust me because I'm from Alabama."

Why did you move back?

"The cost of living is outrageous in Connecticut. It's not easy supporting a family on an indie-rock income."

What are the differences between the music scenes in Alabama and New England?

"New England has an actual music scene, and Alabama has a fictional one, especially where I live, in Montgomery. There is, like, one club, and bands play in their garages and pretend that they are on tour. I have to say that there is a lot of hidden talent in Alabama as well, just because people in the South tend to never leave the South."

Did you experience any culture shock when you first moved north?

"Yeah, the lack of Southern hospitality. People in the North just don't get it."

Which is better: New England clam chowder or Alabama she-crab soup?

"I have to say clam chowder. I have lived in Alabama most of my life and have yet to experience she-crab soup."

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