With a week left before a crop of acoustic concerts, singer Barry Privett and the rest of the band Carbon Leaf hunkered down in Richmond, Va., to rehearse.
It's been two years since they've done seated shows of this sort, and they're not quite sure what's going to happen, Privett said.
"We're kind of in a workshop right now," he said in a phone interview. "It's appropriate it's Christmas, because we kind of feel like we're in Santa's workshop trying to put the wheels on these things for the shows. The paint's still wet."
During the gigs, one at the Eight by Ten Club tonight and two at 9:30 Club on Sunday (the first show at 8 p.m. is sold out), the band plans to debut six or seven tunes, Privett said. Band members culled the new material from a collection of Americana-esque songs written on the side while touring across the country.
Until now, the chance to perform them has never popped up, and Privett figured the acoustic dates would be the perfect forum. If they're received well, he said, the band might record them for an EP to plug the gap between now and the next full-length album.
"We hope people won't be bored by it. We think it's kind of unique because we haven't debuted a ton of new material lately because we've been out promoting Indian Summer so much, and it just seemed like the right thing to do."
The new songs and the material from 2004's Indian Summer mark Carbon Leaf's shift from the Celtic style the band had developed over the course of several albums and years.
After 2001's Echo Echo, band members went into the studio with about 20 songs, some of which had Celtic tints, Privett said. But the Celtic songs felt like an extension of Echo Echo and no longer resonated with the group.
"We were trying to find new inspiration from that genre and weren't really getting it," Privett said.
The band abandoned these songs and embraced the more rockish numbers, which would become Indian Summer.
Since then, the band has toured exhaustively in support of Indian Summer -- spending about 300 days on the road this year, Privett said. As a result, he hasn't had time to pen many lyrics for a new album in 2006. That takes time, which the band doesn't get much of, he said.
"It would be nice to tour on a smaller time frame each year and be able to be home and have that time to come up with new music and write and record and have a little vacation time, too," he said.
With less touring, there'd also be more room to rehearse before playing new material in an unfamiliar setting. For the acoustic tunes to work well on stage, Privett said, Carbon Leaf will have to work to keep its intensity at a manageable level. It's hard for a quintet that's used to a wide stage to stay subtle.
"When you have five guys, there's acoustic real estate that's being taken up," Privett said. "Everyone needs to work together and create that space -- that intimacy."
Carbon Leaf plays the Eight by Ten Club at 8 tonight. Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 the day of the show. The Eight by Ten Club is at 8-10 E. Cross St. For more information, call 410-625-2000 or visit eightbytenclub.com. The band also plays the 9:30 Club at 10 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15. The 9:30 Club is at 815 V. St. N.W. in Washington. For more information, call 202-393-0930 or visit 930.com.