The states below the Mason-Dixon Line have produced some of the most important artists in American history: Flannery O'Connor, Tennessee Williams, Elvis Presley. Yet despite the title of their fifth release, The Fast Rise and Fall of the South, lifelong North Carolina residents The Kingsbury Manx—who play the Crocodile this Friday, November 18—aren't as indebted to that rich cultural milieu as one might suspect.

"A lot of [iconic] Southern figures have kind of negative connotations," confesses singer/guitarist Bill Taylor. "You get associated with Jesse Helms all the time, which is scary."

Since their eponymous 2000 debut, the ornately arranged, pastoral rock of the Manx, with its hints of psychedelia and folk, has been compared to acts affiliated with everyplace but the American South, particularly California's the Beach Boys and the Byrds, and our PDX pals the Shins. The quartet's intricate vocal harmonies on new cuts like "Harness and Wheel" evoke memories of quintessential New Yorkers Simon & Garfunkel. Yet there is a distinctly Southern character permeating Rise and Fall, says Taylor—it just isn't easy to pinpoint.

"We're more influenced by the way of life there," he explains. "There is an element of truth to that edict of Southern hospitality, and things definitely move at a slower, more laid-back pace. And that comes through in the way we write, and the way our band sounds."

Listen to the interplay of keyboards and intricate guitar fillips on "And What Fallout!," or the sing-along conclusion of "Zero G.," the lilting banjo on "Animations" and the carefree bounce of "Ruins," and the evidence of that is audible.

And so, to a lesser degree, is a delineation between Rise and previous albums. "There were definitely individual things, about the sound of past records, that I wanted to do differently," Taylor confirms. "Since I play so much acoustic guitar, I wanted to focus on recording that really well. Because sometimes, it can sound tinny and lost, and this time I wanted it to have more body."

Without coming across like a lifelong subscriber to Guitar Player magazine, the 29-year-old makes it clear that his dedication to his primary instrument runs deep—another consequence of growing up in relaxed environs down South. There wasn't much in the way of entertainment in Wilson, North Carolina, where the band members were all middle-school buddies. "I just got used to practicing the guitar every day. It was fun, and we didn't have anything else better to do," he recalls. "I don't think I could have that kind of resolve now."

Fifteen year later, that meticulous attention to detail, coupled with subtler timbres, has yielded the most deceptively sophisticated Manx disc to date, albeit one masquerading as their mellowest. But don't expect that relaxed vibe to translate to the stage show. "Even though these are softer songs, we're significantly louder live," Taylor concludes. "If you're expecting to have a nice little night out, to sit down and hear the Peter, Paul & Mary version of Kingsbury Manx, you're not going to get it."