The qualifiers for progressiveness within bluegrass seem to be difficult to name. There may be no better way to find an answer than to look to a band still making a name for itself even after, well, having made a name for itself: Yonder Mountain String Band.
Born in Nederland, Co. with mid-western roots, YMSB is undergoing transformation; the kind of change where, instead of seeing your ex at a bar with a new flame, you see your ex — and his new band — on the same summer festival lineups. As Yonder tours familiar territory with a new configuration, sights are set on the live show performances. Though, it is perhaps the undercurrents, and the behind-the-scenes notions driving the band to move forward into a realm that surpasses expectations both professionally and personally
YMSB picked up two new players after cutting ties with founding member, Jeff Austin, in 2014.
“It can be nerve wracking… to a certain extent,” commented YMSB’s banjoist Dave Johnston in a recent interview with Miranda Brooks of IndyMojo. “But, I don’t feel preoccupied with frustration. We’ve made a decision, and we’re just letting the chips fall where they may.”
The expanded band is now a five-piece with Allie Kral on fiddle and Jake Jolliff on mando.
“It feels really good and fresh,” Johnston spoke of the band’s current dynamic. “Allie and Jake are talented musicians and quick studies. Plus the ‘hang’ [time] is good, they’re really great people.”
With a sink or swim and trial by fire type of audition, Kral and Jolliff came out being both not drowned and unburnt.
“I think that speaks to their level of creativity and willingness to work,” Johnston said of the newbies’ seamless transition. “It feels like two things are happening at once… it feels like a new band, but an old band, too – maybe something that has existed in a parallel universe somewhere, and now we’ve crossed paths.”
The band has recorded brand-new material set to be released sometime this year.
“The process has changed so much now that you record whenever and wherever you can,” Johnston said of their own operation, which took place in studios across the country from California to Michigan to Virginia.
When asked about the piecemealed technique, he said, “It’s tricky and requires a different kind of psychology, but we take care to make sure it sounds uniform; ultimately the sound ends up being the same because you get to the same musical place regardless [of locale].”
The creative process is still the same for the band, despite the change in lineup.
“We write with the intention of allowing everyone input; crew members and managers even have a hand in the process, making it a group effort.”
Themes and sounds may differ from the past, but the evolution of this family-style dynamic is heart-warming as it steers clear from making music that might be individualistically identified. It’s this type of off-stage improvising that pays off when and where it matter most.
And Johnston’s laid back attitude is focused on just that… the live shows – playing audience favorites from their lengthy catalogue, and having fun with new covers from Neutral Milk Hotel, Urge Overkill, Dusty Springfield, and Chuck Berry.
When asked about the progressiveness of the bluegrass genre as we know it today, Johnston shared this insight:
“Bluegrass is such a malleable and adaptive form; the possibilities for it to thrive and expand and redefine itself are typical of any American art form. It’s a legendary tradition to be a part of, mainly because it’s changing. Any amount of tinkering can be done. Or even if major, massive changes happen… and it still has that drive and feeling that traditional bluegrass givens to you, then I think it’s still pretty much bluegrass. It doesn’t have to be from a rural area, it doesn’t have to mimic or even echo the progenitors of the music… it just has to make you feel like other bluegrass makes you feel.”
The Vogue Theater
Wednesday January 28th
Baths is flooding The Vogue Theatre this Thursday May, 8. He will be bringing a curious style of indie-electronica that encapsulates both the danceable and the introspective. Teetering between trance inducing pulsations and melancholy electronic squeaks, Baths’ sound is something indie and electronic fans alike can relish.
Ocean Death, his newest EP, picks up where his most recent release, Obsidian, ended. Currently on tour with Young Fathers, Will Wiesenfeld aka Baths, will be hitting The Vogue only two days after the drop date for Ocean Death.
For those unfamiliar with the California native, his moniker stemmed from his love of taking baths. Over the past four years, he has racked up some quite interesting experiences. From releasing the upbeat, Cerulean- widely lauded as one of 2010’s best albums- to battling a debilitating bout of E. Coli to exploring his sexuality, Will has accomplished much in his recent years. In the wake of 2013’s superb Obsidian, Will has delved deeper into a similar environment with Ocean Death.
Despite his somber lyrics, Will’s onstage persona is charasmatic and seemingly affable. We’re happy to announce that he was kind enough to share some insight and laughs with us at IndyMojo:
MOJO: Your newest EP Ocean Death is dropping in a few days, what can you reveal about your release?
WW: Not much other than the fact that it’s a companion piece to Obsidian. I didn’t want to over think the process, but the material remains pretty dark.
MOJO: What has been the driving factor in the exploration of your sound over these past four years?
WW: Probably men’s butts. Or something (laughs). I’ve been far more open with my sexuality and it’s made writing lyrics and music a whole lot more freeing.
WW: I’m not sure! I don’t have anything to compare it to. It’s been great over the past four years.
MOJO: Who have you been listening to during this 4 month stretch of tour dates?
WW: A lot of playlists, and a podcast called Uhh Yeah Dude, of which I’ve heard every one of their 400+ episodes.
Thursday May 8th
The Vogue Theatre
Doors Open 8:00 PM
Leftover Salmon have been touring the country for over 25 years, bringing their blend of bluegrass and jam music to adoring fans everywhere. They will be performing at the Vogue Theatre on May 1st with Bill Payne, the keyboardist for Little Feat. I had a chance to interview Vince Herman, the guitarist and singer of Leftover Salmon about their upcoming show. Continue reading to hear how he started playing music, formed the band and more.
MOJO: I figure I’ll start at the beginning; how did you get started playing music?
VINCE: I grew up in a town near Pittsburg and went to a lot of family weddings. I had a real big family and I saw bands playing there. I just thought that was the shit, man. No one else in my family played but I decided to start lessons in 2nd grade or something like that. I played at church as a kid and then went to college in Morgantown, West Virginia, and got all tied up in the bluegrass scene and migrated to Colorado and started a band.
M: What was the first band that you were in?
V: Leftover Salmon, pretty much.
M: How did you guys come together initially?
V: It was a combination of a band called The Salmon Heads that I was in. Yeah, I guess that was really my first real band. We combined the Salmon Heads with some guys from the Left Hand String Band and what we thought was going to be one gig, filling in a couple people, we called it Leftover Salmon out of a combination of the two bands names. Little did we know, almost 25 years later, we’re still doing that stuff.
M: When did you decide to incorporate the washboard?
V: I got turned on to Cajun music in 1982 at the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins, West Virginia and that is the first time that I heard the washboard played and I thought that it was pretty cool. I didn’t get one until about 10 years later but you know.
M: You recorded your last album in 2012, before that it had been 8 years, what made you decide to record that album?
V: We called it quits on the band for about three years and then got it back together for the occasional one-off reunion gig and then we did enough of those that we figured it was either time to do it for real or not and we decided to do it for real. That meant doing a record.
M: Why did you guys take a break for a couple of years?
V: Well, we lost our banjo player to cancer. We really needed a break after Mark Vann passed.
M: I saw that you guys recently released the self-titled album digitally. What made you want to do that?
V: Well, that was the last album that we made before we took the break and that was before iTunes and all of those things and so we realized that we never had an online digital release of the record. It just took us a little while to realize that.
M: That makes sense, that is the way that most people get music these days, I guess. Have you played Indianapolis before?
M: What do you think of the music scene here?
V: It is great city, I love it, man. (There are) a bunch of cool little venues. I’ve always enjoyed my time in Indianapolis.
M: Do you like life on the road?
V: Sure. I’ve done it almost 25 years; I hope I did (laughs).
M: Since you guys have so many songs, how do you decide what you are going to play on a given night?
V: Well, we kind of put together a set list just about every night but we tend to forget about it and play whatever we feel. Having a list makes sure we don’t forget what we know. There are about 300-400 songs that we can pull off at any time.
M: Is it more fun to just drift into a song that seems right but wasn’t on the set list?
V: Absolutely, absolutely.
M: I used to go to a bunch of festivals, but I haven’t really as of late. I was wondering your thoughts about electronic music taking over the festival scene.
V: It reminds me of when disco happened. The culture will cure itself.
Leftover Salmon will be at the Vogue Theatre on May 1st at 9:00 p.m. You can purchase tickets here.
Click below to hear their self-titled album that was recently released on all major digital outlets.
Deltron 3030’s second album, Event II, is set 10 years after their debut album, in the year 3040, paralleling the time it took to be released. Set in a scientifically fictional dystopian society, the scene is set with the album’s first track, a monologue by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He explains that the people have begun to collapse under the weight of economic despair and anarchy is inevitable. However, there is a glimpse of hope, the return of Deltron Zero and Automator.
What ensues is an interpretation of modern day problems given a futuristic twist. For those who are familiar with the original Deltron 3030 album, it is immediately apparent that they did not want to take many risks on the sequel. The tracks on Event II sound like they could have been a part of the original album, which is not a bad thing. Dan the Automator is once again on point, creating catchy tracks that transcend your typical hip-hop beats and give the album a cinematic feel. Del’s signature rambling conversational verses seem effortless and are much more impressive than the solo material he has released as of late and Kid Koala’s scratching is as good as ever.
Like the first album, Event II has a number of skits featuring the older generation lamenting on how things were in their time. These skits worked well on the first album but feel forced and out of place this time around. The skits with David Cross fall flat and the song by the Lonely Island Boys is only moderately amusing.
The latter two thirds of the album feature a variety of guests including Zach de la Rocha, Emily Wells and Damon Albarn. This helps the album diversify from its typical sound and it is nice to hear Rage Against the Machine’s front man screaming on a new track.
Oddly, the track that stood out the most is, “What is This Loneliness,” which features Damon Albarn of Blur, and Casual. The production on this track is top-notch and Albarn’s haunting vocals create the perfect chorus. Casual’s verses on this track were the best on the entire album and Event II could have benefited from having a few more guest rappers.
The album concludes with a nostalgic look back at better times, “when love meant love.” Deltron’s rapping over the hook, “do you remember,” by Jamie Cullum ends the album on a serious note, leaving the listener with a sense of despair while they reminisce about the way they saw the world as a child.
The theme of looking back to the past, which is lyrically consistent on the album, is also fitting for the album itself. Event II sounds like it could have been made a decade ago but is worth a listen nonetheless.
You can listen to the album below. If you like what you hear, Delton 3030 will be performing at the Vogue Theatre on October 18th with Cosby Sweater.
Doors: 8:00 pm / Show 9:00 pm
While a lot of you were getting your EDM fix at the Wheel House Festival Saturday night, I chose a calmer route, opting to head to the Vogue Theatre to see the Wood Brothers. As an older, and dare I say classier, group of concert goers gathered at the Vogue, it was apparent that this was not your typical concert. For starters, the Vogue had chairs set up in front of the stage. This is the first time I have seen this set-up and while I was not a fan, it did fit the music of the evening. I avoided the mostly occupied chairs in favor of standing on one of the steps with a clear view of the stage.
As I entered the venue, Dom La Nena, a Brazilian-born cellist was performing with Piers Faccini, an English song writer. The two shared the stage gracefully, performing together before taking turns playing solo work. Dom La Nena’s haunting vocals blended well with the cello as she sang in Portuguese. She was humble throughout the performance, saying how happy she was to be performing.
After Dom La Nena, it was time for the Wood Brothers. The first time that I saw them was at Summer Camp four years ago. Having no prior knowledge of their music at that time, I was blown away by their sound. Ever since then, I catch them whenever they come around. Back then, the Wood Brothers had only two members- brothers Chris (upright bass) and Oliver (guitar, vocals) Wood. In recent years, they have added Jano Rix to the band, to provide percussion.
Saturday’s concert was an early one, due to the fact that the Vogue was having an after-party for Wheel House and needed the place cleared out beforehand. Chris Wood made light of this as the band came on stage saying, “We’re going to play some music here before this place turns into a disco.”
Watching a Wood Brothers show is not like watching other shows. The stage production is minimalistic and the whole performance feels raw. You are watching three guys play traditional rock n’ roll music with elements of blues and country thrown in.
The Wood Brothers are releasing a new album, “The Muse,” on October 1st and their performance weighed heavily on songs from the upcoming album.
The band mixed in a few crowd favorites including, “Atlas,” from their first album, Ways not to Lose.
About two thirds of the way through their set, reinforcing the traditional rock n’ roll aspect, the band asked the crowd to, “Shhh,” as they took out Big Mic, a single microphone. If you have ever seen old videos of Bob Dylan performing his solo work from the 1960’s, the microphone looked like that. Aside from a few drunken shouts, the crowd at the Vogue fell silent as the band gathered tightly around Big Mic and played, “Firewater,” from their new album, unplugged. It was amazing to hear how good the band sounded playing through the sole microphone.
The band restored energy into the crowd when they launched into, “One More Day.” The song featured a prominent drum solo which saw Chris Wood dancing like a mad man all over the stage. I had yet to see this at a Wood Brothers show and it was impossible to not convulse with laughter.
Concluding the show was a cover of Missippi John Hurt’s, “Make me a Pallet on your Floor,” a classic blues song.
After they left the stage, the crowd starting screaming and stomping, demanding an encore. The Wood Brothers returned to the stage to play, “The Luckiest Man.” Oliver’s vocals really shine on this song and the crowd sang along for the duration. It was hard to leave not feeling lucky after such a soulful performance.
To get a feel for how the Wood Brothers sound, check out this full session via Liveset below.