Interviews

G to C Interviews

Whiskey Tango

The Raven and the Writing Desk

The Fallen Pines

Bonnie And The Beard

The Mile Markers

 Patrick Dethlefs

Strange Americans

 

 Whiskey Tango

Whiskey Tango is one of those rare “Hell yeah” type bluegrass bands. It’s impossible to sit still during their raucous live shows. From the minute they take the stage it’s a blazing onslaught of precision solos. I sat down with the guys above a hydroponic shop they rented out for the night. I was joined by an impromptu interviewer: The Guy On The Couch.

GtoC: What was the spark of Whiskey Tango?

Luke: It was mostly whiskey wasn’t it?

Zac: 70% whiskey, 30% tango.

Nate: Bill and I played in a band before. We had a revolving door of musicians in and out. Then we met these guys in June or July in 09, through a mutual friend. It clicked right away. Well, it didn’t click right away. We definitely had to hone our craft and tighten up. What helped with that was in October of 2009 we started doing a weekly gig at Quixote’s True Blue. Tango Tuesdays. It was good, it tightened us up, it was something we had to do every week. We did that for a year and since then we’ve been trying to expand out of Denver. Do the best shows we can.

GtoC: So do you guys still do that gig at Quixote’s?

Zac: No we’re all done. After 56 Tuesdays in a row-

Nate: 52.

Zac: -It ended on Halloween so it was a big costume party blowout. It was fun.

Bill: Up until then that was probably our biggest show. The police showed up at Quixote’s on a Tuesday. So it was a big night.

GtoC: What are your plans for New Years Eve?

Nate: We’re 99.9% sure we’re going to do that at Zio’s Alley Bar at 32nd and Zuni. Its in the Highlands. There’s Pasquinis and Zio’s is the bar to the side. We play there every couple months or sure. We have great energy there. It’s intimate, it’s small.

Zac: It gets rowdy.

Guy On The Couch: What’s the name Whiskey Tango?

Nate: That’s Bill’s old softball team.

Bill: Yeah it was the Whiskey Tango Allstars. We didn’t think we were the All-stars so we dropped it.

Nate: We’ll tack it back on here one of these days.

GtoC: Do you have an album coming out?

Luke: Trying to do our own thing, record it ourselves and have somebody else master it.

Zac: Hopefully by next summer that will have happened.

Nate: We’ve done a few here and there recordings in studios. They were good and it was a learning experience. We could at least record it on our own and have someone mix it. Definitely, definitely next year.

Zac: We have recordings but our friend dipped out on us.

Luke: Well he was a student and he chose to do his band instead, which makes sense.

GtoC: Are you going to record it live or track it out?

Zac: Well a lot of people have exposure to the live recordings already. We have quite a few on archive.org

Bill: Our sound is always progressing and I wouldn’t call any of us studio musicians. We’re all used to playing on stage live. That’s one of the biggest learning experience is sitting in the studio. I think our live show kind of comes before our studio but it’s coming along.

GtoC: Yeah I definitely consider you guys a live band experience as opposed to putting on headphones and listen to a CD sort of thing.

Zac: We do too and hopefully we can be both. I like a lot of live bands but I wouldn’t necessarily pop in one of their studio albums. I think the live aspect is very important but we’d love to hone our craft in the studio as well.

Guy On The Couch: So do you guys do drugs?

Zac: No comment.

GtoC: What do you like about playing bluegrass in Denver and Colorado?

Zac: Its awesome. We’ve played with tons of people I look up to and listen to all the time. On the one hand it can be a good thing but we have a lot of competition. It’s a double edged sword.

Nate: I think Denver’s a great music city. There’s Nashville, New York and LA but the scene is so saturated. Denver is in that happy median. Its eclectic, up and coming. I think Denver is starting to be on the map as far as a music city. We’re really happy to be a part of that as well. Also, its rare that we don’t have one of our friends come up and play a song or two. It keeps it fresh. Gives our friends a chance to get up there and show what they can do.

Bill: Love the inspiration from everyone else too.

Luke: We got our start over at Quixote’s and still get a lot of help from that whole family.

Bill: I like the sound of the bluegrass around here because it’s fused to a lot of different styles. It’s not the traditional bluegrass you’d get out East in the Appalachia area. Out here we have a lot of weird West Coast influences. It’s a unique bluegrass style here and I really enjoy some Newgrass mixed with traditional.

GtoC: Anything else you want to say?

Nate: Yeah, you can tell Frisky Squid they’re bums.

Come see what all the fuss is about. Whiskey Tango will be headlining the GtoC Showcase @ The Walnut Room on Thursday December 8th. Click the link or the giant black and white ad right below for all the info. Can’t miss it.

Whiskey Tango on archive.org

The Raven and the Writing Desk

The Raven and The Writing Desk proves that folk music doesn’t have to be boring, or even from America. Their waltzy brand of folk rock would be quite comfortable on the Poland-Germany border.  (Germanicana?) They write music that connects past and present, folk and modern, Eastern Europe and America. I met up with four of the six band members at their practice space near The Mayan Theater. They were judging all things gummy: worms, bears, cola bottles. (The Raven and the Gummy Contest?) They’re also looking for YOUR input on some cover songs. It’s almost like you’re in the band!

Gtoc: How did you all meet and start playing music together?

Julia: Scott the guitar player and I moved here from Boston like two years ago. We had both been playing in projects back there and were looking for a change so we came out to Colorado. Miraculously we met Ryan through Craigslist. He was the first person we met. We had no idea what direction the band was going in whatsoever. We were recording electro-pop music as a duo and playing in a seven person rock band. We really had no idea what was going to happen. Ryan came into the group. Then he knew Adrienne and violin totally changed the sound of the group. Then marimba totally changed the sound of the group. It was really just chance.

GtoC: So you had no idea what you wanted to do?

Ryan – The music was more electronic-with-a-drum-machine style. I don’t think it was necessarily consciously. We just needed a drummer and there wasn’t a drummer sort of thing. Now we have violin and extra percussion.

Julia : When we met Ryan we were like, “Maybe we don’t even need a drummer.”

GtoC: And now you have two. Neil, when you’re on secondary percussion what are you trying to do?

Neil: I guess the biggest part of it is emotional. Drums should bring emotion. I try to fill in parts and add that extra drama.

Julia: That is the key word. Drama. Neil didn’t bring the marimba to the band until we played 8 or 9 months together. We have our first album “Recidivist” that doesn’t have marimba at all. Right before we put it out we realized he could play marimba. Since it’s been a part of the band, the songs have taken on an entirely different form. It’s like that every time we find out someone has a new trick. We’ve been through three drummers.

Ryan: Kind of like Spinal Tap.

GtoC: What are your plans for the new album?

Julia: We have a lot of new songs. When we recorded “Recidivist” we were such a new band, we hadn’t been playing together too long. But I think we very quickly grew out of it. We didn’t really feel like that was a good representation of our sound. We’re hungry and want to put out more. We have more and want to develop the new sound we have. We’re going to record it here and send it to Nick Sullivan at Macy Studios. He did the mixing on the last album and that arrangement worked out really well. We want to branch out and work with different platforms of art. We had an artist reach out to us and offer to make stage props and murals. We want to plan a CD release and have all these new stage designs.

GtoC: Theres a lot of European folk in your music. Where does that come from?

Adrienne: I did spend four years in Europe but I don’t think that has much to do with it. I was classically trained. I’ve always picked up that Middle Eastern type of sound. It’s pretty. I wouldn’t say I’m influenced by Devotchka but I do like a lot of their sounds. It does show. With Julia’s voice and her songwriting it comes out.

Julia: I don’t think any of us are hardcore listeners of European music.

Neil: Those scales. We’re all pretty comfortable in them it seems.

Ryan: That gypsy, Middle Eastern sound is different so it’s fun.

GtoC: Why do you think bands like you and Devotchka come out of Colorado? What makes bands here want to play music from Transylvania?

Julia: I don’t think I even knew who Devotchka was until about a year and a half ago. Some people have said there’s been that dark Denver sound. It’s been going on for many years. Maybe it’s just a consequence of breathing in the fresh Colorado air.

Adrienne: All the sunshine

Neil: Sunshine, dark thoughts.

Julia: Yeah we need to counter the nice sunny days with some darkness.

GtoC: You’re just keeping the universe in balance.

Neil: None of this too happy bullshit.

GtoC: Yeah make people work for it.

Julia: It’s true though. The drama and the theatricality of it is what’s really fun. It’s fun to get loud and in your face then really dramatically slow. Playing with the ups and downs and playing on people’s emotions.

GtoC: So bringing in more stage props is an attempt to increase the theatricality?

Adrienne: I wouldn’t call us a dance band. The music is interesting. To make it more interesting because seeing something is always going to help.

Julia: We’d love to work someone and write music for a musical. We just need a little direction. Our friend David Rhinehart is doing that right now. I’m jealous.

GtoC: Whats the best part of playing in Denver?

Julia: Well Scott and I played in Boston in a rock band for three and a half years. The scene there is so congested. Everyone there is a musician anyway and has their own band and they could give a shit what you’re doing. Every bar is, by default, a music venue. So even if you’re just out for a drink you’re probably not paying attention. And the East Coast mentality is a lot colder. It’s not rewarding. I think we’ve had a much more rewarding response here in Denver.

GtoC: When’s your next show?

Julia : 11-11-11. Its for Project Acoustic which is a program that does a lot of community outreach for kids that can’t normally get involved in music. It’s at the Soiled Dove which I’ve never played before. It’s always fun to play a new venue. I think we go on at 12:15. And we’re not actually playing an acoustic set. If you unamplify us it’s not us anymore. It’s a totally different band.

GtoC: How’s the gummy test going?

Neil: I’m going with worms. There’s one less gram of sugar in this. They’re trying to cheat us out of sugar. I guess I’m going to have to go Haribo.

Ryan: I’m going company versus company. I gotta go with Haribo.

Julia: Without a doubt. Why’d you bring that other crap into my house?

Ryan: Now I know. The band whole heartedly supports Haribo.

Julia: If they would like to sponsor us…

GtoC: I fully expect to see you on the cover like a Wheaties box.

Ryan: You know what might be nice. If the readers could give some input on cover songs. We would LOVE input for cover songs.

Check out TRATWD up at The Soiled Dove on the anagram of the year 11-11-11. Its a great cause and a great show. Get all the great info at http://tratwd.com/  (The Raven and the Writing Desk for you non abbreviators)  and www.projectacoustic.com/

The Fallen Pines

Among their influences, The Fallen Pines cite Oakhurst, Chatham County Line, Old Crow Medicine Show and Macho Man Randy Savage.  These Douglas County natives have forged their own path in the Denver music scene. Sheena Gruber’s deep, seductive voice and upright bass drive the listener through acres of corn and wheat. Kevin Dooley’s banjo tweeks and twangs while Josh Boyle’s mandolin chugs out the pace on blistering tracks like “Clayton County Run”. Craig Patterson sings, strums and flies up and down the neck of his acoustic guitar. These guys are well put together. Their styles complement each other perfectly and their shows are a mix of soft, crooning classics to their fiery, danceable originals. I met up with the band after their charity show for Heartfelt Foundation, a non-profit that provides instruments and music lessons for children that otherwise couldn’t afford them.

GtoC: How did you meet and all come to play together?

Craig: Sheena and ran into each other in Capitol Hill. She had a friend a house down. Then she moved in a house down from him so we would pass by each other. Our friends were telling us to meet and play up. So we would play barbecues over at their house,

Kevin: What’s cool about our band is we’re all really good friends and sometimes that doesn’t happen in bands. I’ve been in bands where that doesn’t happen. You all just play together and that’s about it.

Craig: If these guys weren’t our friends it probably wouldn’t work out.

GtoC: So where did the spark for the fast one, “Clayton County Run” come from?

Kevin: That was a mandolin riff that Josh came up with then I finished out the riff on banjo.

Craig: They kind of built up the melody and I had these chords. It sounded like a song we’d written before but we altered it to make it fit. It was a vibration between the three of us and Sheena got the bass in about two seconds. We were in and ready to go.

GtoC: Did you go to any festivals?

Craig: We all made it down to Telluride this year. It was way fun. Hands down. Hands down the ones that tore it up, more so than anyone at Telluride before was Old Crow Medicine Show.  Theres a lot of just shredders there but the Old Crow guys are just phenomenal performers. The whole bands energy is great.

Sheena: Energy, energy.

Craig: Yeah the energy is where it’s at. It’s all about the energy on stage. You gotta have it. One person can ruin the whole energy on stage and in the crowd. We’re just starting to gig together all four of us. We like what we’re doing soundwise but now we need to make it a performance. You gotta make it a show, it’s not just  about playing good music.

Kevin: One of our best shows was at Wash Park Grill. It was the first time we dressed up in suits and we were like “Hey, this is our little kicker to step it up.”

GtoC: Sheena, what’s it like playing an instrument that’s so much taller than you and weighs more than you?

Sheena: It’s awesome. Kind of a workout.

Craig: She wouldn’t know how much it weighs since she makes me carry it all the time.

Sheena: Well one, I don’t know about makes. And two, I feel like I can haul it around.

Craig: It’s me being a gentleman.  I’m from the South that’s just how we do it down there.  The guys from Oakhurst loaned their upright to us. We met Oakhurst at Wakarusa back when it was inLawrence,Kansas about four or five years ago. They showed up at our campsite late one night, played some songs and just blew our minds. They played all acoustic, no amplification. They just brought it. Acoustic music is where it’s at. If people can push it without the amps and still get that full sound, man, they steal it every time.

Josh: You can’t hide behind amps and drums. Just pure, raw music.

GtoC: When is the album coming out?

Sheena: Before the holidays.

Craig: Its coming out in two months. We got involved in this project in February. We got in with a student at UCD. We got our files and we found a great studio up in Evergreen called Evergroove. Brad Smalley he’s a badass. Great engineer, great set up.  It’s all sustainable, solar powered. Great to work with Brad. It’s going to come out, let’s say, before Thanksgiving. Something to enjoy with turkey.

 

Bonnie & The Beard

Bonnie & The Beard has been busy. Since they formed as a two piece in 2009 they’ve transitioned their sound from soulful acoustic to a passionate electric country-folk. They’re a band with catchy melodies and lots of hair. Bonnie sings and plays keys while the Beard switches from banjo to electric guitars and back again. Alex (who also needs a nickname by the way) holds it down on the drums. Bonnie & The Beard are hard to pin down: songs range from gypsy to alt country but never disappoint.

GtoC: How did the band meet and come to play music together?

B&B: Tony and I met at the good ol’ Meadowlark, over pizza & talk of cosmic lore. We knew each other for several years before we began making music together–he was playing with The Rooster Brothers and I was doing more of a singer songwriter deal (but barely playing anywhere.) We met our drummer Alex after we’d played a handful of shows as a two-piece– he happened to be filling in on drums for our buddy Jonny Woodrose during a show we were also playing. We all admired each-other’s long locks & we found our third member.

GtoC: What’s the songwriting process like?

B&B: I’d say the ways in which we create together are always changing and evolving. Often times someone will bring the skeleton of a song to practice, perhaps even have added flesh and blood to it. Often times that’ll get broken down completely–it can be hard on people’s ego, but s’ok. Working on getting a lot of our new stuff recorded right now as well.

GtoC:Who would win in a fight? Bonnie or the Beard?

B&B: With his Viking size and strength, you’d think the Beard would be a shoe-in. But I can be a dirty fighter and usually carry a knife…

GtoC: What’s the best part of the Denver music scene?

B&B: The wicked talent & good heart. And that we’re lucky to have so many of those folks as friends.

GtoC: Any Denver bands you absolutely love?

B&B: Been diggin’ on Champagne Charlie, Faceman, A Tom Collins, Woodrose, Death Rides West, Tin Horn Prayer, Paper Bird, Widow’s Bane, Houses…
Denver is vibrant with great music.

GtoC: Funniest on stage occurrence?

B&B: Hmmm–one show I had to fend off a nicely intoxicated gentleman from stealing my guitar during our set. Over and over again. Or there was that time…well, now I’m thinking of all the times things have broken. Dang

GtoC: Do your instruments have names?

Tony has his gals: Delilah (the banjo), Gertie (the Gretsch) and Loretta (the Tele.) He also keeps trying to name my guitar Juan Carlos…

GtoC: Do you have any shows you’re playing in September that you’re really looking forward to?

TOUR de FAT on September 10th! Sunnyside Music Festival later that day! September is full of fun shows & events and, well…feeling pretty pumped. Then in the beginning of Oct we head out to CA.

—Go see Bonnie and The Beard this month: Thursday Sept 1 @ Walnut Room, Saturday Sept 10th @ Tour De Fat and Sunnyside Music Festival, Monday Sept 13th @ the Hi-Dive, Wednesday Sept 14th @ Auraria Campus Fall Festival, Thursday Sept 19th @ Great Divide Brewery.
Check them out at www.bonnieandthebeard.com

 

The Mile Markers

The Mile Markers are Bevin Foley on fiddle and Julie Stratton on acoustic guitar. We talked about chick picks, tiger Astro vans and their upcoming tour.

G to C: How did you meet and start playing music together?

Bevin: We met at a friend’s birthday party.  Julie had her own shows and I would go see her. We put The Mile Markers together way after that. And then we solidified our sound, what we wanted to sound like.

Julie: But the band materialized when we started to make the record. We thought, “Well we could just make the record you and I, or we could have other instruments.” We decided to find some others and they rocked so much that it became a good idea.

Bevin: We found other musicians through friends and former band mates. The bass player who recorded on the album, Kalin Capra, I met him in a Fort Collins band called Victor Barnes.  Julie and I met him doing sound for our band. We met Nathaniel Haas who plays snare drum.  Then Sal Clark, we met Sal at a pick. In Nederland I started something called a chick pick. We met there and met all these amazing people.

G to C: Tell me about the chick pick.

Bevin:  It’s not going on anymore because I moved back down here so I’m really sad.

Julie: Are you going to try to start one again?

Bevin: I tried! But no one showed up. I need to find somewhere to have it. It was interesting having all girls. Most picks are very male oriented. There’s a lot of men at them and to have one with all girls had a really different feeling to the whole energy of the room. It’s interesting. A lot of listening.  Not a lot of showmanship really. A lot of vocal lines. It was just a different feeling to the music. It was really fun. Good networking. We had between 5 and 12 girls and did it every few weeks. We’ll get it going again.

G to C: Any shows coming up in August?

Julie: We have a tour coming up.

Bevin:  We’re leaving the 16th and coming back the 27th. Right now, we have shows through Kansas, Minneapolis, Eau Claire, Madison, Chicago. We’re still filling in the rest of the dates. 

Julie:  But we’ve got the coolest thing ever! It’s a converted Astro Van from my mom. It’s one of these old tiger camper vans. We went on tour to the Northwest with Elephant Revival and we were riding around in this tiger. I’ve never been checked out so much in a car before.

Bevin: People almost crashed.

Julie: One guy followed us for miles. He pulled up beside us for miles and I thought he was going to pass then he pulled behind us. Then he pulled next to us on the other side and rolled down his window and said, “What is that? What is that you’re driving? That’s the coolest vehicle I’ve ever seen.”

Bevin: People stop us in the McDonald’s drive thru and ask “Where did you get that?”

Julie: My mom found it. I talked to her one day and said, “I’m going to be gone this weekend,” and she went to New Mexico and came back with this awesome camper van.  My mom’s adventurous like that.

G to C: When you write a song what’s it like? What’s the process?

Julie:  We’ll come up with a song, or the basic outline of a song and we’ll say “Here. Let me play this for you. What do you think of this?” Bevin tends to have a more complete idea of what she wants it to sound like. But it’s cool because we’re starting to mix up instruments and play mandolin and banjo. That’s the cool part about a lot of the new songs we’re coming up with. It’s has a different sound to it than the album.

G to C: Do you have plans for a new album?

Bevin: It’s starting to come up now. We have a handful of new songs that are in the making. People are starting to ask us about another record too.  So the ideas for that are starting to float around and circulate. We’re deciding where we want to record it and who we want to work with. Sometimes when you don’t have all the songs out yet, it’s hard to know what to do. A lot of the artwork or the name are dependent on what the album sounds like. I’m pretty excited about the new songs.

And you can go see them around town this August at Infinity Park on the 1st, MarbleFest in Marble, CO on the 7th, Gold Hill Inn the 12th

Check them out at www.themilemarkersband.com

 

 

Patrick Dethlefs

I met with Patrick Dethlefs (pronounced Det-Lefs) at Stella’s Coffee House. He’s a folk songwriter who’s accomplished more before his 21st birthday than most musicians do in a lifetime. We talked about his songwriting, Daytrotter birthday presents and Facebooking Ben Sollee.

GtoC: What’s your songwriting process?

Patrick:  I guess usually I’ll sit down with a guitar in my room. I’ll have some sort of an idea, something I’ve been playing with and then I’ll start singing random words. Somehow I come up with a melody I guess. I find words that work and stick and I’m able to build on them. I have a newer song I’ve been working on in increments. It was something completely different. I wrote one of the verses several months ago. Then I just started writing it to this chord melody, another verse and chorus. Sometimes it just comes out, sometimes I really have to just sit down and do it.  Usually from the beginning I can tell if it’s going to be good.  I might write a song at night then wake up in the morning and hate it. Songwriting is probably my strongest suit and I’m just trying to build on it.

GtoC: You’ve played with some great bands but what’s been your favorite?

Patrick: Maybe the Ben Sollee show. It’s really cool because I met him at Telluride last year. He was playing on the main stage and then had this meet and greet. I said, “Hey great set. I thought you might like this music.” Kinda just for him to have it. I saw him later at the festival and we talked for a bit. Then I ended up adding him on Facebook and he wrote me that he loved my music. He gave me his number and his email and we were able to set up that show at the Oriental. Then after that I went and played three dates with him in Kentucky and stayed with him for ten days. That was really good because he’s a really great musician and it’s the beginning of some sort of friendship. It was one of the shows I did just me on guitar with Jenny and Sarah (from Paper Bird) and then he joined me on a few songs. I played one recently with Nathaniel Rateliff around when I played that one with Jeff Austin. I really like Nathaniel’s writing. We played at the Old Main Theater. I love theaters like that. I feel like working with Ben helped me quite a bit.

GtoC: How so?

Patrick: I’m still working and learning but just to be willing to go in new directions with my music. If I hadn’t have met him, if I hadn’t given him that CD, I would have been somewhere completely different than where I am now.

GtoC: I didn’t know that actually worked, giving out your CD to working musicians.

Patrick: Yeah I do it every now and then. To me, the point of it is: I just want them to have it.

GtoC: What’s your favorite part about the Denver music scene?

Patrick: There’s a good music community here. Long Spoon Records and Paper Bird, there are a lot of really great musicians. I started listening to them and building friendships and it’s cool to be able to collaborate. I feel like I’ve been listening to a lot of music around here and playing but I’m really getting more into it now and getting myself more established in it.

GtoC: What’s next for you? Do you have anything you’re really looking forward to?

Patrick: I have a Daytrotter Session coming out on my birthday, July 1st. I got the photo the other day, the drawing that they do. I was so pumped.

GtoC: How did Daytrotter come about?

Patrick: About a month or two ago. I went out to Kentucky. Frankfort, Kentucky. I talked to the guy who runs Daytrotter and we were going back and forth trying to get a date. But then once I said I was going out in that area we set up a date for me to record it. I’m really excited. It’s such a cool website. Such a cool thing to be a part of. It has two older songs that I wrote, two new songs that I wrote and then a newer, traditional song that I learned. It’s all me by myself. My other CD I have is me with a band so it’s cool to have something just me. It was fun. We recorded straight to analog tape and then ran through a computer which is cool.

Gto: Any long term plans and goals?

Patrick: I’ve done some light touring. I’ve been working and writing new songs. I’d like to get quite a few more. I’ve been talking to Ben and he might be producing a new album for me, which is great because he pushes me in some cool directions. Hopefully I’ll be getting the album out and getting it the press that it needs. Really pushing it and really doing it right this time. Last time I put out an album I did it with Long Spoon. My main intention was just to get these songs out so I could have something to sell at shows. But in the past year I’ve really learned what I could do. I’ve learned how to get it out there and get it some exposure. But I’d really like to do some vinyl. I’ve been talking to this band The Eye and The Arrow which is Paul and Mark from Paper Bird and Jason Haas who plays bass. We’re thinking of doing a split 7 inch. Maybe them as my band, behind me and I sing with them on some songs. But for the next album I’m definitely going to do a limited run of vinyl. It’s kind of expensive but I feel like its totally worth it. Vinyl is so cool to me. Hopefully I’ll tour that album, play some shows and get a bigger following. Maybe go on tour with some bigger musicians. That’d be ideal. I could see it happening. I’ve been working at it quite a bit and hopefully it just keeps snowballing.

Check out www.PatrickDethlefs.com for shows and songs. See him live Fri 1st @Trident Café, Sat 9th @ Meadowlark, Sat 23rd @ UMS and Sun 24th @ Gold Hill Inn

 

 

Strange Americans

Strange Americans is a Americana-rock band from Denver.  I met up with songwriters Matt Hoffman and Trent Nelson outside a “Blow The Vault” show at Herman’s Hideaway.

G2C: Tell me about your TV performance the other day.

Trent: We played on CBS Channel 4. We went on about 7:50 Sunday morning. It was good. Sometimes it’s hard to feel the vibe at 7:30 in the morning but I think the songs speak for themselves. We played a song called “Places” and they let us play 30 seconds of another song.

G2C: So have you been recording recently too?

Matt: Yeah we recorded three songs at a studio here in town, NFA, Notably Fine Audio. We worked with Colin Bricker over there. We have our old EP that we recorded with a friend in his basement, which was really cool. We were really pleased with that and it got us where we are, but since last year (when we recorded the EP) we feel like our live show has gotten more energy, and that we needed to get in and record a few tunes. Definitely feel good about the three songs we recorded. We’re not really sure how we’re going to piece things together. We’re thinking maybe bite sized chunks, a short release here a short release there. We always have the ideal, “let’s take 20 of our songs and pick the best ones for an album” but we haven’t really gotten there in the last few months so we’re gonna do it piece by piece.

Trent: We have so many songs that we’ve written since that first EP that we really wanted to work with someone. We heard of Colin from another local band, Wentworth Kersey, so we decided to do a small chunk here. It only took like an hour.

G2C: So you’ve been adding instruments, like fiddle on some of the more recent songs. How’s that going?

Trent: It’s been going well. We brought Emily Lewis on board as a sixth member to play fiddle. I recently picked up the banjo as well.

What is your song writing process?

Matt: So for me I have a huge respect for the song. The song has a life of its own. Sometimes I can be driving in my car or sitting somewhere, without an instrument, and get 90% of an idea for a song. It just kind of comes. Other times we just start playing. Trent will bring an idea of a song and we’ll play it out and sort of co-write it.  So I think every song is different and comes to fruition in its own way. Really, at the end of the day, how we finally mold a song is that we’re both very critical and we both are not going to settle for anything. We’re willing to make a song what it needs to be.

G2C: What do you like the most about playing in Denver and the Denver music scene?

Matt: I feel like the community here, and the bands I’ve met, is pretty freaking positive. Every show I go to I feel like I see a new band that I like, I like what they’re doing. We all have a respect for what we’re trying to do and we all help each other out. That just feels good to have that energy going. If we play this show this weekend at Denver Day of Rock we might meet another local band they may say, “Come open for us at this venue” then you build a relationship with the venue, hopefully get that band a show with us.

Trent: There’s a good sense of community, a good selection of venues. Underground, intimate venues where the audience can connect to the band real well.

G2C: Tell me about Denver Day of Rock this weekend. (May 28th)

Matt: So we got involved in this program, “Concerts for Kids”. It’s a non-profit that raises awareness for children’s health and education. Basically if you’re a band you can get involved with these guys and play a number of fundraising events. One thing we’re involved with is “Sunday Sounds” out at Children’s Hospital, which is awesome. I recommend it to any band. You get to have fun playing music with kids who are smiling and laughing and playing with you the whole time. You do a short acoustic thing where you walk around to different hospital rooms and get all the kids involved. They tend light up and get all psyched. You usually let them play your instruments and everyone has a good time. Then you set up and play a bigger show for the kids and their parents. It’s super positive and everyone has a good time. It’s one of the organizations that helps me realize “ok, music is a good thing for people and it’s not all about me and my struggle with being an artist”.

G2C: What’s in the future for Strange Americans?

Trent: Germany.

Matt: The obvious next step . . . No, but I think we want to keep building locally, create the buzz and try to hit the road a bit in the coming year and get to some good festivals.

Trent: Short term, to be respected in the community here and long term, to be respected around the world.


 

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