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Kung Fu & Twiddle: A Dirty Dozen Interview

DSC00040Backstage at the Rex Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA following sound check, members of Kung Fu, keyboardist Todd Stoops and bassist Chris DeAngelis, and Twiddle, drummer Brook Jordan and guitarist Mihali Savoulidis sat down with Honest Tune to talk about their highly-successful joint Dirty Dozen Tour, which finds both bands collaborating throughout each show with a series of “Super Jams.”

The interview was much like one of the nightly Super Jams.  The guys were talking, joking, and riffing with each other seamlessly and forgetting at times about the interview.  Much like a runaway jam on stage, it was wise to not try and stop the positive energy that seemed to be building up in the room, and instead just allow the room full of musicians to do like they do on stage, improvise and create.

 

Honest Tune:  What brought Kung Fu and Twiddle together for the Dirty Dozen Tour?

DSC09126Brook Jordan:  We’ve had respect for these guys [Kung Fu] for a long time. Hopefully we gained their respect.

Todd Stoops:  We don’t hang with bros we don’t respect!

BJ:  It was an idea that we talked about for a long time. We enjoy each other’s music.  Also we enjoy each other as people.  It just made sense.  We knew it would be fun and that our fans would enjoy it.

 

Mihali Savoulidis:  We have been wanting to do a tour together for a while.  Then it was how do we make it not like what two bands normally do.  I think it started with let’s not tell anyone who is playing first or second.

TS:  What Mahali said.  We were talking about this idea of not wanting to tell anybody what band was going first.  Then it just evolved into the idea of both the bands playing together multiple times through the night.  Each band has people sitting in with each other.  Instead of two bands showing up and playing a show, it’s turning into an event.  We’re creating stuff on the spot, where each little section -drums, bass, keys, and guitar – is having their moments.  The end result is a much more creative product. Me, if I wasn’t playing in the band, I would pay to see this show.  I would probably come multiple nights. Some of the Twiddle fans, who are a little younger than the average Kung Fu fans, have been on tour for a week and a half.  They’ve seen every show and it blows me away.  Something really cool is going on.

BJ:  We start every night with a Super Jam and end every night with a Super Jam.  We start with me and Adrian [Tramontano, Kung Fu’s drummer] on drums and each set of instruments come out together.

 

DSC09387HT:  Chris, you and Todd, have all been in other bands and projects over the years.  How have those projects shaped your sound now?  Do you feel that the band you’re in now is where you have always wanted to be?

Chris DeAngelis:  Whatever project you are in at the moment is a culmination of where you come from.   I’m happy with the music I’m playing.  It’s an outlet for me to write and express myself.  Also, I get to play with a bunch of monsters that I’m used to playing with.  That makes it a very comfortable situation. We can stretch out.  There are a lot of liberties that can be taken.  All the other projects strengthen what you’ve got going on.

 

 

MS:  From an outsider’s point of view, we’re all musicians.  I watched Stoops in RAQ.  I saw these guys in The Breakfast.  I don’t know if this is the band they have always strived for, but as musicians, these guys are playing some serious music.  It’s not to be messed around with.  I mean every musician I have ever been with at a festival while these guys are on stage; their jaws are dropped and everyone is like, “What the hell are they doing.”

DSC00178TS:  To append what Mihali was saying, the Twiddle guys have gained so much respect from other musicians in the past few years.  Not that they didn’t have it before but with their song writing, stage presence, and the way they control a crowd, it blows me away.  I have been doing this a long time, I’m not going to say how long, and when I watch a Twiddle crowd and the front row is crying, singing the songs.  It gives me goose bumps.  The whole crowd, a thousand people in New York City the other night singing along.  Brings a tear to my eyes and is fucking awesome.   It’s a pleasure to know these guys and if I didn’t know them I would be a fan of theirs. This tour has been fantastic.

 

DSC08475-EditHT:  Mihali and Brooks, you used Kickstarter to help fund your new album Plump. Can you explain why you went that route to ask for your fans support and how that may have influenced the album?

MS:  The Kickstarter ended before we went into the studio.  We had a plan going in.  We hope our fans are happy with the final product.  It may have put a little more pressure on us to get it right but we’re sticklers for that already.  We want it to be a very good product for them to enjoy.

 

BJ:  I think that if we had done the Kickstarter before the music was written it may have been different but the music was ready to go.  It blew us away how quickly it happened.  It’s like a double edge sword at the same time.  We got a lot of backlash from people that don’t understand what Kickstarter is.  They were claiming that the band was asking for money from our fans and then selling the CD back to them. And that is completely wrong.  Everything we did with Kickstarter has incentives.  It’s the amount of money you want to pay.  Like, if you pay twenty bucks you get the CD.  So, it’s more like your just pre-ordering the CD months in advance.  Some people were saying, “Why don’t you just go play a weekend of shows to make the $20,000 you need. Why are they asking their fans for money?”  I was like, “Oh My God.”

CD:  Some people don’t understand how much money goes into making an album.  Like everything we make touring is a 100% profit.

DSC00161TS:  You know I personally harpooned that guy (a negative comment guy).  I messaged that guy and said to him, “What about the fifteen years it takes to make the band?  The half million we have spent on failed relationships, careers, and everything that has gone into it.”  I laid into him about that comment. He private messaged me back and said that he was sorry for his comments and didn’t mean to come off like that.  Some people just don’t understand the big picture sometimes and what all goes into what we do.

BJ:  Kickstarter was amazing but it breeds stuff like that.  People don’t understand.  If they just took time to look at it they would get it.  We tried to make it as cool as possible.  Depending on what you donate you could get your name on the album, CD, and the craziest one was if you gave $3,000 you would get merchandise for life.  Everything we have now, shirts, CDs, posters, stickers and everything we ever make in the future; which we had one person do who is an old friend of ours.  I talked to him on the phone about it.  He said he didn’t want any of the merchandise and just wanted to help make the album. He came in after we already reached our goal and still gave anyways.

CD:  That’s just a testament to their incredible fans.

TS:  Like I said they have an amazing fan base.

 

HT:  Twiddle, you’re with Madison House. What went into your decision to join with them and how has Madison been for you?

DSC09927BJ:  At about the same time we were contacted by Madison House and another agency.  At the time we felt that we could go with a smaller agency and be a big fish in a smaller pond or we could go with Madison House and be a smaller fish in a bigger pond.  So the thing that changed my mind was when we did the interviews.  (With) Madison, when we were talking with them, we didn’t have to ask a question. They told us what they were thinking, how they felt about us.  Just very on point about how things would go.  When we talked to the other agency, I was asking all of the questions and they didn’t have the answers we were looking for.  So, we went back and talked to Madison House.  We told them that we didn’t want to be a band that’s over looked since they have some big, big acts.  They said that they wouldn’t be contacting us if they didn’t believe in what we’re doing.  That won us over and it’s been great ever since.

MS:  We love Madison House!

 

HT:  So I see a small cargo van out front that Kung Fu came in and a real nice travel RV on the side that brought Twiddle. How does that work out?

MS:  [With a huge smile and a large dose of sarcasm] We are a bunch of prima donna fucks!

DSC09947TS:  That thing [the RV] cost a lot of money and we are willing to sacrifice our comfort to get paid more at the end of the tour.  We’d rather dog it out. So these guys [Twiddle] are sort of like Divas.  Brooks also has his salon quality hair and needs room for his products to be all set up.

{BJ to TS as he points at his hair}:  You have the products!

BJ:  I can sum it up in one word; Kids.  That’s literally the bottom line. Only one of us in Twiddle is married.

TS:  Kung Fu has ten children.

BJ:  We have some dogs.  That’s about it.

DSC09089TS:  We have been doing this a long time.  We’ve done the bus thing and right now we’d rather save on that and be able to get hotel rooms to have more space and relax more.

BJ:  For us it just makes sense right now.  It’s a lot of strain to always have someone that is rested and sober to drive to the next city.  The extra money is worth it so that we can have fun and still make it to the next city and be ready for load in.

MS:  There is a big trade off to having a nice hotel room every night.  We want to live on a bus with several smelly dudes and only be able to shower at venues.  Are we on time at every show? Yes.

TS:  The way Kung Fu does it is that we like to have nice rooms.  I like to sleep in a bed with 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets.  I like to use a bidet.  I like crab meat on top of my filet in a restaurant. When you stay in a van it is fast food.

 

HT:  What show or festivals are each of you most looking forward to playing or being a part of this summer?

BJ and MS:  We’re super pumped for Red Rocks.  Bonnaroo is huge and of course and The Friendly Gatherings in Vermont.  I mean we’re doing everything we love too, like Catskill Chill, Gathering of the Vibes, Wakarusa, and All Good.

DSC08987TS:  Honestly if you play Red Rocks you can just quit music.  I feel there is Madison Square Garden, Red Rocks and something else.

MS:  The Gorge!

TS:  We on the other hand are playing a few good festivals, The U.S.S Chowder Pot III festival, The Boston Baked Beans Festival, Pizza Fest that’s in Milwaukee. We’ve decided to go into the whole food festival thing.

Tim Palmieri:  Don’t forget Garlic Fest.

CD:  Soup Stock…Obviously we are very excited for Gathering of the Vibes because that is in our home town.  We love the Vibes.  We have been doing it for the last six or seven years.  We did a main stage set last year and are back on it this year.  We are also doing Summer Camp too.

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra: Innovative, other-worldly jazz

Pilgrim Profiles: Your guide to the freshest faces in grass-roots music

By: Tim Newby

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Band: Jonathan Scales Fourchestra (Official Webpage)

Hometown: Asheville, NC

Members:  Jonathan Scales (Steel pan drums), Chaisaray Schenck (Drums), Cody Wright (Bass)

Sounds Like: A highly-inventive Miles Davis acid-trip led by steel-drums.

For Fans Of:  Bela Fleck, Toubab Krewe, Medeski Martin & Wood

Bio:  Jonathan Scales first the started the band in 2007 upon graduation from college.  The band went through various line-up changes until it solidified with the addition of bassist Cody Wright in 2011.  Drummer Chaisaray Schenck, a college friend of Scales, joined in 2014 to round out the current line-up.  Prior to the addition of Wright, Scales released three solo albums.  Since the addition of Wright, The Fourchestra has released two albums 2013’s Fourchestra and 2014’s Mixtape Symphony a “dense half-hour long-form album inspired by and dedicated to Roy “Futureman” Wooten.”  The album peaked at #6 on the iTunes Jazz Charts.

Albums: Fourchestra (2013), Mixtape Symphony (2014)

Key Tracks:  

 

What They Do Live:

(An exclusive premiere of “Life After D” from The Fourchestra’s new DVD, Alive at Rex Theater)

Chelsea ViaCava: Houses of the Holy, Swift Technique, and The Blockley

Chelsea ViaCava (2)Powerhouse vocalist Chelsea ViaCava from Philadelphia soul-funksters, The Swift Technique, recently checked in with Honest Tune.  She discussed the moment she knew she was meant to be a singer, what’s on tap for her band the Swift Technique, and some tips for singers everywhere.

 

 

Honest Tune:  At what point did you know you want to be a singer?

Chelsea ViaCava:  My whole childhood was purely music.  I was a theater nerd to the fullest. It wasn’t until I was fourteen and started vocal lessons with a woman named, Britten Reid. After hearing me sing for the first time, Britt said to me, “you’re not meant for theater, honey. You are a blues vocalist.”  After that lesson, something clicked and I definitely found my wheelhouse.

 

Chelsea ViaCava (3)HT:  After you found your calling musically and moved on from the theater who influenced you the most?

CV:  I’ve pretty much learned everything I’ve ever needed to know about singing from Robert Plant and Etta James.  Man, I listened to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy so much my CD stopped playing.  I literally wore that album out!  Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, Janis Joplin.  I owe a lot to that woman.  Janis epitomized “soul” in every sense of the word.  I’m often told that I carry a bit of a Janis persona when performing.  For me, there is no greater compliment than that.

 

HT:  You have such range vocally and seem able to do so much, what is your favorite style of music to sing? Why?

CV:  I’ve certainly found “home” in singing blues music.  So many different vocal genres are based on blues singing. Once I’ve honed in on that style, I’ve definitely been able to develop a love for other styles, such as, rock and R&B. Anything soulful really fuels my fire.

 

HT:  You joined the Swift Technique a few years back; can you give a little history of the band?

CV:  I’m one of the newest members of Swift Technique, so it’s difficult for me to accurately tell the tale. I started singing for Swift a little over two years ago, but the core has been together since 2007. The band has transitioned a lot over the past eight years. When they first started up they had a hip-hop MC fronting the band.  Eventually that MC left the group and Swift became primarily instrumental.  It wasn’t until I came into the group that they sort of revamped the feel of the music.  One thing that I love about this group is that they’ve always stayed consistent in keeping an authentic Philadelphia funk sound in every variation that they’ve seen over the years.  We definitely all have a strong bond to each other.  Swift is like a brotherhood and I think that kind of camaraderie is apparent when you see us in a live setting.  Swift Technique has always been extremely high energy, quirky, and a little bit unconventional, but we all just love having fun and making music, and that’s what it’s all about.

 

HT:  Over the years, you have played in many projects in many different venues throughout the Chelsea ViaCava (1)Philadelphia region. Is there one that stands out for?

CV:  Hands down, The Blockley.  The live music scene in Philly has not been the same since its closing.  Swift Technique actually played the last show ever at The Blockley in 2013.  I think it’s safe to assume that anyone who was there would say that it was one of the best nights of their lives.  The Blockley consistently put on such great shows and there was such a rare feeling of community at that spot.  God I miss that place.  However, I’m starting to hold the new Ardmore Music Hall in a similar regard.  Ardmore Music Hall is like The Blockley, but all grown up.

 

HT:  What advice would you pass on to aspiring singers?

CV:  Meet as many people as you can.  Perform in public every chance you get.  Don’t believe that a TV singing contest is the only way to make it as a singer.  Never stop perfecting your craft and never try to sing like someone else.  It is so important to hone in on finding the individuality of your voice and own it!

 

HT:  What does the future hold for Chelsea ViaCava?

CV:  I would love to be a background vocalist on a national tour.  It would be awesome if the future granted that wish.  Otherwise, I’ll continue moving onward and upward with Swift Technique, work with as many musicians as possible, and develop my career as a vocal coach.

2015 Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival preview

ccfbEntering its 3rd year, The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass has already established itself as one of the premiere Folk and Bluegrass festivals in the Mid-Atlantic region.  In its three-year existence the Festival has seen exponential growth moving from the cozy confines of the Union Craft Brewery in year one to the spacious grounds of Druid Hill Park, to the addition of a second stage in year three.

With a return to Druid Hill Park, a spectacular line-up, and the addition of the second stage that will feature thirteen bands with no overlapping sets, The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass looks to continue to be an early season standout of this year’s Festival season.

ccbf3The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass’ schedule is topped by the Travelin McCoury’s and the Wood Brothers and is powerhouse line-up from start to finish.  The twin stages will be set-up side by side so there will be little change over time between bands and no worry about missing any music.  In addition to The McCoury’s – who will be stopping by as part of their road-to-Delfest tour – and the Wood Brothers, the day’s line-up will also feature such heavy weights as the legendary Seldom Scene and Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen.

Festival founders Jordan August and Phil Chorney also aim to highlight the great music that is being played in Baltimore today and remind everyone of the City’s long, influential, history in Bluegrass.  “Baltimore is such an amazing City, with such an amazing musical heritage,” explains Chorney, “that we felt we needed to highlight.”  To this end, August and Chorney included such Baltimore and local stalwarts as Letitia VanSant,  Grand Ole Ditch, Chester River Runoff, and Charm City Junction.

The inclusion of local talent will culminate with an All-Star band led by Cris Jacobs before The McCoury’s headlining set.  In addition to Jacobs, the All-Star band will include 2013 IMBA banjo-player of the year Mike Munford, fiddler Patrick McAvinue from Audie Blaylock & Redline, bassist Ian Truesheim, mandolinist BJ Lazarus, and drummer Ed Hough.

This year’s Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival will take place April 25 at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore.  Tickets are available now and can be purchased here: Mission Tix

Check out past coverage of the first two Charm City Festivals from Honest Tune:

2014 – A Rollicking Good Time

2013- Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival & the Killer B’s

Bird Dog: Campfire-Punk-Americana

Pilgrim Profiles: Your guide to the freshest faces in grass-roots music

By: Tim Newby

Bird Dog 2

Band: Bird Dog (Facebook Page)

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Members:  Ben Chace (guitar/vocals), Nino Chace (vocals), Mark Dobbyn (guitar/vocals), David Christian (drums), Peri Delorenzo (violin/vocals), Graham Norwood (bass/vocals)

Sounds Like: A trip to the mountains by way of  the gritty city streets while the tape-deck blasts out rhythms blown straight from a tropical beach.  Or in the words of the band, Campfire-Punk-Americana.

For Fans Of:  The National, Brothers Comatose, Dr. Dog, Delta Spirit

Bio:  Formed in 2010 by brothers Ben and Nino Chace, Mark Dobbyn, and Paul Defiglia.  Ben and Paul were students at New York University and commissioned to record a song for a multi-media vinyl project for visual artist Xaviera Simmons.  The resulting song, “Wandering Through the Pines,” was included on a vinyl release by Merge Records along side tracks from Yim Yames and Tunde Adebimpe.  Following the success of their initial foray into music, Bird Dog was born, and Ben – a filmmaker by day – solidified the band’s line-up to its current incarnation of Nino Chace, Mark Dobbyn, David Christian, Peri Delorenzo, and Graham Norwood.  The band has released three EPs since then, with a fourth, Bon Bon Voyage due out in June.

Albums: Bon Bon Voyage EP (due out June 2015), Cabin EP (2012), Rivers EP (2012), Bird Dog EP (2011)

Key Tracks:  Check out a brand new song, “High and Low,” from Bird Dog’s upcoming Bon Bon Voyage EP.

Bird Dog – Painting Lines from Ben Chace on Vimeo.

Summer Camp 2015 Preview

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Once again, moe., Umprey’s McGee will be joined by Widespread Panic, The Steve Miller Band, Keller Williams, Big Gigantic and dozens of bands from every genre are converging on Chilcothe, Illinois for a massive musical Memorial Day weekend at the Summer Camp Music Festival.  With acts from around the world like the John Butler Trio,  Gaelic Storm and Xavier Rudd performing alongside bluegrass all stars like Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Floodwood and The Infamous Stringdusters you’ll never know where your musical journey across the multiple festival stages will take you.   Jamtronica pioneers STS9, Future Rock and The New Deal will share the stage with DJs Paul Oakenfeld, A-Trak and Griz to take the crowd from trance mode to full freak out with their deep grooves and bass drops Funk stalwarts Karl Denson, Dumpstaphunk, The Nth Power and Victor Wooten will line up alongside old school legends like the aforementioned Steve Miller, The Violent Femmes and Bruce Hornsby there is LITERALLY something for everyone at Scamp.

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Scamp also delivers on the fun factor with special events like Field Day, where traditional camping games like dodgeball and capture the flag get a modern updating and a rock and roll edge.  The Soulshine Tent brings a number of work shops and susatainabilty exhibits to help illustrate the benefit of working together, raising the levels of mind and body connections to make the world a safer, more ecologically sound place.  Several noted live painters will be on hand, blending their command of shape and color with the music they hear to create works of art that could only be created in the moment.

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With close to a hundred bands filling the days and nights with song, dozens of vendors providing a wide array of savory food choices, artisans of all types sharing their creations it is indeed a fitting way to thank those who gave all for our great nation…a celebration of our way of life at it’s finest.  We here at Honest Tune can’t wait to see your smiling faces at Three Sisters Park to once again honor our national spirit and rock the night away!

For tickets to the Summer Camp Music Festival, click HERE

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Ballroom Thieves: Heartfelt Lyrics, Passionate Melodies, and Sublime Harmonies

Pilgrim Profiles: Your guide to the freshest faces in grass-roots music

By: Tim Newby

Ballroom_Thieves-Warehouse_by_One_Love_PhotoBand: Ballroom Thieves (Official Website)

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

Members:  Martin Earley (Guitar/Vocals), Devin Mauch (Percussion/Vocals),  Calin Peters (Cello/Vocals)

Sounds Like: A rock-show cloaked in heartfelt lyrics, up-tempo passionate melodies, and sublime harmonies delivered with a folky-Americana edge.

For Fans Of:  Shovels & Rope, Lumineers, Houndmouth, Avett Brothers

Bio:  Formed in 2011 by Martin Earley and Devin Mauch. The pair worked through some line-up changes and a year of transition, before they added cellist Calin Peters which solidifed the band’s line-up and sound. The new line-up gelled quickly around their heartfelt lyrics, up-tempo passionate melodies, and sublime harmonies, all of which highlight the band’s first full length album, A Wolf in the Doorway, due out April 21. The twelve tracks on the band’s upcoming album are a definitive statement of the band’s powers and will surely establish the trio as one of the best new bands of the year.

Albums: A Wolf in the Doorway (due out April 21, 2015), The Ballroom Thieves EP (2013), The Devil & The Deep EP (2012)

Key Tracks:
Check out “Archers” and “Oars to the Seas” from the upcoming album.


“Oars to the Sea”:

Catching up with Bryan Dondero

dondero3Bassist Bryan Dondero was an original member of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals during which time he became known for both his upright and electric bass work. He played with the band from 2002 until a messy-split with the group in 2009, appearing on the band’s first three studio albums. Since his departure from the band Dondero has kept a relatively low musical profile.

 

Honest Tune had the chance recently to catch up with Dondero to reminisce about some of his favorite memories from his time on the road with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and to find out what is in store in the future for the bassist.

 

 

Honest Tune: When was the first time you played the bass in a live setting?

Bryan Dondero: The first time I played bass live was during my first semester at Penn State. I was eighteen-years-old at the time, and aside from a few talent shows, had never played in front of people. I was actually really new to the bass. A couple of friends of mine were forming a band and they needed a bass player. I had played guitar for a number of years, so I figured I would give it a try. My philosophy Professor loaned me his bass since he wasn’t using it. I think I learned eight or nine songs in two rehearsals with those guys, so needless to say I was really nervous. It turned out that the bar was a biker bar and the crowd was pretty rowdy. The band before us was really good too. I remember them rocking out some heavier tunes, and here we were about to get on stage to play some Dave Matthews and a few originals. I thought for sure they would eat us alive. It turned out great actually. The crowd was really supportive. It definitely helped that our drummer was a monster behind the kit and our singer had a really great voice. We played there a few more times and made a bit of a name for ourselves.

 

DonderoHT: When you were first starting out on the bass who were the influences you looked towards?

BD: Well, I got to break this down by upright and electric. For upright I would say Charles Mingus, Ray Brown, and Chris Wood. I am really lucky to have gotten to tour and learn some things from Chris. I was a huge Medeski Martin & Wood fan in college, so his upright and electric playing was definitely a big influence.

For electric I would have to say that John Paul Jones, Duck Dunn, and George Porter Jr are the biggies. Sharing the stage with George Porter Jr was a major highlight of my musical career too. I’ve been revisiting some of the old Zeppelin tunes recently. I absolutely love John Paul Jones’ fingerstyle, but recently I’ve been trying to emulate some of his picking style. His tone on “Heartbreaker” where he runs the bass through a Leslie is fucking amazing. It’s got such a heavy dirty sound on top of the chorus that he gets from the Leslie. It would be hard to emulate that tone with just pedals, but I am determined to find a way.

 

HT: You have become known for your ability to switch seamlessly from the upright to electric bass, which do you prefer?

BD: I really like playing both. I enjoy playing a lot of different styles. I can get down with some “Whiskey before Breakfast” on the upright or be just as happy rocking out some Nirvana. Both of which were recent musical ventures for me. I love playing old R&B/Soul stuff too.

 

HT: Is there anyone you would like to share the stage with that you have not had the opportunity to yet?dondero4

BD: There are so many great bands out there now. I love the way their bass players play, so I’d almost rather watch them side stage. As far as backing up an artist goes, I’d love to back up M. Ward or Neko Case or maybe sit in for a few with the Alabama Shakes. There are a lot of great local artists here too that I’d love to sit in with as well. It would be a blast to sit in with Madaila or Rough Francis. Those guys are so good!

 

HT: During your time with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals you were constantly on the road, do you have any favorite memories from that time that really stand out for you?

BD: There are so many it’s hard to single out one.Some of the festivals that we did were really amazing.  Playing acoustic jams with Jay Farrar and Shannon McNally back at our RV at Bonnaroo was areally great time.We also dragged some of the guys from My Morning Jacket back with us to theRV once. Several bottles of bourbon were going around which culminated in us doing anappropriately inebriated version of “Every Rose has its Thorn.” Who knew Poison was such aninfluence on Jim James?

 

HT: What have you been up to lately? Are you still playing music?

BD: Right now I am in my second year of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Vermont. It’s a very different lifestyle from my days with the band, but I am really happy withwhere I am.  I still play music regularly and look forward to being done with school so that I canplay even more of it.  I’d love to get an original band together again someday too.  I’m happy just playing whenever and wherever I can.

Country Devils: A Modern Day Back-Porch Party

Pilgrim Profiles: Your guide to the freshest faces in grass-roots music

 

By: Tim Newby

Country Devils Press by Nina BrooksBand: The Country Devils (Country Devils – FB Page)

Hometown: Harford County, Maryland

Members:  Michael Beresh (Guitar, Vocals), David Hubbard (Banjo,Vocals), Jason Harkins (Mandolin), Bob Brooks (Bass,Vocals), Jon Harvey (Guitar, Vocals), Adam Miller (Harmonica, Vocals)

Sounds Like: A modern day back-porch party that will make you laugh, cry, and dance your butt off.

For Fans Of:  Todd Snider, Hackensaw Boys, Devil Makes Three, Violent Femmes

Bio:  Formed in 2000, after the demise of Michael Beresh’s previous band the Everything Bagels, when Beresh first met mandolin picker Jason Harkins and the two quickly bonded over their shared musical tastes.  Over the past fifteen years the band has established themselves as a musical institution in Maryland and the surrounding area.  The band is built upon the strength of Beresh’s quirky, imaginative songwriting that showcases a good-time versatility that moves from ranging cow-punk to thoughtful ruminations on life.  In addition to his work with the Country Devils, Beresh is also prolific solo artist releasing a number of albums over the years, including 2015’s Wives Tales.

Albums: The Quick and the Don’t Get Any (2014), True Tall Tales EP (2012), You Don’t Wanna Know Me (2011), 40 Miles Outside the City (2009), Country Devils (2004), A Shotgun Named Lucy (2002),

Key Tracks:

Pickin’ with Jesse Cobb

CobbJesse Cobb first burst on to the scene in 2006 as a founding member of the Infamous Stringdusters. Since leaving the band in 2011, Cobb’s extraordinary mandolin skills have been on display in number of settings, most recently as a duo with his brother Shad (who is one of the most in-demand fiddlers in Nashville) and as a part of the all-star line-up of the Noam Pikelny and Friends Band, which includes Pikelny on banjo, Barry Bales on bass, Luke Bulla on fiddle, and Bryan Sutton on guitar. Cobb also found time to release his first solo album, Solitude, in late 2013. Recently he has been performing as part of the online live music series, Concert Window.

Cobb checked in with Honest Tune to talk about some of his favorite musicians, Concert Window, and to share some musical tips and advice for mandolin pickers of all skills.

 

Honest Tune: When did you first start playing the mandolin?

Jesse Cobb: I switched from guitar to mandolin at about 11 or 12 years old. I played guitar for a year or so before my oldest brother took it from me! The only thing left to play around the house was the mandolin so I picked it up. We had this book called Bluegrass Mandolin by Jack Tottle and I dug in. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up so my dad wouldn’t buy strings until I learned the basic chord shapes, so I’d sit and change chords on the frets while they all played for a week or two before even getting strings. Weird way to start but I guess it worked out all right.

 

Cobb2HT: When you first started getting into the mandolin who were your early influences?

JC: The first mandolin I heard was an old live recording from Bean Blossom in 1973. The first song is Monroe doing “Mule Skinner Blues.” I liked the mandolin on that record a lot, Monroe, Jesse McReynolds, and I think a young Marty Stuart. I’d say that influenced me quite a bit, but I gravitated toward a more progressive sound early on. I heard Jethro Burns and was blown away. Jethro led me to this guy that was kind of local named Peter Ostrushko which in turn led me to Sam Bush. Once I heard Sam, I knew that all those things influenced him so I started copying everything about him. So in a short answer, Monroe, Jethro, Sam.

 

HT: Since first starting out playing a mandolin with no strings you seem to have really refined your style over the years. What advice would you give to someone who is picking up the mandolin for the first time?

JC: As I tell everyone I teach, any time spent listening to, or playing music is better than not. Listen to things you like and they will find their way into your own style. Don’t try to play too fast right out of the gate. I have taught a lot over the years and one consistent thing I see is people trying to go too fast too soon. Slow it down; perfect it, then up your tempo. We’d all like to play Bach Sonatas like Chris Thile, but the only way to get there is to be absolutely consumed with doing that. If you’re not, that’s ok. Be consumed by being good at an obtainable goal and move on from there. Most importantly, get that instrument in your hands every spare minute you have. Practice makes better!

 

HT: You have played with a number of bands over the years and at some amazing festivals, what stands out for you among all of them?

JC: One of my favorite memories is playing with the Stringdusters at FloydFest in Virginia when Sam Bush and Scott Vestal joined us for Shenandoah Breakdown, a real musical highlight. Also playing the main stage at Telluride for the first time. I was literally moved to tears after listening for so many years to the live tapes of Strength in Numbers and New Grass Revival from that stage. There are so many great ones including playing in an old dungeon in Germany, and a crazy sit in with Yonder at High Sierra.

 

DSCN2860editedHT: Are there any songs that stand out for you as being something special whenever you play it?

JC: I’ve been playing this song called “King of California” by Dave Alvin for quite a while now. It’s one of my favorite things we did on the Pikelny, Sutton, Bales, Bulla, Cobb runs. I really like the old time feel and drive we got out of it. One of those bouncy, feel good tunes with an uplifting lyric.

 

 

HT: You’re part of the “Bluegrass Roundup: Concert Window Festival.” This features some of the best pickers around such as Jim Lauderdale, Casey Driessen, and Bryan Sutton. What the experience like to be able to bring your playing into someone’s home so to speak?

JC: I really like the idea of playing some tunes at home and having people join me for a casual tune session. It gives me a chance to play some things I don’t usually get a chance to play for anyone. Concert Window has really done a cool thing with this “online festival” concept. In an age where it’s increasingly difficult to sell records, I see this as an opportunity to share music people otherwise wouldn’t hear. What a lineup!

 

HT: You seem to stay pretty busy with all your various endeavors, what does the rest of the year hold for you?

JC: I’ve recently been working with Billy Hume on some music for an upcoming album of mostly original music with an anticipated August release. We plan on recording in Nashville sometime in April with an extensive tour in the fall. While we’re still in the process of picking material, arranging, and digging in, it’s very safe to say that I am excited to be working with Hume on this. We have worked together on some things with the Stringdusters before and I really like the way he approaches the recording process. There will be more to come on this very soon, but expect some amazing guests and partners on this record. I’m also booking some solo/duo shows for the summer with some of my favorite musicians so stay tuned for announcements in the next month or so.

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