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From The Horse’s Mouth: An Interview with Iron Horse

Photo Courtesy of Dylan Langille - OntheDLphoto

Photo Courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphoto

Compared to the tribal patterns and exuberantly flowing floral attire of the audience at Beanstalk Music Festival, Iron Horse looks like they just arrived from church.

But really they were fresh off of a flight from Alabama that morning.

And although it was a Sunday, and they wore well-fitted flannel collared shirts atop clean-cut pants and an assortment of leather shoes, they didn’t come to Colorado to sit in pews; they came to perform on stage.

You could classify Iron Horse’s songs as covers, but truly they’re more of a bluegrass-based re-creation of the original. A melodic make over of sorts; boiling the track down to its salty simplicity, unplugging the instruments, adding a lush array of acoustic strings, trimming some fat, but leaving enough for flavor, and enjoying the end product; a uniquely raw and distinctly recognizable rendition. Featuring bands such as: Modest Mouse, Metallica, The Shins, Led Zeppelin, and Van Halen.

The creation of this concept can be traced back to 2003 when Iron Horse, who has an extensive catalogue of original work, was approached by CMH Records to record a couple blue grass ‘covers’. That lead to Fade to Bluegrass, their rendition of Metallica’s classic metal album Fade to Black, which was so successful that they decided to duplicate their full-album approach and create a deep and diverse catalogue of music that melds metal with indie rock till it results in an all encompassing and captivating sound.

Tony Robertson, who sings and plays mandolin alongside band mates Vance Henry (guitar), Anthony Richardson (banjo), and Ricky Rogers (bass), is as polite as he is passionate about making music. His nonchalant and keenly nuanced style of singing and strumming on stage makes him appear like a man who mastered his craft on the white wooden porch of a plantation style home while happily sipping some lemonade and laughing with friends.

He balances being in Iron Horse with a full-time job, and amidst his busy schedule Tony was nice enough to talk with AKcreative about the acoustics of playing in a sold out cave,Metallica playing their covers before shows, and having the best of both worlds.

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AKcreative: How’s your Monday going Tony?

Tony: Everything’s rock and roll, I’m living the dream. It’s a typical Monday around here. Today and Friday are always busy days for us, so we just got to survive them.

Have you always had a full time job in addition to making music with Iron Horse?

That’s the way to do it, make a living and then enjoy the fruits of the hobby for a while until you can do it full time. I’ve always enjoyed having the best of both worlds to be honest with you. I’ve been playing since I was seventeen, and I’ve always had a day job then played music on the weekends or whenever I could, so it’s worked out really well. I’ve been able to enjoy something I’m passionate about while making a living too. Not that you can’t make a living in music, it’s just a different way of living.

So after your Sunday afternoon set at Beanstalk Music Festival in Colorado, were you back in Alabama and at work come Monday morning?

Our flight actually left around six Monday morning and we didn’t get here till late that night, so we were back to work by Tuesday.

At Beanstalk your band mate Ricky felt inspired to mention Woodstock and doubted that anyone in the crowd could have attended it because they probably weren’t born yet.

Woodstock was even a little bit before our time, but here’s the thing about Woodstock and places like that. We’ve been to and played a lot of festivals over the years and there have been a lot of really big neat festivals like that, they just didn’t get out of hand and you didn’t have the same caliber of stars that they had on that particular stage. But, we’ve played a lot of nice festivals over the years that have had really big crowds. Bonnaroo up here near Nashville is one that has really exploded, and it’s got lots of different kinds of music and has really bloomed into a huge festival.

Have you ever played Bonnaroo ?

We haven’t, but we’ve had some inquiries about playing it that we just haven’t been able to follow through on. We’re hoping here in the next year or two that we’ll be there. We don’t do too many festivals. We sort of prefer indoor venues, but we like going and playing those one off festivals because those are always neat.

A lot of the bluegrass circuit used to be that you had to go for two days, play twice on Friday and two times Saturday, so we just kind of got burned out doing that to be honest. That’s why we like do those one off things, it’s just more conducive to our schedule and we can put more into one show rather then trying to divide it all between four.

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It was Ricky who mentioned Woodstock while you were on stage, and it’s clear now that none of us were in attendance, but do you still see examples of that same spirit and energy being kept alive by Beanstalk and other modern music festivals?

There was some really good talent at the Beanstalk Festival, and tons of talented people who put a lot into it and all the acts we saw were really good. Some festivals that we play, the talent is just ok or not exactly what you would hope it’d be, and as musicians, we like to sit and listen too. We like to be interested in what’s happening on stage when we have a few minutes, and a lot of times that’s hard to get because there’s a lot of people out there doing music right now, but some of it is just sort of lackluster and it’s not all that interesting. But we applaud everyone who does it because you’ve gotta get out there and find out where you’re gonna land. We’ve been doing the Iron Horse thing for fifteen years so we pretty well know where we fit into things and where we don’t fit into things.

As a band that ‘covers’ such a wide range of genres, you probably have a pretty motley mix of fans that could consequently lead you to play some odd shows. Over the past fifteen years with Iron Horse, was there a time that you guys got a gig and could tell right away that you definitely didn’t fit in?

Well we’ve played some places without naming some of them, where we would come on at like 12 at night and play till like 2 in the morning, an we don’t fit into those real well. Usually clubs and things get rowdy after midnight, so we don’t really feel like we fit into that. We fit in better when the audience is really interested in this thing that we’re doing.

What’s one of the more memorable and fitting shows that you’ve played with Iron Horse?

That’s a good question right there. We’ve played several that have been really interesting lately. We played The Bluegrass Underground in McMinnville, Tennessee. It was so interesting because we had never played, as I guess most people haven’t, in a cave like that before. We got down there and thought, ‘boy the sound will just be all over the place’, and were expecting a sound man’s nightmare, but it was just a great adventure for us. It’s not that far from us, but we had never been there before, and when we got in there the sound turned out to be a musician’s dream. It was perfect, the acoustics were dialed in exactly as they should have been. I think it holds five to six hundred people or something like that, and it was sold out. It’s just a really memorable place to play.

We’ve also played a lot of interesting weddings. We played one for the Johnson family, of Johnson & Johnson, up in New York a few years ago and our contract was about two inches thick. They may even send someone to kill me now because we weren’t supposed to talk about who was there and those types of things, but they treated us as well as you could possibly be treated when you play a gig. They were very delightful people and we were very honored to be invited to play that wedding. We also did another wedding for the guy who owns the Ruby Tuesdays restaurant chain. His son is a really big fan of ours, so we ended up doing his wedding up in the Smoky Mountains. There was a resort up there and they just rented the whole entire thing. We’ve had a lot of memorable events I guess, I could go on all day.

Have you ever had the opportunity to perform alongside one of the bands that you’ve covered before?

You know we have not, and it is probably our fault because we haven’t pursued that, and it’s sort of one of our bucket list items that we would love to do. Mike Malinen of The Goo Goo Dolls actually put a drum track on The Goo Goo Dolls project that we did when we sent the tracks out to him in California, and that’s probably as close as we have come. We know Black Label Society was really interested in doing it with us, but we haven’t gotten around to them to get that done. We also know Metallica is completely satisfied with what we did with their stuff, and there is something out on YouTube where I think it was Kirk Hammett is being interviewed and they asked him about Iron Horse and he talked about how they play our songs before some of their concerts. It will take a lot to make that happen, but we would like to make it happen at some point.

Has there ever been an original track that you may not initially like too much, but as you convert it to bluegrass and begin to get immersed in it, the track surprises you, and all of the sudden you’re a fan of Metallica or maybe some other band that you wouldn’t see yourself liking otherwise?

We approach things in this manner. We break the song down to where it’s like a songwriter brought us a song and he’s playing a guitar, gives us the lyrics, and says, ‘here you go guys’. That’s how we’ve been successful at changing these things into pretty good bluegrass songs. We keep some of the riffs and some of the stuff that makes the songs what they are in their original form.

I can tell you this, we weren’t metal heads, but we knew who Metallica was and we knew they were big. When we started listening to their music and dissecting it Metallica shocked us. There’s genius in their chord progressions and when you can understand their lyrics, and take the time to read them you see that they are really good writers. We were also surprised at Modest Mouse. When we first listened to the songs we were going ‘wow, this has got some complex chords in it,’ so we were thinking ‘what in the world are we going to do with this’? But the more we listened to it, the more we got interested in the music and we could really appreciate what some of these people have done. Ozzy Osbourne is a really good songwriter, and I like to joke on stage sometimes and mention that Ozzy didn’t know he was writing a bluegrass song when he wrote “Momma I’m Coming Home” or “Crazy Train”.

It’s really made us pay attention to the people who did those songs originally and appreciate them even more.

Photo Courtesy of Dylan Langille - OntheDLphoto

Photo Courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphoto

How do you choose what band to cover?

We started when CMH Label Group out in Los Angeles contacted us about doing the Metallica thing. They had been doing some instrumental versions of some of those songs and said, ‘we want to do a vocal version, but we’re not sure we want to do it, so if you guys could do a couple of cuts, and let us listen to them, then we’ll decide’. So we did the initial cuts that they sent us, and after we did those two cuts we were like, ‘we want to do this now’, and we weren’t sure we really wanted to do it to begin with.

It was almost a year later before they came back to us and said, ‘ok, we really dig this, lets do the whole thing’. So we ended up doing the whole project and it just turned out fabulous, and was a good stretch between bluegrass and metal music.

But normally we’ll go back and forth, they’ll throw out some ideas and say, ‘can you guys cover this or would you be interested in it,’ and then we’ll take a look at it and get back to them. So we kind of decide amongst ourselves if it’s a good fit to do it and we’ve been well satisfied with the ones that we’ve done, I think they turned out pretty good.

Not only do the tunes turn out pretty good, the albums also sold really well, especially for being a bluegrass band in the modern music industry.

A good sale for your standard bluegrass album of somebody who’s out their touring and doing it right now would probably be 10-20,000 units, but we have far surpassed that, and I’ll attribute that to being able to open up the markets and not just be stuck to a bluegrass audience.

We’ve got fans that listen to rock when they were growing up and they kind of like bluegrass, and we’ve got people on the flipside of that, who grew up with bluegrass and kind of like some rock, and now they’re all switching back and forth.

We had an interesting post on our website years ago from a teacher at the University of Tennessee who said ‘ I appreciate you guys doing the Metallica thing because my son is a metal head and I’ve always loved bluegrass, but we could never even listen to the radio when we got in the car together. Now we have this one project that we can stick in the CD player and we’ll both enjoy the music.’ It really has been able to cross a lot of open field, I guess you could say, because a lot of people once they pick their brand they kind of stick with it, but this is giving people a chance to kind of look at music a different way and maybe have a different, more lenient perspective.

Not only that but it’s connecting those people, and even creating a bond between a father and a son. Did you ever foresee this potential in Iron Horse?

No, you never could. I would have never dreamed that somebody would post something like that to our website, or that it would happen much less.

Do you ever get recognized in public or treated like a ‘rock star’ of sorts in your hometown?

Well, it’s really funny, a guy who’s a song writer told me the other day, ‘you know I go all over the country and everyone all over knows who you guys are, but you can go into one of the clubs in town and they don’t really know who you are,’ and I said, ‘ that’s because we don’t play there’. It’s kind of like a prophet without honor is his own hometown, you know.

Yet you can repeatedly sell out stages outside of your hometown.

The last time we played The Aggie Theater in Colorado it was sold-out, so we can go that far away and still sell out shows. We don’t even try to play at home because I think when we get back home it’s more like we’re resting from playing out on the road, especially since almost everything we do is on the road. We were in Alaska last year in June, and we’ve also been to Canada and Europe. We’ve just gone a long way with it for some reason, and I don’t know exactly why.

Is it pretty cool to see where music has taken you in life? Especially working a day job and then going to all of those places thanks to being really good at plucking some strings and making music with your friends.

Yea, absolutely, I mean it gets back to fullness of life and asking how can you lead your fullest possible life, and I think you can have the best of all worlds.

We were playing in Belgium back in 2005 I believe it was, and some guys drove eight hours from Germany up to this little hole in the wall in Belgium where we were playing. These guys were so beside themselves that we got anywhere close to Germany you know, and that alone made that trip worth it.

Then we got down to Toulouse France to play a street festival where there were maybe 100 people when this street thing got going at like five in the afternoon, but when we got ready to play there were maybe 250 people and by about the time that we started up on our first song people were coming from out of nowhere and just filled up this town with almost 3,000 people in 15 minutes. We’re just standing there thinking this is unbelievable. You get to see things like that when you’re out doing this, that you would never see at home.

To conclude our conversation, since I know you’re a busy man, what would you like to tell your fans?

We would love to tell everybody that we appreciate you and thanks for listening to our music. Without the same old cliché, we wouldn’t be doing anything if weren’t for the people who listen to the music and can take it for what it is. They don’t have to dissect it or put it into this group of music. We’ve heard so many times over the years, ‘what would you guys classify your kind of music as,’ and really we don’t.

We grew up listening to rock music, we grew up listening to country music, and we grew up playing bluegrass, so we don’t see it all as separate. We’re glad that the people who listen to our music are able to listen to it that way, and that they can just listen to it, enjoy it, and not worry about where it goes or where it belongs. It’s just music, you know.

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For tour dates and more information on Iron Horse visit, www.IronHorseBluegrass.com, and enjoy this live video of the guys performing Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”.

 

AKcreative Collages #5-9

Scan0004

“FUN”

Youth (possibilities)

Youth (possibilities)

Boo!

Boo!

WWphone

WWphone

Longing For Liberation

Longing For Liberation

AKcreative Collages #1 – 4

"I Keep Forgetting to Live"

“I Keep Forgetting to Live”

"A for Awesome"

“A for Awesome”

"Technicolor Belly Flop"

“Technicolor Belly Flop”

"David in Donut"

“David in Donut”

Beanstalk Music & Mountains Festival 2015

Art by Park Mcgee

Art by Park McGee

You know magic when you see it.

The experience leaves no need for explanation, and rather then taking your brain through a maze of making sense, simply acknowledge, appreciate and absorb it.

Beanstalk Music and Mountains Festival not only epitomizes this magic, it generates goose bumps.

It’s the type of sensation you can’t fake or force, and for a whole weekend almost 2,000 people were fortunate enough to feel and fuel that magic.

On Friday as Beanstalk began there was a palpable positive energy emulating around State Bridge where amazing music was already echoing through the canyon carved out by the mighty Colorado River rushing just feet from the main stage. Even the potentially problematic weather couldn’t counteract such an unbelievably upbeat vibe; the persistent Colorado sun burned through the cloud cover and sunshine smiled down onto this Rocky Mountain musical oasis.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - OntheDLphoto

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphoto

Two hours before the Kitchen Dwellers kicked things off on the main stage they were all alone at the campground circled up by their cabin practicing some picking. What could have simply been seen as some hippies having fun around an unlit fire pit, was actually an amazingly accurate depiction of what Beanstalk is all about – the music. Which sounds simple to say about a music festival, but Beanstalk is different, in both style and spirit, existing far from many mainstream festivals where profit and spectacle often overshadow passion and sound.

The beautiful town of Bond, Colorado provided an ideally intimate and awe-inspiring environment for the festival; featuring striking scenery, lots of local vendors, live paintings by legends like Scramble Campbell, and a dance floor that was more like an adult sand pit to play in. And play they did, with smiles on their faces through the temporary spurts of rain that trampled through the canyon just long enough for us to relish in it’s refreshment. As the sun continued to win the war with the sky the Main Squeeze took the stage and suddenly a strong gust of funk began to flow. I don’t know what funky fruit they are squeezing, but it’s juice is a smooth and soulful nectar that packed as much power as the southbound train that rattled its way across the rails during their exhilarating performance Friday afternoon. With wind rustling through Corey Frye’s silky white kimono as he soulfully sang, “moments like this don’t happen every day,” it became clear to all in attendance that we were actively enjoying one of those moments destine to repeat itself for three more days

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - OntheDLphot

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphoto

“It’s nice to be free from all the shi..STUFF, in our lives like iPads and mini vans,” Kyle Hollingsworth says smirking after censoring himself as if his daughters were with him.  He couldn’t be more right, and without cell service or any notion of worries, it was even easier for festivalgoers and the festival to focus on the music. But Kyle on stage in a well-worn tie dyed Onesie and a purple puffball cat hat spinning around like a mad man amidst nearly 360 degrees of keys, made it hard to focus. But if Kyle or his special guest and fellow member of The String Cheese Incident, Michael Kang, were interested in money and not music, they wouldn’t be at Beanstalk; we never would have witnessed Kang make “Rosie>Billie Jean>Rosie” sound so spectacular on the mandolin.

Kang and Kyle tearing through most of Hollingsworth’s latest solo album, The Speed of Life, was something to behold. Not only because of their musicianship and the dancing it induced, but because a lucky crowd of just a little less than 2,000 people were witnessing two members of one of the largest and most legendary jambands perform with the same enthusiastic energy that they’ll be bringing to almost 10,000 people at Red Rocks in late July. Not to mention, The Magic Beans, who are the festival’s name sake and consistent closers, were simply a group of guys going to see String Cheese a couple years ago without any inclination that they would soon become a band or later watch their idols play at their third annual festival.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille -OntheDLphoto

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille -OntheDLphoto

That type of magic is interwoven into the very cloth that all of these musicians and moments are cut from, and it is undoubtedly what elevates Beanstalk beyond the realm of ‘just another jam band festival’. Josh Applebaum, bassist of The Magic Beans, performed a magic trick before even taking the stage. Transforming from a naked man into a flashy funk conductor, complete with a fake fox skin boa, a gold glittery fedora, and a shirt that shimmered like some sort of disco ball oil spill. “True story, I started the day off completely naked and people kept giving me clothes,” Josh laughs before lying back into a bass line and continuing his animated antics all over the stage.

Moments before The Magic Beans took the stage Scott Hachey seemed somewhat stressed, and as the lead singer of The Beans and the founder of Beanstalk, it’s understandable. But what’s unbelievable is how all that worry washes off of his face as he shifts from manager to musician, simultaneously clocking out and tuning in as he commanded the crowd through a stellar set of space funk.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - OntheDLphoto

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphoto

Space funk is one of the many mad lib genre names that attempts to encompass a hybrid sound that synthesizes multiple influences and forms of instrumentation. After the American Babies concluded an amazingly long and lively set of what could loosely be labeled “rock and roll “ or creatively called “a tasty cocktail of rockabilly, blues inspired, highly improvised, guitar driven Americana”. As Al Smith, drummer of the American Babies, trotted off stage he classified their genre as, “ what just happened.” Which is as accurate an answer as any. Whatever it was, it was as hard hitting and complexly smooth as a good whiskey.

One of the bands you could confidently classify at Beanstalk was Juno What?!, who offered up their brand of full frontal funk to a gyrating audience like a sexy synth sacrament. The rambunctious crowd reacted to their flirtatious electro funk as if it was an aphrodisiac, and it teased them right into a climactic set from Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Who served up an all-you-can dance buffet that blended Russo’s innately infectious rhythm with Tom Hamilton’s hypnotizing guitar skill. Although the band is driven by this dynamic duo, Russo remains the head chef as both drummer and front man. He has a magnetic presence that was powerful enough to captivate the sold-out crowd for the entirety of a three-hour set that confirmed that J.R.A.D. is ‘almost’ a cover band, and absolutely in a league of their own.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille -ontheDLphoto

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille -OntheDLphoto

Any band can cover The Grateful Dead, and almost all did during Beanstalk, but few bands can truly channel the Dead’s sound and spirit the way J.R.A.D. did Saturday evening. Their unparalleled performance included rollercoaster renditions of classics like “Uncle John’s Band” and “One More Saturday Night”, which fit right into the riverside setting and aligned wonderfully with the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary, as everyone shared in what was far from just ‘one more Saturday night’. The Magic Beans enhanced the exceptional evening along with their traditional line-up, sharing the stage for the second time with the Horny Horns and original drummer Will Trask on alternate percussion. Propelling their performance into uncharted corners of the space funk galaxy, where they planted their flag in Bob Marley’s “Iron, Lion, Zion”, and took off into an epic “Jabu Jabu’s Belly” that reached peak party altitude before brilliantly bringing the groove back to gravity as only a seasoned space traveler can.

In an intergalactic sense, The Disco Biscuits are renowned astronauts; following in the footsteps of jamband pioneers to further explore the expansive possibilities of this odd otherworldly music. Having members Marc Brownstein, Allen Aucoin, and Aaron Magner in attendance was a small and significant step for Beanstalk, but seeing them take their talents beyond the Biscuits alongside a slue of special guests was one giant leap for musicianship. Both of their super groups, Hollywood Nights (ft. Clay Parnell of Particle/American Babies + Tom Hamilton of American Babies/J.R.A.D.) and The Magic Brownies (ft. Casey Russell and Scott Hachey of The Magic Beans), made a potentially hung-over Sunday high-spirited.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - OntheDLphoto

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphoto

“The Magic Brownies set was like a moment of life completion, sort of a dream come true for both Scott and I who grew up seeing those guys,” Casey Russell exclaims understandably excited after performing with his idols, “they’re ‘it’, they’re the real deal, the ‘big buy’, and now we’re getting closer to a peer level with them which is crazy.” Ripping your pants off on stage is also crazy, but as someone who is actively headlining the very festival he started, Scott Hachey has full permission to go pant-less, so he happily did towards the end of The Magic Beans final set.

Sometimes magic pulls a rabbit out of a top hat, and other times it tears off it’s pants and presents you with a magnificent moment. One composed of a couple striking seconds where the world weaves it’s cosmically connected threads into the inexplicable patchwork of the present, and as the needle gives us a profound poke we realize it’s importance. Like seeing Scott stand center stage playing guitar in grey boxer briefs as a satisfied smile stretched across his face and he stared out at a crowd of family, friends and fans who all helped make that moment materialize.

It’s belief that brings magic to life; fifty years ago it birthed the Grateful Dead, and three years ago it began Beanstalk. Both bound by that belief and separated by time; growing out of and alongside each other like generational rings on a tree too big to wrap your arms around. A strong legacy and love of music linking them like stars strung together in an intricate constellation whose final form we can’t quite comprehend yet. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll know magic when you see it.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - OntheDlphoto

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphoto

Making Music at “The Speed of Life”: An Interview with Kyle Hollingsworth (Part 1)

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDLphotography

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDLphotography

Kyle Hollingsworth is a man of many hats.

And although most people know him as the vivacious and versatile keyboardist for The String Cheese Incident, many people don’t know that he’s also a successful solo artist, a highly skilled brewer, a composer of movie and video game soundtracks, a studio wizard, a husband, and a dad.

Interwoven into all of these ‘hats’ is an ever experimenting and curious creativity. A trait that Kyle exudes in everything he does, and one that has allowed him to mature into a musical renaissance man with an insatiable excitement to make music. And whether he’s with The String Cheese Incident performing to a packed Red Rocks Amphitheater, or playing a solo show in a small mountain town, the same childlike smile stretches across his face as soon as his fingers flutter across the keys.

With every well-placed note and playful nod of his head it’s clear that Kyle truly loves what he does, and in turn everything he does is undeniably real and ripe with soul. You can even taste it in the beers he brews. By hosting his own festivals and having numerous collaborative beers under his belt, Kyle has proven to be a master of funk and fermentation. Kyle approaches both beer and music with a fun-loving and fearless attitude that seems to thrive in challenges and consistently find new ways to express itself. For the release of his third solo album The Speed of Life Kyle combined these two passions through his ‘Hop Tracks’ promotional campaign, pre-releasing three tracks which were all accompanied by a collaborative beer: Stone Brewery (Collective Distortion IPA), Boulder Beer Co. (Hoopla Pale Ale), and Cigar City with Rock Brothers Brewing (Happening Now Session IPA).

AKcreative caught up with Kyle on yet another uncharacteristically cold and wet May morning in Colorado as he was wearing his ‘dad doing yard work hat’ and probably his raincoat, to chat about returning from String Cheese’s recent ‘Band Camp’ in New Mexico, re-writing songs in Simlish, and performing to traffic as a kid.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDLphotography

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDLphotography

AKcreative: How are you doing this morning?

Kyle Hollingsworth: Good, I’m actually in the middle of this backyard project and I decided to kind of tear up the lawn. I picked the wrong month to do that because now it’s like this humongous mud fest. It’s like a mini little Wakarusa in my backyard.

What other projects are you currently working on other then your yard?

Good question. The first thing I’m doing is I’m excited to ‘wear the hat’ that is being a dad right now. Which is exciting because I’ve been on the road a lot, but right now I’m just happy to be home and to be able to work around the house, in the yard, go biking, hiking, and get outdoors as much as possible. The reason I’m so excited to be back home is because I’ve been working really hard on another project called Incidental Animals, which is a project with me, the guys from A.L.O., and Jennifer Hartswick who plays trumpet with the Trey AnastasioBand. So that’s kind of another new ‘hat’ I’m wearing working with those guys and doing some writing together. We ended up playing with Phil Lesh at his place, which was a whole lot of fun and hopefully that connection will continue in the future and we can work with those guys and go up to Terrapin Crossroads again.

How recently was that?

I just got back and it’s been a hectic kind of few months. I was out with my own band doing some work on the east coast and then I jumped into this really cool String Cheese ‘Band Camp’ to some degree, like a retreat that we all went to in New Mexico. We all hung out there and did some writing for about a week. Then I jumped off of that and went immediately to the tour with Incidental Animals, so I’ve been gone almost a month and it’s nice to get back home.

Do Incidental Animals plan on playing any shows this summer or releasing an album?

Wouldn’t that be fun? I don’t think we have anything scheduled yet till maybe the fall. This summer all of our separate bands are playing High Sierra so there’s definitely a chance that some sort of impromptu moment could happen there, but I can’t guarantee that.

It was pretty astonishing to discover just how diverse and deep your list of projects is outside of The String Cheese Incident. I had no idea that you’ve produced soundtracks for a Warren Miller film and The Sims 2007.

I haven’t done anything like that in a while, but I’d love to do more of it. That was a good opportunity at the time, the Warren Miller film happened through a String Cheese connection since we had done a track for them. Then they were looking for some more, so I gave them some tracks from my first solo CD. Some were kind of created for that purpose and others were just already on the CD. The Sims video game project was one where I was kind of revamping a String Cheese song and putting it in Simlish, which is so much fun. I went back and re-sang “Close Your Eyes” in Simlish and had to get a vocal coach who called me and went through every line of the song in Simlish.

When you’re doing soundtrack work like that is it difficult to draw the line between enhancing the work with your music and potentially overshadowing it?

In this case they would say ‘we need an action bit’ or ‘here we’re jumping over a huge crevasse’, so I kind of just gave them music to work with that.

From what I understand, you started making music as the youngest of seven kids and all of you were heavily encouraged by your parents to take piano lessons.

Yea exactly, and encouraged is a good word, but it was pretty much mandatory.

Was there a particular artist or moment that inspired you to make music into a major part of your life and potentially pursue it as a career?

Well my father played piano, and I actually have this really cool black and white picture of him playing piano where he looks like me if you want it. He would play a lot at the house and I was really inspired by always having music around and taking piano lessons. Also when you’re 12 or 15 and you’re watching rock stars on TV it’s something bigger then life, and I think I was intrigued by trying to be in the limelight.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hollingsowrth

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hollingsworth

I was an actor when I was younger and did some local television shows and a couple commercials, so I’ve kind of always wanted to be a show-off or in the limelight. I think there’s a mixture of a passion I enjoy and also a drive to be on stage. As far as particular musicians I mean I grew up listening to The Beatles, like everyone does, and I had an older family so Paul Simon and all those sort of singer songwriters of the sixties and seventies. But in the end I guess The Talking Heads. They were the first group that was sort of ‘mine’ since all the other ones were my brothers and sisters. Also The Cars was another group that was ‘mine’, and I was like ‘I love The Cars, I want to play keyboards and play synth’ and then when I saw Bernie Worrell with The Talking Heads I knew that was it for sure.

You were 15 when you wrote ‘Racer X’ which is actually the lead off track on your most recent solo album Speed of Life. Is that the first song you ever wrote?

It’s pretty close. I have an old tape, which I should release because it’s ridiculous, of me playing when I was 12 years old with my first band. It was just a saxophone player who kind of played sax, me who kind of played keyboard and a drummer all playing on the front porch to passing cars, that was our concert. It was during those early years when I was writing mostly really simple old blues songs that ‘Racer X’ came out, and that was influenced by Billy Preston.

Your older brothers are responsible for introducing you to The Grateful Dead and Little Feet, who were both influential in inspiring you to play the style of music you do today and to initially take your craft from your parents piano to the stage. But when did you first ‘catch the funk bug’?

I think it’s always kind of been there, but without knowing what it was. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, through Latin music, funk, or rock, just pushing against time and meter. I’m trying to think who are some of the first funk acts I was introduced to, probably some of the early Stevie Wonder albums, and as I said before Bernie Worrell kind of turned my head a little sideways. There was definitely some cool stuff to be listening to when I was growing up.

After majoring in jazz piano in college then moving out to Colorado, how was it making the move from studying in a university classroom to creating funky music in Colorado with members of The Motet?

There was something during that time called Acid Jazz, which is basically jazz covers put to funk. So I was like this is great, I have a degree in jazz and I love playing funk, so lets just mix those two worlds. So there would be these Acid Jazz nights in Nederland and here in Boulder, and Dave Watts would be there along with a lot of great local players in that scene. It was a great way to improvise and get to know better players. That’s how that whole connection with The Motet came about, through all the funk and jazz that was happening at those Acid Jazz nights.

What was that time of your life like, moving out to Colorado, becoming immersed in that scene, and hanging out at Dave Watts’ house ‘The Double Dig’?

I was younger, it was like 20 years ago, so I was kind of like moving out of my mom’s house for the first time. I got this random car that barely made it to Colorado and I think it actually ended up dying somewhere on the way to Georgetown, which was the last time I used that car. It was awesome, and really one of those moments where you didn’t know what was happening in your life, but there were no worries as to whether it was going to work out or not, and I could always go home. But then meeting players who were kind of similar minded and just great people as well really made it a special time, it was very unique. I hope that scene is still happening here to some degree. I just remember at that time ‘The Double Dig’ was really cool, the guys from Phish would stay there because they’re friends with Dave and it would just be this huge center for people to connect. Kang was living in the basement, Travis was living in a tent, and it was pretty much a commune with like 15 men and women living there and all sharing their lives together.

(Continued next week in Part 2)

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDLphotography

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDLphotography

For tickets to Kyle’s upcoming solo shows and more information on this man of many traits, check out his website here, and for those fortunate enough to be at Beanstalk Music & Mountains Festival, The Kyle Hollingsworth Band (ft. Michael Kang) will be performing tonight at 9:30 (MST). Also don’t miss out on the last remaining tickets to The String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks July 24th-26th.

The Beginnings of Beanstalk: An Interview with Scott Hachey of The Magic Beans

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When Jack scaled the beanstalk he faced a deadly unknown and actual giants.

When Scott Hachey started Beanstalk he faced a daunting unknown and a giant mountain of work.

Both succeeded, and you could even say they created a legend in the process.

The 3rd annual Beanstalk Music and Mountains Festival starts this Thursday May 28th with a pre-party that kicks off a weekend overflowing with amazing music including: The Magic Beans, The Kyle Hollingsworth Band (ft. Michael Kang), Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, The Main Squeeze, Juno What!?, Iron Horse, American Babies, Kitchen Dwellers, Brothers Gow, and super-groups The Magic Brownies (ft. Marc Brownstein & Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits + Casey Russell & Scott Hachey of The Magic Beans), and Hollywood Nights (ft. Aron Magner & Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits + Tom Hamilton of Almost Dead & Clay Parnell of Particle). All of who will be live this weekend at the spectacularly scenic State Bridge Amphitheater in Bond, Colorado, which has housed Beanstalk since it’s inception two years ago.

Scott is a busy man; this weekend he’ll be both the headlining artist and organizer of Beanstalk, but when we spoke last weekend Scott was trekking through Indiana and fresh off of The Magic Beans late night performance at Cosmic Reunion in Missouri. Luckily in addition to being extremely busy, Scott is also extremely nice, so he was happy to take some time away from his hectic schedule to talk with AKcreative about Beanstalk’s organic origins, his favorite festival memories, and what to expect from this year’s festivities.

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille - OntheDLphotography

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphotography

AKcreative: When did you have the idea to start a festival?

Scott Hachey: It basically came about through the State Bridge shows that we had. We did Campout For The Cause up there and then got talking with Doug Moog, the owner, and he was interested in bringing up The Magic Beans to do our own weekend, so I was like sounds pretty sweet, but I think we’re probably going to need some other bands to really pack the house and make it a family affair. So we decided to go with that, then worked with the budget he gave us and put together the first one.

How did the name Beanstalk come about?

We did a lot of brainstorming, but I don’t know who came up with it – I think I came up with it. It’s like Woodstock…you get it?

Even with your experience promoting shows, was it intimidating to actually act on your idea for Beanstalk and make it materialize?

I’ve promoted shows before, they’re always Magic Beans shows, but I also did an event at The Mishawaka called Jammin’ Up The Poudre Festival.

That’s yet another ingenious name.

(loud laughter) There has to be a hilarious pun in it or it’s not going to be my name. The first Beanstalk was easy because everything was included like the sound, staff and budget. We kind of changed the format the second year so that we could start bringing in all our own staff and all our own vendors. So it’s become more and more of a struggle, and this year was definitely a huge jump in size and management. But I’ve just kind of been learning as I’m going and it’s been good.

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDLphotography

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphotography

What’s one of the largest lessons you’ve learned so far?

I would just say be prepared. I want to make sure we’re prepared when we get up there for all the artists and people coming out. Always make sure you’re covering your ass and know no money is ever ill spent if it’s going to help with your preparation.

What’s one of your favorite memories from the last two Beanstalks?

Man, last year, Saturday night, when The New Mastersounds crushed it and then they sat in with us, that was a special moment for me. I just knew that Beanstalk was something people were really invested in and that it was probably going to be around for a little while longer and not be this passing thing.

What are your goals for this year?

The main goal for this year is execution. We want to make sure everyone leaves happy and that’s pretty much my main concern. Whether we end up on top in the business side financially is obviously a concern because I’d hate to lose a bunch of money, but what it really comes down to is making sure everyone leaves with a great taste in their mouth. We’re having like a lot of really ‘big named’ artists coming out too, so we just really want to make that they’re comfortable and leave telling everyone that they had a good time at Beanstalk. Same with the fans too obviously, we just want people to have a great time.

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille -ontheDLphotogrpahy

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille -OntheDLphotogrpahy

How do you go about creating the line-up for Beanstalk?

It’s kind of just bands we genuinely like and who will bring some people up, and also reaching out to see who wants to be a part of it. That’s a huge thing; we’re not a huge budget festival so every band that you’ll see there is playing for less then what they usually play for. We usually throw that around and see who is really committed to the idea of what’s going on and wants to have fun. When we reached out to Kyle (Hollingsworth) he was immediately excited about it, and that’s what I want. We’re not going to be able to pay the big bucks and there’s not going to be all these super awesome accommodations because it’s really about getting out to the mountains and just playing music for great people. If a band doesn’t understand that, then we usually don’t go with them and that’s kind of how we book. Seeing if they’re in on the idea, and also only booking good music too.

Any particular act you’re excited for this year?

Everything dude, but I’d say JRAD (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead). They’re super freewheeling like the Dead and have a lot of improvisational fields and openness to the show so it’s going to get crazy soupy up there.

If Beanstalk had an official motto or mission statement what would it be?

I’d say combining the awe-inspiring environment of The Rocky Mountains and the Colorado River with music, and kind of fusing those together until you can’t really tell the difference between the two.

Lastly, what would you like to tell all the fans that are attending this year?

I want to tell people to treat everyone like family, dress warmly at night, and know there’s no cell service so maybe bring Walkie Talkies or just go with it since that’s kind of the vibe up there.

For more information on Beanstalk Music & Mountains Festival or to purchase tickets, visit the festival’s official site here.

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDLphoto

Photo courtesy of Dylan Langille – OntheDLphoto

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Redefining Rowdy: An Interview With Rowdy Shadehouse

Photo courtesy of Rowdy Shadehouse Facebook

Photo courtesy of Rowdy Shadehouse Facebook

If art is alive it inspires.

It incites the imagination, encourages self-expression, transforms mundane into magic, and in the case of Rowdy Shadehouse it arouses all of the above, smacks you in the ass and gets you dancing.

Rowdy Shadehouse is both an amazing Denver based funk rock explosion and an attitude. Their music taps into an innate wildness where some primal part of the body wants to simply feel good, be free and share that sensation with others. Singer Jon Thursday not only embodies this mindset, he exudes it as if his aura is an aphrodisiac. He’s a natural born front man who resembles Anthony Kiedis, resonates Iggy Pop’s full-frontal energy and acts as if he was conceived to Parliament Funk and spawned at a Kiss concert. He’s backed by a band of equally epic and enthralling musicians that include: Ryan Chips on the saxophone, Mason Shelmire on the bass, Perry Abbott on the drums, and Weeze on guitar. Together they are a musical force to be reckoned with, treating the stage as if it’s a sacred breeding ground for funk, flesh and folly.

To anyone who can’t conceive of and enjoy the significance within their spectacle, Rowdy Shadehouse seems like a ‘joke band’, and with songs like “My Dick” and “Vagenis” being performed with outlandish on stage antics it’s clear how some could come to that conclusion. But the joke is on them.

There is musicianship backing the showmanship, a message fueling the madness, and an undeniable brilliance to any band that can have their crowd chanting, ‘take off your clothes and dance with me’ as that’s transpiring. They provoke the power and beauty of nudity the same way the Red Hot Chili Peppers did while performing with nothing but tube socks hanging off of their very public parts. And even if you don’t approve, you must appreciate anyone with the creative courage to bare all of themselves artistically and physically, especially artists who are able to encourage that expression in others.

Rowdy Shadehouse are performers and provocateurs, seducing their listeners like the shirtless, spandex clad, pied pipers of mayhem and merriment. They are performance art and funk music making wild love with one another till they spawn a whole different animal that should not and cannot be confined. An animal with a well endowed sense of humor, some serious musical talent and nice leather boots. On a mustard yellow love seat, as a half full bottle of tequila toured the green room and a large rubber dildo dangled down from the ceiling, AKcreative sat down with Weeze and Jon Thursday of Rowdy Shadehouse to talk about having chest hair ripped out on stage, balancing showmanship with musicianship, and expecting more from your music.

Rowdy Shadehouse (9)

 Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280                                                                                                               

AKcreative: How would you define the word rowdy?

Jon Thursday: Rude – Occult – Worldly – Dominantly – Yes, or to lead without inhibition – recklessly.

How do you encourage rowdiness in your day-to-day life?

Jon: We encourage people to step out of what they know and into the rowdy shadehouse, which is a safe place to be your self and that’s what we stress more than anything. It’s not about who you are, man, woman, race, creed, religion, or whatever you believe in because at this point we’re all one existing together inside the rowdy shadehouse – and it’s a party.

Weeze: And it takes being uncomfortable to be comfortable with your self.

Jon: Yea, which is why we try to break that barrier with our sexuality

So the rowdy shadehouse is some metaphysical place or perspective you’re able to transport your listeners to?

Jon: With any luck, you have to believe though.

Weeze: We’ve had virgins on stage show their tits for the first time.

Jon: You have to believe though and once you take that step the rest is up to you and we just try to encourage that. Even the guy that’s thinking ‘oh, I wouldn’t be into that’, it’s breaking his barrier right there and talking to someone he doesn’t know. Maybe he’s trying to see their opinion, maybe they don’t like it either, but the point is they’re making a connection and that’s our message. I think every good band should have a message.

What do you want someone to say when walking away from a Rowdy Shadehouse show?

Weeze: Holy shit!

Jon: Wow…wow. We want you to express the darkest part of yourself, that’s just fine with us. I lay down on stage and some people rip out my chest hair, some people pinch my nipples, some slap me in the face, some people grab my dick – sometimes really hard. It’s all about expressing yourself however you want because I’m going to keep laying down in front of people and they can still do whatever they want. They can pet me, they can lick me, they can kiss me, they can spit on me for all I know and it’s a real vulnerable moment that I share with everyone. I give myself and we all give ourselves every show so you can see that we’re not joking. We want you to be your self, it’s ok, just do you and have a fun time

Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280

 Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280                                                                                                                    

What’s the wildest thing you’ve witnessed as a result of encouraging that vulnerability and self-liberation on stage?

Weeze: Remember that one time that chick volunteered to come on a stage and I wouldn’t say Jon pinned her down, but she was very submissive and he was humping her from behind as she laid on her back and then I came and sat on her face as I had two slits in my shorts so it was like full ball smack.

Jon: He was sacking her in the face while I had her legs up like this and I was rubbing up against her. People have sex at our shows, in the crowd, and we actually encourage that – freedom in its rawest form. We’ll challenge anything, we’ll challenge every single venue to accept the way we are because we feel that we’re right and our message is right. If we were wrong or felt like our message was weak and didn’t have any validity or passion to it we would have given up long ago. I’ve been doing this for ten years, I started the band and if I didn’t think the message was real these guys wouldn’t be here, it’s something we believe in more then ourselves, it’s bigger than us, we accept it and we’ll just keep going. To some it may seem like a joke because I don’t know how you interpret something you’ve never seen or experienced before – I guess funny.

Weeze: Because they’re uncomfortable.

Jon: They’re like that’s funny, maybe not funny ‘ha-ha’, but it’s funny and to me when I hear people describe it as funny I know that they’re stepping out of themselves. That’s great that some people are coming here to experience themselves fully, just like you and just like we do.

Weeze: Honestly a lot of people are laughing because they can’t realize how good the music is since the show is so great and they just don’t know what to do as they’re like ‘I’ve never seen anything like that’, so they start laughing.

You’ve shared the stage with George Clinton and The Parliament Funk before and when they first started performing some people couldn’t take grown men in diapers and Technicolor costumes seriously, yet they were outstanding musicians and pioneers in promoting personal freedom. How do you maintain the balance between musicianship and showmanship so that you aren’t perceived as merely a joke band?

Jon: I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t give it all every single show. Sometimes my dad comes to random shows and I’ll never know until he tells me the next day like, ‘hey I think I saw you slacking a little bit at this part’ or ‘ you could have picked it up here’. It’s always a struggle to keep it real and there are so many bands nowadays who don’t even give a fuck about what they’re playing and who don’t even care to be up there, lethargically singing as if we’re supposed to accept that. Expect more from your bands. We’re here to let you know that together we’re going to lift that bar up to the point where it needs to be, and we can still provide the greatest performance without nudity because it’s not really about the nudity or the sexuality of it, it’s about the release.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280

 Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280                                                                                                                      

And to comprehend that release you must approach nudity as artistic self-expression and the ultimate form of putting yourself ‘out there’. (Mason Shelmire wearing no shirt, zebra striped spandex and a leopard print fur coat mounts Jon’s shoulder and continues to warm up on bass while slowly air humping)

Jon: Everyone’s scared, including me, to be vulnerable in front of people every day. We run our lives by vulnerability and what we try to do as a band is release that. This is what we’re about (turns his head and playfully bites bass player’s crotch), we’re about freedom – I love it, we all love each other, and without that love, without that bond or without that passion we wouldn’t all be here to spread that message which is the most important thing to us.

You’ve said that the credence of Rowdy Shadehouse is ‘we freed ourselves, follow us and we will free you too’. What artists or experiences have led you to your current freedom?

Jon: Believe it or not I actually saw LCD Soundsystem here at The Fox Theater about ten years ago and I didn’t even know who James Murphy was but after that I was a fan for life. It changed my outlook on music and after that I went to see The Cars, I’ve always been a huge fan of classic rock, and after that I was like you have to expect more from your bands, even legends like The Cars. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business, you’ve got to keep going. Doctors told James Brown multiple times that he should stop dancing at the age of sixty, but he danced well into his eighties and then died a year after his last show. He danced at that show because he knew what it was about, he knew it was about the soul, the life that you put into the music and the music carries you. Sometime I walk out on stage and I can’t do it, or I’m just not ready, I’m scared, I’m shy, I’m apprehensive and then I hear the music and I let it carry me. We just want our music to carry you as well because if it can move you as a person it deserves recognition.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280

 Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280

What particular front man initially inspired you to pick up a microphone hop up on stage and make music?

Jon: That’s a good one since there are so many great front men. Of course you’ve got the popular ones like Mick Jagger, James Brown and Smokey Robinson, but who inspired me most is Freddy Mercury – not only as a front man, but also as a human being. Towards the end of his life as he got AIDs and eventually died from it, at the last show he played he literally walked off stage every three songs to take a cortisone shot. The virus he had contracted was so powerful that he couldn’t even stand up straight, yet he continued with the show, played for two and a half hours, and he did it for us. Not too many bands do it for the fans anymore and that’s why we’re doing it for you. When I go to my knees, or spin around the mic, or jump up in the air onto my knees there are no tricks, it’s all me. Sometimes the next day I can barely walk, but I do it all for you because I care, because I should care, because that’s my job to care and I feel like that’s sort of been lost

What message do you have for any of your fans who may be reading this interview?

Jon: Expect more. Expect more from your bands. Expect more than we have, and also thank you for coming and sharing time together where we can truly be ourselves.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280

 Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280

Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280

 Photo courtesy of Andrew Rios from Ultra5280                                                                                                                    

Rowdy Shadehouse will be releasing their second album “Vagenis” with a special show at The Bluebird Theater on Saturday April 11th – for tickets click here and for additional tour info check out Rowdy Shadehouse’s official site here. To get a glimpse of what a Rowdy Shadehouse show is like enjoy this video of the band performing their track “Built to Survive” at their last Bluebird Theater show.

INTERVIEW: Euforquestra

Euforquestra

In 2015 as things like privacy, personal freedoms and face-to-face interaction are all endangered; it’s comforting to know that funk is far from extinct. In fact, funk promotes fun, freedom and togetherness through dissolving the very illusions of difference that often lead us to define each other rather then dance with each other.

Euforquestra (pronounced yoo-FOHR-keh-stra) is at the forefront of this funk movement crafting music where many minds and musical tastes combine to create a sound that spins the globe of world music till it turns into a disco ball. With a backbone of afro-beat, funk flowing through their veins and reggae in their hips, Euforquestra has the body build of a dance machine and the perfect formula for a uniquely groovy genre blending sound. Euforquestra originated in Iowa City, Iowa then relocated to Fort Collins, Colorado, where all seven members have since spread out amongst the Rocky Mountains yet remained a tight, talented, ever-touring band.

Everyone in Euforquestra is a life long musician, most have musical degrees, and some have even studied their craft in countries like Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago and Brazil. The fact that they play an average of 120 shows a year and have still managed to release five albums is a testament to the unrelenting passion and road-tested endurance that enables them to consistently produce a large quantity of very quality music. Their most recent studio album Fire was funded through over 200 contributions to a Kickstarter campaign and produced by Kyle Hollingsworth of The String Cheese Incident. Kyle brought his wealth of talents along with an organic and open-minded approach to recording that allowed the band to thrive and play freely, which is part of why they moved in the first place.

Living in a land like Colorado constantly confronts you with peaks that tease the adventurous spirit and ache to be explored; as they’ve learned, some summits are snow capped and others occur on stage. Euforquestra continues to climb and show no signs of stopping. Luckily some of their seven members paused long enough to talk with AKcreative about what makes their local music scene so lovable, the Motet taking them under their wing, and keeping the funk alive.

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Photo compliments of Tobin Voggesser & Nocoast.tv

 

AKcreative: You’re in the midst of a six-night run with Kevin Kinsella of John Brown’s Body and 10ft. Ganja Plant and you’re coming right off of a double header in Vail last night. How has the Riding Higher Still Tour been?

Mike Tallman: It’s been really good. It’s been a nice experience for us to learn a whole new batch of songs that we’ve never played before and work with somebody that we’ve looked up to musically for a long time. We’re towards the end of the run now so I feel like things are dialed in and we figured out how it flows and how to incorporate it into our regular music as well.

What have you learned from performing with Kevin Kinsella?

Austin Zalatel: We were just talking earlier today about how it has helped us develop our reggae pocket a little bit better because we’ve always kind of touched a little bit on reggae and this experience really deepens that I think.

You guys are originally from Iowa, and John Brown’s Body hails from New York. How were you introduced?

Mike: Kevin contacted our manager and said that he was trying to come out and do some Colorado dates. Originally he had a band he wanted to bring with him, Thunder Body, who played on his record as the rhythm section and they were going to come out but logistics just didn’t work out so our manager was basically like, ‘I’ve got some guys who can play reggae and are already in Colorado’. We’ve known a bunch of these tunes for years and years, and we all love the old John Brown’s Body records.

Bringing it back to your manager, you guys met Kevin through him but he also introduced you to Kyle Hollingsworth of The String Cheese Incident, who produced and was featured on your most recent album Fire. When was the first time that you met Kyle?

Austin: I think it was like the fall of 2009.

Mike: Yea, we did some dates with him in the Midwest.

Craig Babineau: That was before I was even in the band.

What was it like meeting him?

Mike: I was pretty into ‘Cheese’ in my younger days and I had met some of the other guys in the past, but hadn’t met him before. Kyle’s cool, we’re all very personable dudes you know, regular old people.

Craig: Yea, the more professional musicians or whoever it is you meet like that the more you see they’re just regular dudes. Some of them get up on their high-horse, but luckily most of people we’ve encountered and worked with have been pretty cool.

Especially out here in Colorado where the music scene is very friendly and fertile for collaboration.

Mike: It’s more of a communal vibe out here rather then a competitive one, and honestly part of the reason we moved out here was the first couple trips we took to Colorado when we played with The Motet and then they kind of took us under their wing and we got to be good buddies with that whole crew. Just felt really at home here.

Photo compliments of Tobin Voggesser

 

How did Kyle contribute to the recording process?

Mike: There are several tunes on the album where Kyle did edit lyrics, or forms, or melodies, I can’t remember what all happened on what tune. He came to some rehearsals and was like ‘this tune is way too fast, why are you doing it like that’. He had some liberties and it was great for us you know since we had someone we could just ask. In the past when we were making records we’d spend time in the studio just going ‘what should we do here, should we go to the bridge here’, so this was nice because we could just go ‘Kyle what should do we do’.

Craig: He had a lot of input and the whole time he was on-point.

Did he encourage you to experiment?

Craig: Yea, we did a jam in the studio and all kinds of other stuff.

Mike: The last day that we were doing our rhythm tracking and everyone was playing together he was very insistent that at some point we do some improvising in the studio.

Craig: That ended up being some of those little interludes on the album (Moment #1, 2 &3). Those were spliced out of that 18 minute jam.

It’s pretty crazy and serendipitous that one of your first big gigs in Colorado was opening for The Motet since they are the ideal funk forefathers to usher you and your sound into the Rocky Mountain music scene.

Mike: They had us open the Fox the second time we ever came to Colorado and we were still living in Iowa. We had never even been in a room like that before and we were just playing bars constantly. So it was cool to be on a dedicated rock-hall stage and the Fox is legendary, it’s been around forever, and there’s a lot of history in that room. It was kind of surreal for a minute. I had to let it sink in.

I hope you still experience some surreal moments like that now.

Craig: Yea definitely, I’m trying to think of some shows in particular. This summer we played with Indigo Girls at Iowa City Arts Festival and that was to about 7,000 people or something. Then even having some of the guests, like last weekend in Denver we had Congo Sanchez from Thievery Corporation come up and play and the band that did this last tour with us, Miles Tackett and the Three Times, I think he plays bass in Breakestra but he plays guitar in his band, and he got up too. So there are all these bands that I’ve been listening to for a long time and like their stuff a lot, and here we are just playing with them on stage thinking ‘oh man this is pretty surreal’.

That seems to be a common occurrence out here in the Colorado music scene where lots of bands cross-pollinate very naturally.

Mike: Yea there are a lot of opportunities out here and a lot of people like Congo Sanchez (?) who just happened to be hanging out in Denver and came to our show. I saw him come in and was like ‘man we’ve got to get him up on stage’ and then we go back to playing a tune, I’m not paying attention, and I turn around and he’s already on stage playing.

Craig: I didn’t even realize it was him until you said something. He used to have some long dreads and cut them off recently, so I was like ‘is this some drunk guy that got up on stage, who is this dude’, and when I found out I was like ‘oh shit, it’s the drummer from Thievery Corporation who I’ve been listening to for a decade’.

Austin: It’s cool, and there are a lot of opportunities. We got to play The Fillmore for the first time a couple months ago and that was a big one for us.

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Photo compliments of Nocoast.tv

 

Which characteristic of the Colorado music scene do you love the most?

Mike: A big part of it is definitely having the exposure to so much different music. First of all we get the opportunity to play with a lot of people and have opened for a lot of people who we have looked up to for years and years. But even if we’re not working and we’re just hanging out on a weekend there’s probably a show somewhere in Denver, Boulder or Fort Collins that we all want to go see and there’s Red Rocks all summer long. There’s constantly music that I want to see and be inspired by.

Craig: There’s a lot of music and it’s a lot of good music, which is awesome. There are also a lot of venues too and it’s not everywhere you go that there are places like The Ogden or The Fillmore and all these other awesome venues around. We’re kind of spoiled around here. There’s tons of abundance, even down to the smaller stuff.

Mike: We’re lucky for the quality of production and everything else around here. The bar is set very high in Colorado.

Despite living in and loving Colorado you still proudly keeps your ties to Iowa with events like your annual holiday benefit shows and self-started festival Camp Euforia (?), which will be in its twelfth year this summer. How has Camp Euforia evolved over the last 11 years from pretty much a party on a farm into a full-fledged festival?

Mike: It’s been gradual. From year to year if you look at it there doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of change, but if you look at what’s going to happen this year as opposed to five years ago it’s drastically different. It’s little steps, we figure out a little more every year. It’s a totally legit festival, but it still has an intimate feel to it and I think that’s what people really like.

Craig: I kind of came into it with an outsiders perspective because I didn’t go to like the first nine Camp Euforias. So I came right after joining the band and didn’t really know what to expect but it’s an awesome festival.

I heard that at last year’s Camp Euforia you had some rough weather that unexpectedly spawned a Motet/Euforquestra barn party?

Mike: Yea, Saturday night there was this torrential downpour that shut down the main stage, which is an outdoor stage, and all of our Colorado homies were all there and we were just sitting around on this farm with this massive storm blowing through. Our second stage is inside in a barn so we were like lets just take the gear over there and lets all play. Everyone just wanted to play, it doesn’t matter what, and us, The Motet, Juno What, and everyone else weren’t going to be able to play. We set up and did three or four Euforquestra tunes and then it just became a jam session with that little group of people and we did some Earth Wind & Fire, some Stevie Wonder and some Talking Heads.

Craig: It was packed in there, and everyone was pretty much trying to get in so it was just overflowing and sweaty. We had to carry all our gear across this field that was like a mud-pit, I think our bassist Adam fell in the mud, it was a shit show but it ended up being pretty sweet.

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Photo compliments of Nocoast.tv

 

You guys have kept that close comradery with The Motet and you mentioned them ‘taking you under their wing’ around the time of you opening for them at The Fox. As your friends and mentors, what have they taught you about music, funk or even life in general?

Mike: Man, that’s a deep question. We met Dave and Scott, their former percussionist, and a bunch of those guys have done a lot of studying of Afro-Cuban music and Afro-Brazilian music, which is also something that we did a lot of earlier in our career. We don’t do as much of it now but it was a very big period for us, where we were doing this west-African stuff fused with this Afro-Cuban music and we met them when that was mostly what we were focused on.

They thought it was really cool and interesting that a bunch of dudes from Iowa were playing all this Afro-Cuban music, so I think that kind of spawned them taking us under their wing. They’ve given us lots of opportunities to open big shows and we’ve traveled together, toured, done festival bills, and thrown crazy barn parties. They were guys that we looked up to for many years and now they’re just our ‘homies’.

What are Euforquestra’s plans for this upcoming year?

Mike: We definitely want to record and release a little bit of music at some point this year, probably not a full album, but possibly a couple singles or an EP or something – that’s a big goal. We have some up coming shows that aren’t announced yet that we’re all pretty psyched about. It’s going to be a good year. Everything’s feeling really good

What would you like to tell your fans who are reading this interview?

Mike: We love you and thank you. We’ll keep playing if you keep dancing.

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Photo compliments of Tobin Voggesser & Nocoast.tv

For info on Euforquestra’s current tour click here and for a daily dose of funk watch their music video for the title-track off of their most recent album Fire.

 

Interview: The Magic Beans

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDL Photography

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDL Photography

“I think my spirit animal is a unicorn laying on its back drinking champagne,” Hunter Welles says smirking as strands of springy blonde hair bob outside of his ponytail.

It’s under an hour till The Magic Beans take the stage, and as Hunter and the rest of his band mates sit sipping beers in the green room, it becomes clear that his spirit animal is an appropriate analogy for their band. The Magic Beans are the unicorn in a heard of horses, standing out by bringing both a unique sound and a magical live experience. It’s an elusive combination, yet they seem to so naturally succeed at it.

Their talent and passion have always been rooted in a foundation of friendship and nourished by the simple intent of making good music, sharing it with everyone, and having fun. They’re doing all of that, and consequently changing music from a pastime into a potential career – one that could follow in the same footsteps as some of the predecessors turned peers whom they’ve already shared a stage with such as The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee and Lotus.

For a band that’s still somewhat in it’s infancy, The Magic Beans have accomplished a lot: releasing the double-album Sites and Sounds, performing an entire Talking Heads bluegrass set, hosting their annual Beanstalk Music and Arts Festival, collaborating on a Coffee IPA with Odell Brewing Company, and all the while touring across the country playing everywhere from a friend-filled fire pit, a Phish parking lot, a festival main stage or a string of sold-out shows in their native Colorado. Their organic and open-minded approach to making music together has spawned a self-titled style of “space funk”, which is a far-out blend of genres that orbits around an array of influences without being bound to any particular one.

Some beans are bound for burritos, but the truly magical ones sprout into something much more significant, and these beans are destined to do just that. On a snowy Saturday at a condo in the tiny ski town of Avon, Colorado, AKcreative sat down with The Magic Beans to talk about mountain lion defense systems, play with cell phone sound effects, and discover how they are truly a champagne guzzling unicorn.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDL Photography

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDL Photography

AKcreative: 2015 just started and you guys are already hitting the road running; coming off of a four night opening run for Electron, two shows in New Mexico, and now bringing it back to Colorado to continue your Cool Beans Winter Tour. How did you guys get the chance to partner with Electron?

Scott Hachey: I guess it was through our manager Ryan Noel who also works with the Disco Biscuits, and we were also openers for the Biscuits earlier in the year. They heard of us because of Ryan and then through playing with them a couple times we’ve become slight friends with them I think.

Casey Russell: The way they put it we’re ‘homies’.

Scott: Yea, that’s what they said on stage, that we’re ‘good homies’, and they really wanted to make an impact when they played here and fill the rooms so we helped them do that.

Would you say you guys share a similar fan base or demographic as The Disco Biscuits?

Casey: Definitely, I would say a big part of our fan base are people who would call The Disco Biscuits one of their favorite bands. Maybe not a big part, but definitely a certain sector and there’s also some similarities between both of our live shows.

In addition to the Disco Biscuits you guys have paired with tons of other musicians who are considered legends in the exact same scene you’re becoming a part of, like Umphrey’s McGee, Lotus, and The Motet. What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

(Unanimously and without hesitation each member answers ‘Umphrey’s’)

Josh Applebaum: Yea, opening for Umphrey’s was pretty huge. We have all been listening to them since we started listening to live music and they’re honestly a huge inspiration for us so that was unreal.

Hunter Welles: Also Beanstalk (Music & Arts Festival)! The last Beanstalk was pretty epic and this year’s will be even more epic. I’m looking forward to it.

Scott: Playing with The New Mastersounds and the Particle guys was pretty cool. Luke Miller (Lotus) has played with us a few times too, which is just crazy because I’ve been seeing those guys forever.

Hunter: The Motet guys were a big deal for me to get to play with too.

Josh: That was a long time coming. We’ve known them for so long and always hoped to get to play with them but never had till then. (Hunter cues dream sequence sound effect as Casey makes note to recorder about his Afro)

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDL Photography

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDL Photography

When you were starting out as a band did you ever foresee sharing stages with acts like that and transitioning rather quickly from paying to see them to getting paid to play with them?

Hunter: Honestly I never imagined it, and it was never about that. Our path and where we’re going right now was never something that was imagined by any of us, except maybe Scott, since it’s been his dream.

Scott: I just wanted to be in a band, and people may not know that the first few years of us playing we played for free pretty much. Pooling all of our money together and saving to record this album that we just did a year ago, which I think says a lot about our crew and how it really was just for fun for a while, and still is, but now that we’re older and have a great fan base we’re really trying to see if we can make a career out of it.

Josh: Our fan base is the best part. People literally keep showing up show after show and there are some who have literally seen 50 or more of our shows, and they choose to spend their night or their weekends with us, which is so cool.

Casey: When we first started kind of getting a following at our shows we would see a bunch of our friends and then a few random people or friends of friends.

Hunter: That’s what was cool, is that it literally brought all of our friends together.

Casey: Exactly, it brought all of our friends together and now I’ll see a bunch of people that I don’t know and then in the back corner or wherever I’ll see all of our homies who have been there the whole time. They’ve seen the whole progression and we’ve obviously been there too so it’s still pretty crazy to us.

Cody Wales: For me it was weird joining the band and trying to get a grasp on ‘The Beans Family’. People would come up to me and be like, ‘dude I’ve seen you guys 45 times,’ and I’m just like whoa I don’t know any of these people, but I’m slowly getting there and it’s awesome.

Casey: We’re a family band and the fan base just started as a family thing. That’s what lead us to progress and now it’s just about trying to give back as much as we can to that, get as good as we can get, make it as big as we can, and help that family spread.

Hunter: I mean honestly one of my favorite things about the band is that I’ve met some of my best friends through playing music and all of our fans have been really cool people.

Scott: I agree with that. We’re all into the same things and we’re just fans too. I’ve met some of my best friends at our concerts, so we don’t even see them as fans. I think that word ‘fan’ is so weird and it’s just friends usually, unless we haven’t met yet.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDL Photography

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDL Photography

How was it that you all first met and started making music? You recently posted about a monumental birthday party five years ago at your old mountain house west of Boulder, which sounded like it’s where the seed that has sprouted into The Magic Beans was first planted.

Hunter: That’s it! It was literally the first time we played for people.

Was it billed as a Magic Beans show or had you even come up with a name at that point?

Hunter: We were Mountain Lion Defense System. Basically I got a puppy and one of our roommates saw a mountain lion out on our deck so the idea was that we’re going to be a mountain lion defense system and protect my puppy by just playing jams all the time.

Had you guys actually practiced at all before that party or just loosely played music as friends?

Scott: I mean we played music together every single day, just jamming out, and I think we had maybe two songs at that point. It wasn’t really a performance, we had a party and all the equipment was just set up in one room so we just kind of billed it as we’re going to play a set of music. It was loose, but it was fun. Our first real gig was at the Fox opening for Springdale Quartet, and the first actual Magic Beans show with Casey in the band was at Quixote’s.

Casey: Outside, as it was raining and we played “What is Love?”

How did you guys come up with the name The Magic Beans after abandoning Mountain Lion Defense System?

Casey: There was this crazy homeless dude at one of those first shows just screaming about planting magic beans and we were like that could be a cool band name.

Could you tell when you first started playing together that, for lack of a better word, there was something ‘magical’ happening?

(Dream sequence chime sound effect – lots of laughter)

Casey: I would say that there was a definite chemistry, and I came in later so these guys kind of had everything already figured out. We all enjoyed the same things and when we played music together and hit a certain spot in a jam or something it was clear we were all on the same page.

Scott: You asked about when we played our first show, and at that point we would kind of just play a bunch of jams in different arrangements. When we decided to truly be a band, that’s when we had to actually write songs, so I feel like the chemistry you’re talking about in our improvisational parts was there way before the songs were since we’ve been playing together for so long.

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDL Photography

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDL Photography

What was the toughest part of transitioning from a group of guys who played at a party into a full-fledged band?

Scott: Deciding on a band name. The band name thing was tough.

Hunter: We were definitely unsure about everything when we first started.

Scott: We just knew we wanted to play shows so we needed a name.

Josh: Yea, we were Jamonster for a little while, but I’m happy with what we landed on.

Has your music always encompassed such a wide range of sounds and styles?

Hunter: Absolutely, we’ve gone through a lot of transition. When we first started we only had electrics and “Mind Over Matter” and “Underwater Oasis” were two of our only songs.

Scott: We had two areas in the house and whenever Josh came up we would do the electric thing, and once he left we would always be out on the porch picking acoustic. We probably did that even more then we played electric. I had songs written that were much more acoustic based, but then when we jammed out it was always way more fun and not very acoustic. To incorporate your last question that was one of the biggest humps for Hunter and I, tying to combine the acoustic and electric stuff and finding a tone on stage since playing an acoustic instrument in an electric band is pretty tough.

How would you describe your specific sound to someone who has never listened to The Magic Beans?

Casey: Space funk.

Would you say that is the defining term for your style, or is it a an ever evolving mix of space funk and other mashed up genres titles like ‘groove-grass’ or ‘jamtronica’?

Casey: That’s the really fun part about the music we play and depending on who is asking and where we are I’ll say things totally different and it will all be completely true. If it’s a guy who looks like he’s into country music I’ll say ‘we play a bunch of bluegrass’ and when we’re at a funk show I’ll say ‘we play a bunch of funk and other stuff too’.

Scott: It’s hard to describe our music because if you’re not in the live music scene you wont understand when someone says ‘space funk’ so sometimes I sugar-coat it for people and say it’s ‘bluegrass funk fusion’ and they’ll be like ‘oh that’s interesting, those are very different’ and I’ll answer ‘ yes, that’s why we’re fusing them’.

Hunter: We’ve got a certain vibe that we definitely try to bring into whatever genre of music it is that we’re playing. So even if it’s blue grass it’s still a certain type of ‘beans grass’ and if it’s funk there’s a certain way that we play it that’s never traditional.

Josh: You can’t say we’re a straight funk band, that’s the Motet. We’re ‘funky’ and we’re ‘bluegrassy’ sometimes so it’s become our own distinct genre.

Scott: Disco Stu says ‘We play party music yo’! (Cow mooing sound effect – eruption of laughter) Next question. (More laughing)

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDL Photography

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDL Photography

What are some of the ways that you guys attempt to stand out in a saturated music scene and not just be another average semi-memorable jam-band?

Casey: I would say we have an advantage because there are lots of different sides to our sound and that helps us stand out since it’s a big part of the whole jam-band, festival, or just live music scene, especially in Colorado. I think people get kind of bored of the same thing all the time, so it helps us stand out that we can kind of fill a couple different fixes of what people want in one night. People can stomp around and do the bluegrass thing, then get spacey, funky and all dance. But it is hard to stand out though; there are a lot of good bands out there doing similar things.

Hunter: I personally like to see bands that play a lot of different genres in one show. I’ll go to see a band sometimes, be like ‘wow, this is awesome’, and three songs later when it’s all sounding somewhat the same it’s still pretty awesome but I really like variety. I also like so many different genres of music that it’d be hard for me to just say ‘I’m going to be in a bluegrass band’.

Casey: Honestly I think that if I was in a different band that was just playing one thing I’d be bored. Maybe not, I mean if I was in the Motet I would love funk, but doing one thing just isn’t as fulfilling for me.

Scott: I came to a conclusion about a year ago as far as standing out in a competitive music scene, since I work so closely with it, and I’ve realized that it’s really important to kind of put on the blinders in some way and just hone the craft. That’s what I’ve been dedicated to these past couple years is trying to be a better musician and relying on what you know. It’s been hard to describe what we do, but it’s definitely been working, so I’m tapping into exactly what it is we do. It got a little out of control fast and we’ve gotten way tighter in this last year. We used to be really freewheeling in our live show with lots of energy coming off stage and we kind of learned to cap it up. It’s still that way we’ve just gotten more focused and understand that what came naturally for us before can now be controlled a bit more. Playing better music, that’s the way to get recognized. We’re already getting the gigs that we need to and I just want to see everyone enjoying themselves at our show, that’s the point, and if your music’s good you’re going to make it.

You seem to be succeeding with that mentality, and it’s a very genuine way of simply letting the music and your fans speak for themselves.

Scott: Word of mouth works great. If everyone has a good time they’ll be like ‘hey check this out next time other friend’ and that’s how it works right? I’m hoping.

What are you guys hoping to accomplish in this next year?

Hunter: Red Rocks would be nice.

Scott: We’ve done a ton of touring everywhere, so now we’re focused on picking out the towns where we’ve seen a response nationally and turning outward since we’ve been doing a lot in Colorado. Chicago, Minneapolis, Indiana and Austin are all places where we’ve gotten good responses so we’re going to focus on going there like three to four times in one year. Really making sure we build those specific fan bases as opposed to just trying to hit tons of different places.

To conclude our conversation, is there anything you’d like to tell your fans reading this interview?

(Short pause to think followed by loud cougar growling sound effect and more laughter)

Cody: That and thanks! We’re going to try our best to keep making good music and putting on interesting live shows.

Scott: No, no, no actually erase that last part – cougar growl!

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille - ontheDL Photography

All photos courtesy of Dylan Langille – ontheDL Photography

To check out The Magic Beans in a city near you click here and to get a taste of some space funk watch this live video of The Magic Beans performing The Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” featuring Clay Parnell and Steve Molitz of Particle at 2014’s Beanstalk Music and Arts Festival.

Beanstalk