Yellowcard are no longer riding the wave of Ocean Avenue, but they've turned to a darker side and were nice enough to talk with us about streaming music and supporting the band still.
21st century folkie Sam Amidon ends a tour tonight at the historic Club Passim in Harvard Square. He released his seventh full-length album, Lilly-O, earlier this month and in a few weeks he's headed for Europe. We're psyched he found time amid all that to answer a few of our burning questions.
Allston Pudding: To someone who only knows you through your music, what’s a favorite album of yours they’d find surprising?
Sam Amidon: Great Phone Calls by Neil Hamburger.
Who were your favorite bands/artists in high school?
The New England folk/contradance bands Wild Asparagus and Nightingale. The traditional Irish artists Martin Hayes, Tommy Peoples and Solas. Yo La Tengo and Morphine and Chris Whitley. Miles Davis.
How do you make a traditional folk song “your own”?
By forgetting that it is a folk song while I'm singing it.
Both your parents are folk musicians who teach traditional dance, singing, and storytelling. Did you grow up connected to a larger musical/creative community? If so, how does/did it compare to the world of New York City indie-rock or to your experiences with the Icelandic label/collective Bedroom Community?
Good question... Yes the world of Brattleboro and New England growing up was full of great musicians and people who were committed to playing music with each other. I guess the scenes are very similar because it's a group of people who enjoy spending time together and socializing through music. When I was a kid, most of the albums we listened to in the house were made by people who lived in the area and that meant that I had mentors living nearby who taught me so much about music.
How much of your knowledge of traditional music is rooted in the work your parents do? Is there an element of deliberate, musical research to what you do? What’s that process like?
My parents have taught me a huge amount about folk music but even more they have taught me about being musically curious and openminded. They never listened to rock or jazz in the house when I was growing up (except for The Talking Heads), but when my brother and I started coming home with Miles Davis or Beck albums they were always curious listeners and were up for checking it out. We loved analyzing and debating whatever was playing on the stereo.
I don't do any research and my process is completely haphazard. I don't know that many folk songs but I have a few that I love and I like writing music on the guitar and figuring out melodies to go on top.
Will you teach your son an instrument? Are you already?
I will be extremely disappointed if he does not grow up to be a virtuoso classical Indian mandolinist in the style of the recently departed U Srinivas.
There are covers of Tim McGraw and Mariah Carey on 2013’s Bright Sunny South, and you have an R. Kelly song on 2010’s I See the Sign. What about those songs “spoke to you”?
Those songs had the same quality that I look for in any song, and which I often find in a folk song-–a combination of the alien and mysterious with the comforting and familiar.
Congratulations on your brand new album, Lilly-O. Tell us a bit about your musical collaborators on it.
Bill Frisell is a master musician. Shahzad Ismaily is the only person I know who has both played bass with Rage Against the Machine AND can drive while playing the banjo. Chris Vatalaro is my American friend in London and he knows more about the civil engineering history of upstate New York than anybody else on the album.
How did the arrangements on Lilly-O come together? Were they “jammed out” among the musicians? planned out in your head? a process of experimenting with overdubs?
The initial song settings were done by me before entering the studio. The three musicians and I then went into the studio for four days and put down the songs. I taught them the song forms beforehand and they came up with their parts on the spot through improvisation and collaboration. There were a couple overdubs but not many.
Will you be performing mostly Lilly-O material on your October tour? If so, how will the songs differ from their studio versions?
I have been enjoying playing a lot of songs from the album, but other songs as well, whatever comes into my head. Playing a concert is a different thing, we'll see how it goes!
What’s your policy on song requests?
Photos by Piper Ferguson.
Take a stroll down Mermaid Avenue and transport yourself into the folky days of the past.
On their "Putting the Kids to Bed Tour," the Kopecky's showed that they have a lot more to offer as they revamped the material off their stellar breakout record and teased their upcoming 2015 release.
Before heading to Paradise Rock Club this Sunday, Alex Caplow was kind enough to sit down with Allston Pudding to talk touring, burritos, positive rumors, and Ryan Gosling's Halloween themed band.