Category Archives: Departments

Jason Isbell: Something More Than Free

The time for talking about how much Jason Isbell has changed since his Drive-By Truckers days is long past. Yes, gone are the whiskey-soaked, carousals from his time in the seminal Southern band.  Also in the past is the triumphant story of his hard-won sobriety and newfound life as a successful solo artist.

In their place, a shelf-full of all the hardware the 2014 Americana Music Awards had to offer, in addition to numerous critical accolades and a new life as happy family man. Also: a new album called Something More Than Free.

His 2013 breakout album Southeastern set the bar extremely high, and the follow-up, Something More Than Free, manages to reach, and perhaps hurdle, it.

Thematically, the album is a bit lighter than its predecessor, but it shares a tonal similarity. Isbell has hit a comfortable creative stride that gives the impression he and his listeners are in the midst of a fertile stage of artistic output akin to Neil Young’s early 1970s oeuvre.

Throughout Something More Than Free, Isbell constructs a now-trademark rustic realm, a world inhabited by people yearning, searching and hoping for something better, and a few who think they have it figured out. These are hardscrabble folks living with regrets and seeking redemption.

He creates such vividly imagined characters that at the conclusion of nearly every track, you feel like you’ve just finished a novel or movie, or stepped out of someone else’s dream. These characters—the guy who feels fortunate to have lost three fingers in an accident so he could get a court settlement (“The Life You Chose”), the teenage parents who can’t tell the difference between the “sacred and profane” (“Children of Children”), the guy who just wants to leave town because there’s “nothing here that can’t be left behind” (“Speed Trap Town”) and others—are instant intimates. Isbell’s craft allows these characters to come to life and for you to step into it.

Isbell is a singular voice, but it’s hard not to hear his forbearers living through him. Hints of Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer” (a song he’s performed live) live inside of “Flagship” in more ways that one.  John Prine’s wit suffuses “If It Takes A Lifetime.” And so on. Neil Young’s work informs here, his contemporary Ryan Adams there.

Sonically, Isbell and his band, including wife Amanda Shires on fiddle, are in a comfortable zone, shifting easily from melancholic ruminations to rowdy rockers and country swing.

“Children of Children,” with a string section that floats eerily over Isbell’s slide guitar and soaring solo, is one of many standout tracks on Something More Than Free.  Elsewhere, he adopts old-time, bluegrass-tinged country stomp with “If It Takes a Lifetime” and raunchy rock with “Palmetto Rose.” Throughout, his melodies seem like they’ve been there forever, pulled from the heavens by his pen.

Something More Than Free is continuation of the songwriting maturity found on Southeastern, so much so that Isbell might be wise to make some room on that shelf.


Something More Than Free will be released July 17 on Southeastern Records. 

Getting honest with American Aquarium’s BJ Barham

BJ Barham, lead man of the crossover country/rock band American Aquarium, played a solo show at Proud Larry’s in Oxford, MS – home of Ole Miss and the occasional loudmouth country boy. The event was a sit-down affair. Barham had come to play his songs – Barham now almost-famous with a cult following dug in and growing – to tell the stories about how these songs came to be written and what they mean to him. The bar was packed with avid fans, singing along quietly with Barham and listening intently between songs to Barham’s commentary – except for a couple of college kids, possibly frat boys (but whether they were or not let’s pretend that they were—it makes for a better story).

So these two guys were just talking away, having their own very loud, very obnoxious conversation – oblivious to the show going on or anything else in the world besides themselves. Barham stopped playing in the middle of his song. The crowd leaned forward in their seats in anticipation. Barham pointed directly to the “frat” boys, and said something to the effect of, “Hey – you two – yeah you – I will personally buy you a round if you will take your conversation outside. I don’t know if you noticed, but I am trying to play a show here, and these people are trying to listen.”

Those may not be the exact words Barham said. There were probably more than a few choice expletives left out. The crowd cheered. The boys got kicked out of the bar. And Barham played another great show.

American-Aquarium---Proud-Larry's---Live-Great-Shot-BJ-4Fast forward to winter of 2014. Rolling Stone named American Aquarium band “Number One” out of the list of their ten “New Country Artists You Need to Know for 2015.” Bandsintown named them “Most Active Act of 2014,” with 206 appearances under their belt for the year…more than any other act in the site’s database.

American Aquarium’s sound is a blend of grassroots rock and country, but it has more power and grit to it than most any other fusion of this combination yet to hit the country/rock fusion scene. There is also an indie feel to it, although the “indie” that exists there is not only in their unique sound. It also lies in the honest lyrics of Barham, paired with unexpected background music that can switch from sounding like Hank Williams (and doing it well), to sounding like the newest indie band from Nashville (and doing it better). Barham’s lyrics have that “indie”-like, renegade rebel attitude, which is not just an act. He reveals himself in every song he writes, attracting fans with his sincere “fuck you” attitude. He once spoke of the band Florida Georgia Line, who once opened for them, this way: “They now have millions of fans, tons of money and all the cut off bedazzled denim vests anyone could ask for. At least we still have our self-respect. Here’s to the working bands out there that never settle.”

American-Aquarium-Proud-Larry's---Full-Band-Green-Room-Shot-6If you had asked Barham in 2012 if he thought the band would still be together now, a band that had been going strong and gaining momentum for seven years at that point, he probably would have said, “No.” The Raleigh, North Carolina-based band had been touring heavily since its inception, produced six albums in seven years, and has attracted a large group of very dedicated fans. This is what likens American Aquarium to jam bands – that, and the fact that Barham never beats around the bush when telling the truth in his songs about the partying and philandering that went on for the vast majority of those first seven years.

Barham spoke candidly before the American Aquarium show at Proud Larry’s this past April about the rock-and-roll lifestyle, and the part it played in his career up until the release of their newest, critically-acclaimed album Wolves. “Wolves,” the title track, includes the line, “I just wish these wolves would get their claws out of me.” When asked who these “wolves” were, he explained it this way:

BJ Barham: It’s mostly talking about addiction…talking about the things that I wanted out of my life for a long time and I just couldn’t get out of my life. Mostly drinking and drugs…being a bad person…Being on the road is a lot of fun, but it also lends itself to making a lot of really bad decisions, especially because of the drinking and the drugs. So, it was just about getting my life in order by trying to get straight. And so, this year…I turned 30, I got married. I got sober. It’s been just a really great year, and it’s just kind-of about kickin’ the things that you didn’t think you could…the things that you thought were bigger than you…the things that you thought you could never get rid of out of your life. I’m livin’ proof that you can definitely say, ‘No’ to the things that get their claws in you

American-Aquarium---Proud-Larry's---Full-Band-Live-Selected-Shots-2Barham went on to describe how the 2012 hit record Burn.Flicker.Die came to be made, an album produced by Barham’s friend and colleague Jason Isbell in legendary Muscle Shoals, AL. He also talks about his songwriting process, and about the well-deserved fame the band has garnered from the press written about both Burn.Flicker.Die and Wolves:

Honest Tune: Burn.Flicker.Die, the last album, seemed like a tribute to Raleigh, or your upbringing, songs like, “Cape Fear River,”…memories [of growing up], and “St. Mary’s,”…

BJ: Oh, yeah.

HT: “St. Mary’s” sounded like it must have been a tribute to the girls’ school.

BJ: Oh, yeah. St. Mary’s Girls’ School…I used to walk right by there on my way to downtown all the time and, I mention my favorite bar, it’s a place called, “Slims” in Downtown Raleigh, “….the land-locked nights down at Slim’s,” [lyric from “St. Mary’s”]… I write what I know. I write what I’m involved with, what is inspiring me at the time. Burn.Flicker.Die was really supposed to be our last record. We were supposed to break up after that record. We had been touring for seven and a half years…we were exhausted. And we had a batch of songs laying around and said, “We’re going to record this record. We’re going to tour on it a little bit, and if it doesn’t hit…if we don’t see any kind of success from it, then we can say that we did our best.”

We put out six records in seven years, and we’re proud of it. And, it turns out that the record about us breaking up turned out to be the record that was actually really successful for us, and kind-of paved the way for us to make Wolves, the record that we always wanted to make but we never knew how to make it. We weren’t able to make it. And, so, we were finally able to make it, and Wolves is something that I’m going to be able to look back on in twenty years and be like, “That’s a cool record. I’m really glad we did that [laughs].”

American-Aquarium---Proud-Larry's---Closeup-of-BJ-BarhamHT: Yeah…and I’m sure you’re not the only one that feels that way. It’s a fantastic album. Rolling Stone Magazine called Wolves, “…rooted in the brawny, barroom country rock of fellow road warriors like Lucero and Drive-By Truckers.” What’s your response to that?

BJ: That’s awesome. [Those are] two bands that made me want to do this. I started listening to…Ben Nichols, [who] is one of my favorite songwriters. And the Truckers…Isbell, Cooley, Patterson Hood…those records got me through everything. Everybody has these bands that are their favorite bands because they are the soundtrack of certain points in their life…that you hold dear. And Lucero and Drive-By Truckers were the moments in my life where I started realizing that this is what I wanted to do for a living. I wanted to be a songwriter. And they paved the way very clearly. The only way that you can write this kind of music and do it is to be on the road all the time, and tour.

It’s funny, I’ve played shows with both those bands quite a bit and I’m friends with a lot of the people in both those bands and, it’s just been really cool for them to go and be like the inspiration to us and being like their…their…their co-workers. We’re kind- of in the same game. You know, the Americana circle is very small, so, once you start getting a little bit of success and you just, you really know everybody. And, it’s really nice…Lucero and Drive-By Truckers…inspired a lot of the early stuff that we did. And now, it’s just nice to call them friends.

American-Aquarium---Proud-Larry's---Full-Band-Live-Selected-Shots-3HT: And Isbell produced Burn.Flicker.Die?

BJ: Isbell produced Burn.Flicker.Die, yeah, we did that down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. We did it at the Nut House…Jimmy Nutt left Fame and went and opened up his own place and so…it’s an old bank that’s been converted into a studio. It’s absolutely amazing. And, we went down there for eight days. Jason Isbell was down there, he had just started dating his wife, Amanda Shires, so she played fiddle and sang backup on vocals, and Jason sang all the background vocals on the record. We made the record that kind of saved the band…you know…without sounding cheesy or too dramatic, you know, that was the record that kind of made this whole thing happen.

HT: Do you think the Muscle Shoals legend helped to motivate you guys to produce such great material?

BJ: Oh, for sure. There’s a mojo. There’s a definite mojo down in Muscle Shoals. There’s something in the water. You’re in that town and you just know what came out of that town and you know what has come before you, and you don’t want to be the one band that messed up anything, so you don’t want to be the one band where when they talk about Muscle Shoals, like, “Well, this one band came here and made a really bad record.” You want to leave that place and feel like you did good, and I think we delivered.

I think we left Muscle Shoals with something that we were proud of. And it turns out that in the past three years, Jason’s star has risen exponentially. He’s arguably one of the best songwriters of our generation. And it’s funny that we just went down there to make a record with a buddy of ours. And it’s turned out that not only did we have a lot of success, but a year later, he put out a record that completely changed his life. So, it’s cool to look back and have at least a little bit of a story like that.

HT: Rolling Stone also called your new lineup since 2012, “…a genuine band firing twin barrels of punky, country and Southern rock.” Do you agree with that?

BJ: Totally. I’m not going to disagree with the Rolling Stone when they say something about me. Rolling Stone has been really nice to us on this record. They named us one of the “Top Ten Country Bands to Watch for in 2015,”…um…whatever they say, I’m happy with it.

I tried for ten years to get them to say anything, and they wouldn’t, so now that they’re saying stuff, I’m not going to critique it.

BJ Barham begins his solo tour at Slim’s in Raleigh, NC, on July 6th (yes, that “Slim’s”), touring solo all over the Southeast with only one night off, ending the solo tour right back home in NC on July 23rd at The Garage in Winston Salem. The very next night – July 24th, BJ joins back with the full band at the House of Blues Myrtle Beach, SC, to begin another grueling tour schedule that will no doubt land them on the “Most Touringest” list of Bandsintown for 2015. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch one.

American Aquarium Website:

Catch American Aquarium on Garden & Gun’s “Back Porch Session” recorded live at South by Southwest here:

Dopa-Blog: The Road Journal of Dopapod #8 – Billy Joel, Bonnaroo, Synths

db1Well, I asked Billy Joel to sit in with us, but he said no. I don’t know why, maybe he was weirded out because I asked him while we were both taking a leak in the bathroom. Whatever, bro, get over yourself. It’s 2015. The walls of urination etiquette are a savage custom of the past. Live in the now.


Okay, so I didn’t actually ask Billy Joel to jam with us, nor did I even see him whatsoever. But on a serious note, Bonnaroo was absolutely unbelievable; without question not only the hugest crowd we’ve ever played for, but also one of the most energetic and appreciative. But I’ll start from the beginning of our Bonnaroo experience before we get into the meaty show time details.


We arrived nice and early in the afternoon with a lot of time to kill before our set. I usually don’t like to be at a festival all day before we play. It’s not that I don’t want to be there; I just know from experience that walking around for eight hours under the hot sun can leave me totally drained of any energy by show time. Not only that, but a lot of times I get bored and cope with it by drinking beer. And that’s definitely not something you want to consume all day before playing. In this case, though, we didn’t have a choice, so I figured I might as well walk around Bonnaroo and take it all in. I did, however, give myself a rule of no drinking before the set. I didn’t want to be a sloppy, exhausted pile of crap for one of the biggest festivals we’d ever played.


db2Before our set we sat down to do an interview with Red Bull TV, which was one of the stranger things I’ve experienced in my time on the road. They brought us up to a sort of tower overlooking the concert field, where they sat us down in front of super bright lights, handed us all microphones and dabbed makeup on us. I felt like I was announcing New Years Rockin’ Eve or something. It was weird. The interview itself was pretty fun, though.
The time finally came to set up our equipment, and I was surprised to see a substantial amount of people already at the stage waiting for us. To be honest, I initially told myself that they were probably just camping out for a good spot for whatever band would be playing after us, and we were just the entertainment in the meantime. As we neared completion of our sound check, we were all a bit stressed to discover that Eli’s Moog prodigy was completely incapable of staying in tune. Fun fact for those of you who don’t know much about keyboards (and I am one of you): Vintage synthesizers actually have to be tuned. I don’t know if it was the dust or the humidity or what, but the Moog was in super rough shape. But it was now or never! Gear malfunction moments are what separate the men from the boys, and if you don’t keep your cool and handle it with grace you’re bound to have a terrible time on stage. I knew that if anybody could handle it, it was Eli. He has four other keyboards on stage, and dude sounds amazing on anything that has piano keys, so I knew if something went wrong he would still play it off like a boss.


db3As we took a minute to collect ourselves before walking on stage, we heard the entire crowd chanting our band’s name, and I realized that the people who had been waiting while we were setting up were not just waiting for some other band to start playing. I hate to be cheesy, but we were really moved by it. As we finally took the stage, I was absolutely dumbfounded at how much the crowd had grown since I had walked off after sound check. I had never experienced anything like it. I would guess it was somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 people. A few of my friends and family asked me if were nervous playing in front of such a big crowd; Honestly, aside from being a touch nervous about Eli’s synth working properly, I couldn’t have been less nervous. How could I be stressed playing in front of a crowd that was so warm and enthusiastic? I didn’t feel I had anything to prove. I was only focused on having a great time and enjoying such a beautiful moment while it lasted. On top of that, Eli dealt with his technical difficulties beautifully. I was proud of him for being so zen about it and adjusting without a hitch.



After having a day off to enjoy Bonnaroo, we hopped on a plane and headed back up north to play at Disc Jam Music Festival. I have to give a shout out to our unbelievable road crew for this one.  As soon as our set had finished, they packed up the all the gear and drove all the way from Tennessee to New York so that we could stay at Bonnaroo for an extra day and then fly into the next gig. That just blows my mind. They work way harder than we do to begin with, yet we’re the ones who get special treatment. I won’t lie, I was more than happy to be able to hang out for awhile and then fly in a nice comfy airplane, but I felt kind of guilty about it. The next time a fan comes over to me to shake my hand or ask for an autograph I should just tell them to go get our road crew to sign their stuff instead, because in actuality my job is pretty easy and theirs is unbelievably difficult.



We arrived at Disc Jam in high spirits, not only from the afterglow of Bonnaroo, but from excitement about playing a festival that’s been so good to us throughout the years. It’s changed locations multiple times at this point, but has managed to retain the same vibe no matter where it’s been held each year. My theory is that it’s truly a festival that thrives off of the people who attend it. I’ve seen so many of the same faces every year I’ve ever played at it that it really doesn’t matter what the location is. The people there dictate the mood and spirit of the event.


As I set up my equipment in preparation for our set, I enjoyed the sounds of Electron emanating from the adjacent stage. Those guys have all been doing what we’re doing for years and years, and they’ve been super cool and supportive to us. They’re definitely always a fun hang. The only guy I haven’t talked to too much is Tom Hamilton, but I can safely say I was really impressed with his guitar playing. To be honest, up until recently I didn’t really know he was so good. It’s not that I didn’t think he was good – I just hadn’t checked out much of his playing – that was until a few months ago, when I caught him playing with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead in Denver. Man, that guy can play guitar.


As Electron wound down and we started getting into our set, I felt a nice, rare wave of contentment. If I’m being honest with myself, I feel like I always want something else; more songs, more gigs, less gigs, more notoriety, more guitars, whatever. But every once in awhile, I can reach a place where I’m totally happy with where I’m at right then and there. I got to go to that place while I was on stage at Disc Jam, and I really appreciated being there. I was on stage with my friends, playing music that I was happy with, for a crowd of people who were feeding us great energy. I couldn’t have asked for more.



The set started off pretty standard, with us breezing through a few more abridged versions of songs. Definitely tight, but the real fun was yet to begin. Then, about halfway through the set, we brought up our friend Justin Hancock from Haley Jane and the Primates to play some guitar. Justin goes way back with all of us. I met him in college in a guitar lab, where we bonded over Phish. On top of that, he used to be in a band with Chuck and Eli called Actual Proof, so there’s a lot of history between all of us. We all had a great time playing together, and Justin sounded great. From that point on, I don’t think there a single break between songs. I also don’t think a single thing went according to plan, which is how we want it to be. That’s when the really good stuff happens!


Anyhow, that’s all for now, I’m in the van, as usual. It’s a little past midnight, and I’m listening to some Cannonball Adderley. Check him out if you never have. He is definitely my favorite bebop horn player. I may even start my next blog as soon I’m done with this one. It’s not like I have anything else to do! ’Til then, you all be safe out there.


Dopa-Blog: The Road Journal of Dopapod – #7 Martha2, “Echoes,” and Slayer

mt jamHey everybody! I’m back at it after a long hiatus from blogging. I guess I just got the bug again and needed some sort of activity to keep me from going nuts on the road. But before I give you the details of last week’s run of shows, I figured I’d tell you about a couple of the more exciting things that have happened so far this year.

First off, I started off the new year by purchasing a shiny new guitar. That’s exciting stuff for me. For any guitar geeks out there who care about specifics, its a Gibson custom shop CS-336 with a non-reverse firebird headstock. For anyone who doesn’t care about what its called, just look at the pretty picture of it below:

















I was out to dinner with my girlfriend and we stopped into a terrific guitar shop called Lark Street Music. I had no intention of buying a new guitar, but it felt and sounded too perfect for me not to fall in love with it. I spent the following couple days trying to get it out of my head so as not to make a frivolous decision, but ultimately my wonderful, lovely girlfriend told me to stop being a dumb ass and buy it. There’s nothing like the love of a good woman, huh? Anyhow, it’s been my primary guitar for the last six months, which is saying a lot since I’ve sold every guitar I’ve owned in the last 8 years. I named her Martha 2 (Martha 1 is my dog). Also, for anyone who cares, I still have Amelia, my trusty Paul Reed Smith hollowbody II that has been my primary guitar for the last ten years. That guitar will have to be pried from my cold, dead hands. She is however, in need of some TLC and overall maintenance, so I haven’t been playing her too much as of late.

Another highlight of this year for me was our three night run at the Sinclair in Boston. Playing shows and just being in Boston in general is always a big deal for us since we started the band there many years ago, and being there always brings something out of us creatively. I usually try not to voice my opinion of any of our shows. Who am I to let my negative opinion of a show ruin what was a great experience for someone in the audience? And, conversely, I’m wary to think too highly of a show and then get people’s expectations up too high only to have the music not meet it. But I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that these three shows are some of my favorite shows we’ve ever played. I love the feeling of abandoning a setlist for the sake of creativity and exploration, and I don’t think any of the three shows abided by what was written down. I also felt that every chance we took paid off in spades. I couldn’t have had a better time.

Here’s some of personal highlights of the run:

1- the entire first show

2- Russ Lawton and Ray Paczkowski of Soul Monde and Trey Anastasio Band sitting in with us on “Roid Rage”

3- Playing Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” for nearly an entire hour. It was the only song of the entire second set on the third night.


Fast forward to Summer and here we are, in the midst of festival season. This is an exciting yet stressful time of year for any band. Being at a festival with all our friends from other bands feels like a giant family reunion. The hang is just unbelievable. I honestly feel that all the other bands that are sort of in the same teir as us (is that what the kids are calling it these days? “Teir?”) are my best friends. Unfortunately, with all of us always on our own crazy tours we don’t get to hang as much as we’d like to, so we look forward to the hang that occurs backstage at any given festival.

Last weekend was an amazing, albeit insane one for us. We started off by flying to Arkansas to perform at Wakarusa. The set was all right despite fighting through some technical difficulties in the first quarter of the set. We were also using all rental (or “backline,” as the pros say) equipment, which was a bit stressful. But we made it through unscathed to fight another day. I think my personal highlight of the day was that all the water at the festival came in cans, which blew our minds. It felt like we were drinking beer, but we were actually being healthy. Good stuff.

We woke up bright and early the next day for one of the most hectic days of travel I’ve experienced in recent memory. We started off with an hour and a half drive to the airport, and then got on an airplane and landed in Chicago to catch a connecting flight. The layover culminated with our plane arriving an hour late, only to be kept at the gate for an extra hour because the flight crew couldn’t get the door of the airplane to close. That’s reassuring! A door being broken on an airplane is definitely pretty high up on the list of things you don’t want to be broken on an airplane. Dead men tell no tales, however, and obviously I’m alive to tell this one, so I think it’s obvious that the door held up okay. Then once that plane landed at LaGuardia, we hopped in a car and drove another three hours to Mountain Jam in Hunter, New York. All in all, thirteen hours of traveling in one day.

Thankfully, we arrived in time to catch the last half of Robert Plant’s set. He rocked the shit out of that mountain. He still sounds great and his music has aged gracefully over the years. Also, in between songs he told weird stories about young girls walking through the heather with buckets of milk singing “English refrains of old.” I don’t know what the hell he was talking about, but Robert Plant was saying it so it was pretty much the coolest thing I had ever heard.

After that, I walked over to the indoor stage to play our late night set. I’ll admit it was a bit surreal to watch a member of Led Zeppelin and then walk 100 yards and play my own set. That was a pretty cool “pinch me moment.” I enjoyed our set a lot, although I can’t think of any specific highlights. I just know it was nice to play a good long set that allowed us to stretch out. We’ve had a lot of power hour festival sets where we’re off stage before we even know we have started playing, so it was nice to have time on our side once again.

We got finished at 3 am and headed to our hotel to get some rest, but not for long. We were back at the venue at 11 am to get set up for an early afternoon set on the main stage. This was by far the biggest stage we had ever played on, but frankly I didn’t care what the stage looked like; I just hoped that people would get up early and come see us. No one wants to play for an empty ski slope. Fortunately, we had a wonderful crowd as well as a beautiful, sunny day amidst a lush, green mountainous setting. What a beautiful time. Despite our exhaustion from all the travel, we felt really locked in and creative. All four of us were in high spirits and were truly enjoying such a beautiful place to make music. 

I hung out for the afternoon and enjoyed some free beer and food, and then decided to hit the road so I could have some “R and R” before getting back on the road, which brings me to now. We’re in the van, headed to Bonnaroo. My back is killing me and my hair is starting to go gray. Do you guys think Billy Joel would be down to sit in with us? I doubt it. Maybe we’ll ask Slayer…they’re a jam band, right? We’ll see… 


Kung Fu & Twiddle: A Dirty Dozen Interview

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

MS:  We love Madison House!


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

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

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

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

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

TS:  Kung Fu has ten children.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

MS:  The Gorge!

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

Tim Palmieri:  Don’t forget Garlic Fest.

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

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra: Innovative, other-worldly jazz

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

scalesBand: Jonathan Scales Fourchestra (Official Webpage)

Hometown: Asheville, NC

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

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

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

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

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

Key Tracks:  


What They Do Live:

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

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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


HT:  What does the future hold for Chelsea ViaCava?

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

2015 Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 – A Rollicking Good Time

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

Bird Dog: Campfire-Punk-Americana

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

Bird Dog 2Band: Bird Dog (Facebook Page)

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bird Dog – Painting Lines from Ben Chace on Vimeo.

Summer Camp 2015 Preview



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


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


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

For tickets to the Summer Camp Music Festival, click HERE