Coffee Talk with YMSB’s Adam Aijala and Dave Johnston

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From a chance meeting at a club in Colorado, Yonder Mountain String Band have bloomed into a band that leads a scene of talented ensembles. In a sense, the torch has been passed from their Coloradoan predecessors and the quartet has done nothing but run with it. In so doing, they have taken the sounds pioneered by others to an all new and magnificent place.

While the venues have gotten larger and the sound has evolved, their fan base is more vast and committed than ever.

13 years, 12 albums and countless shows and festivals have passed since that chance meeting at The Verve and YMSB is showing no signs of slowing down. Banjo player Dave Johnston and guitarist Adam Aijala took a moment to discuss the past, present, future, car shopping and espresso. 

Honest Tune:  So what’s going on in your world?

Adam Aijala: Actually I am taking a test drive right now with my wife.

HT: Really?  What are you looking at?

AA: A Toyota Four Runner MJ, a Sonata, a couple of Audi’s…I dunno…

HT: Really? You aren’t hitting a Bugatti dealership? I mean aren’t you supposed to go all rock star at this point?

AA: (Laughs) I wish!

ymsb1.jpgHT: Dave, the last time I saw you, you had your hand in a cast or some sort of brace. What happened?

Dave Johnston: Oh, I busted my pinky.

HT: Any good story there?  Saved a girl from a drunken fan or…

DJ: I guess you could let your imagination run wild.

HT: We’ll just leave it up to the imagination. Let’s see, still totally in love with the newest album, The Show.  On long drives, I have to tell you, it gets repeated a couple of times before it gets taken out.  Once I’ve heard "Out of the Blue" three or four times, I eject it.  Any thoughts on the recording of that disc?

AA: It was really just a continuation of the style of the previous record, it’s really somewhat of an extension of the sound we’ve gotten going.  It was a good time. Sorry, I’m driving (to his wife) Think it’s up here on the left.

HT: We’ve heard the tiniest of rumors that there may be a live DVD in the works. Any truth there?

DJ: I think that it is a rumor worth repeating.  I think we’re going to try and shoot a video at our upcoming Red Rocks performance.  So we’re really looking forward to that. It’s already an awesome gig and we’re going to try and make something special that people can watch too.  It’s definitely in the works.  We’re just ironing out the logistics so we’ll see how it goes.

ymsb3.jpgHT: I see that  you’re heading back out on the road again. How long is the run this time?

DJ: We try and keep it to four week runs. It makes it easier on all of us and we love heading out on April tour.  It’s so much fun to be out west when the sun is out. Makes us happy.

HT: And it is always better for all involved when the talent is in a good mood. Last fall you guys hosted your first Arkansas festival, the Yonder Mountain String Band Mulberry Mountain Harvest fest.  Awesome time, but seriously, any chance we can get a slightly shorter name?

DJ: (Laughs hysterically) Adam, do you have any ideas on that?

AA: YMHF!

HT: How was it being the host band there?

DJ: It’s pretty cool man.  We do another festival too in Portland called the String Summit.  That’s kind of ours and something else we do along the festival lines.  I bring it up because it’s our tenth year, and it helped us in what we did with the Mulberry Mountain festival.  It’s a pretty cool feeling to cherry-pick your event and to pick different kinds of bands to give your show a different flavor.  It’s a labor of love.  It’s fun to get exposed to different kinds of bands, and to hear what bands that you thought you knew are doing now. It’s a way to investigate new stuff that’s happening and to reinvestigate stuff going on with other bands.

ymsb2.jpg HT: Adam, you did a great set with Larry Keel at YMHF that was just gorgeous acoustic guitars.  Is there a possibility for any recorded efforts for you and Larry?

AA: Not as far as a recording thing, but we are going to play some more music together. We are going to try and play another set at the next Mulberry Fest again. If not, know that we’re discussing it. He’s just really fun to play with and one of my favorite guitar players to listen to. Between his energy and his style of attack, he is just a pleasure to play with.

HT: You guys are on tons of big outdoor festival line ups this year.  What is the difference between the vibe at indoor events versus outdoor ones, and do you have any preference between the two?

AA: I like them all. There are pros and cons to both. Generally I have mostly good things to say about fests, though sometimes you don’t get a true sound check before your set. You basically plug and play. Luckily we have digital boards now, so we can get preset levels. We try when we can to use our own board so we can just plug ours into the fests.

I do prefer playing outside. I like the vibe of festival crowds. Not that I don’t have a blast playing full shows.

ymsb4.jpgHT: This is less of a question and more of a message from my mom.  If you guys could please tell Jeff [Austin] that she’s worried that if he keeps making those contorted faces that it’s going to stick like that.

AA: (Laughs) We’ll tell him that!

HT: She was looking at the pictures, and she asked "Is he doing that on purpose?"  I told her that I thought he was.

DJ: I don’t think he can not do that. (Laughs)

HT: Is there anything I should have asked but didn’t think of?

AA: That’s probably one of the more intelligent questions I’ve ever heard.

HT: I’m just kind of lazy.

AA: How about, "How many shots of Espresso have we had today?"

HT: Well, how many?

AA: Yeah Dave how many today?

DJ: Just two.

AA: Oh well, same as me.  Dave’s a real coffee fiend. I figured he’s had like 9 or something.  Oh and Dave, I got my machine cleaned and fixed.  It’s running smooth now.

DJ: Cool.

HT: Starting to envision espresso-offs between you two. Is there a machine on your bus?

AA: (Laughs) I wouldn’t want to go to up against Dave. 

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For more on YMSB and their latest album (The Show), log on to www.YonderMountain.com

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