Zach Lupetin, The Dustbowl Revival

By Kevin Alan Lamb

Can you recall the first post you made on Craigslist? Perhaps you were looking for a roommate, selling a couch, television, car, or maybe you’re kind of creepy looking for a Missed Connection… Or maybe, you’re too young or too old to have experienced the strange digital space made famous before the book of face revolution; either way, it was a thing (and still is, sort of) and the eight-piece American roots orchestra The Dustbowl Revival wouldn’t be one without it.

I’ve often given L.A. a bad wrap as the land where folks dreamed to one day arrive, yet forgot to dream again in the wake of their arrival; but a recent conversation with Zach Lupetin reminded that like the city I love (Detroit), the City of Angels is a melting pot for creative souls with sights set on soaring, where a decade ago the climate was just right for a tongue and cheek Craigslist post written as a breath of fresh air from a sea of Burger King commercials and relinquished dreams.

“Hey, I just moved here, and I’m looking for someone who can play one of these nineteen instruments, and if you like Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen and the Staple Singers, let me know.”

Like rocket fuel, dreams are a sensitive subject. We all possess them, seek them, trade them, and only some ever hold onto them long enough to learn they are rarely realized in the manner which they were originally conceived. The Dustbowl Revival sound is difficult to articulate, yet spectacularly heard. It is a collision of the folk, roots, and blues music Lupetin learned to love from his father, and the funky, soulful, and honest songwriting Tedd Hutt dared him to write. Its flame emits shadows of a sound you’ve grown familiar with, in a form you’ve just begun to know.

Here’s my conversation with lead singer and founder of The Dustbowl Revival, Zach Lupetin, ahead of their Valentine’s Day performance at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply with special guest, Jack & the Bear.

Can you tell us about your evolution into a more soulful, and funky sound, and your influences in the transition?

Zach: Yeah man, I put together the band about 10 years ago and it sort of has come together as a happy accident, where we’ve played all different times of music in a meetup group of like minded musicians in LA — you know LA is kind of a crazy melting pot town, almost no one that is here is from this town. People played in jazz, and people played in folk and bluegrass groups and we kind of merged those together. Initially I wanted to write more old time folk and kind of gospel-blues stuff, and have it be this Vaudevillian variety type show where we’d do all sorts of stuff and have it be this specticle. We had a lot of fun doing our own modern, rock and roll version of old school swing and blues and gospel stuff, then I started to get a little more courage to write in my own style, and write my own tunes that had a little more of this folk-soul combination where we started collaborating a lot more the last few years, as a band, and this record has a much more focused, kind of honest and raw feel to it where we wrote about some darker subjects, love and loss, and you always party along the way to but it’s sort of the full spectrum of growing up and starting to be a little more wie about relationships and the world. It’s been a cool evolution.

What helped you feel that Ted Hutt was the right man to help y’all produce “the tightest, funkiest thing (you’ve) ever attempted.”

Zach: Well, I found him through his work with Old Crow Medicine Show, and I found out that he started Flogging Molly and did a lot work with Dropkick Murphys, and Lucero. He has this sort of mellowed out punk rocker in him, so he was kind of able to see the energy and spirit we wanted to harness, but also this feeling that we wanted to honor roots history but also create something of our own, and new. On some of the Old Crow Medicine show records that I listened to that he produced, he gets this really fast, full, warm sound out of bands and it’s a really difficult thing capturing an eight-piece band with horns, fiddle, mandolin and drums and harmony vocals, it’s not for the faint of heart I’d say. It takes a lot to do it in a way that doesn’t sound forced, like you’re pretending to play live. He was able to get us out of our heads and get to the bottom of what songs are really about. And certain times he challenged me as a songwriter and said, “Stop avoiding the real darkness in the song. Who’s getting killed in the car crash, how do you feel about that?”

As a songwriter that was difficult at first, I don’t just want to say it, I want to say it with poetry and mystery and he was like, “Stop jazzing it up. Get to the point. Tell me what you really feel,” and that was a springboard for a lot of the songs to go further than we’ve ever done.

What is one of your wildest and weirdest memories from playing in The Midnight Special while living in Ann Arbor attending U of M?

Zach: [Laughter] There were some nights at the Blind Pig that were pretty hilarious. I remember a horrible ex-girlfriend of mine getting thrown out of the club during our first song [laughter] and me pleading with the bouncers to not hurt her. She had a fake ID and was already wasted at 8:00 PM [laughter]. Then we’re like well, I guess we gotta just keep playing the show. They threw her into the alley and that was it. I remember playing some frat parties that had the feeling the whole house was going to get torn down around us. Where people were dancing and raging around us that we were fearing for our own safety, then sort of pouring out into the snow and people’s bodies were steaming and no one was wearing any clothes, it was a wacky and fun experience, I don’t how good we really were, but they let us rock out in their living room so that was fun.

Who helped lead you to influences like Pokey Lafarge and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band?

Zach: I think my dad, growing up in Chicago was very influential in what I listened to. He had this sort of schizophrenic taste like I did, where he’d be playing Benny Goodman’s Swing Orchestra at Carnegie Hall one minute, then rocking out to The Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead the next moment, and putting on Miles Davis the next moment. He was always encouraging me to keep my mind open, and he brought me to some cool concerts, and as a teenager you rebel against your dad a little bit where I was like, “I want to listen to Green Day, I don’t want to listen to this old people music,” but then I went to college and figured out some of the earlier music who inspired this music, we all know The Beatles, and The Stones, and Allmand Brothers, but the early blues and gospel stuff they were listening to as kids I liked even more, and I got into Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and that was the stuff that as a songwriter, I wanted to write that. I knew that I would never be a shredding guitar player, or something unattainable like The Beatles, but I felt like I could feel that energy of the early music and had this sort of accessibility that I could appreciate; early bluegrass stuff… The Stanley Brothers, it’s music for the people in a way. It’s stuff that you learn in church then sort of twist around. The modern interpreters of that, like Pokey Lafarge reminded me that there is an audience for that, and the scene in L.A. eight-nine-years ago when we started was very receptive to this kind of music and it allowed us to kind of play three-four times a week all over town, and there was all sorts of weird speakeasies and bars that would give us a shot… and we were able to go from there and travel around the country. The Americana renaissance that’s happening right now is a sort of interesting continuation of that by people who appreciate the traditions of folk music and early blues and jazz, but also have a little more rock and roll and bearded senseability, and I think the merging of all of that is pretty cool. Dustbowl doesn’t really sit in any genre, which has been kind of a blessing a curse for us, but I think overall, it’s kind of fun to keep people on their toes and allow the listener to describe what type of music it is.

Do you remember where you were when you made the infamous Craigslist post that brought you all together?

Zach: I moved to L.A. in 2007, and I was working in advertising [laughing]. I came out to L.A. to be a writer in more film and theatre and stuff, and sort of sneak my music in on the side, and it kind of reversed itself where music was the thing that took over and I had to sneak work in on the side. I think I was sitting in an office; I would write Burger King commercials…[laughter] it was a cool first job but I saw the dead-eyed stare of people who devoted their lives to the Burger King account, like that was their life, and their were really talented people who went to film school or were musicians or were actors and they kind of just… and that was it. They found a steady income and they never really break out of that, and it was hard to because that’s a steady thing.

They dreamed to get to L.A. and never dreamed again.

Zach: Well… [laughter] I think when you’re 23 and you’re young and stupid you think, “That’s never gonna happen to me,” you know? You’re like, “I’m gonna do it different,” and I think part of that Craigslist ad was not knowing anyone and feeling like I have to put something together her or I’m gonna go crazy, and we got super luck in the amount of talented people responded, some of which are still in the band today. It’s funny because I think Craigslist was a little more innocent back then you know? [laughter] You would actually find great musicians who would form an awesome band just on a Craigslist posting like “Hey, you wanna help me out?” But I think you also have to get super lucky and people have to show up at the times and it took a long time, it’s not like… I remember when I would act as the band manager for years and I would send fake emails to The Troubadour [laughter]. “This is Frankie Johnson, we have a talented band here.” And the Troubadour would be like, “Guys, no.” It was like you had no chance, it was never gonna happen. But eventually you get an agent and The Troubadour was like, “Okay, we’ll give you guys a shot.” Then you sell out The Troubadour and they’re like alright, “Whenever you want.” You go from having no chance…

To no availability…

Zach: No, but there’s always one more step of no chance right? Dustbowl does well enough certain places, but we’ve only played Detroit a handful of times, and there’s towns where we’re like, “We gotta get back there” the energy is so right for us to kick some ass. You guys seem to have a lot of bands we play with festivals at and that’s great, because it can get pretty lonely out there. Trying to break into certain markets, and we have this sort of whiplash effect sometimes where we play to 800 people in San Francisco, and 500 people in Sacramento, then we go on a Tuesday to San Diego and there’s 70 people there and we’re like “Fuuuuck.” How do we go to that place where your people find you everywhere? And that’s a really difficult next step to go. And sometimes you need a little umph from other bands… but I think we’ve sort of had to do things on our own for a really long time because people don’t really know what to make of us, and we’re not a band that’s an easy opening band for artists… but we were able to open for Josh Ritter at The Fillmore in San Fran a couple weeks ago and that’s always a treat for us. We did a couple shows with Lake Street Dive, and that show with Preservation Hall Jazz was great, but that’s rare. You’re kind of forced to be an independent band that’s headlining which is awesome, because you can see who really cares about you, but it can also be daunting because there’s not a lot of support and you kind of hope the word gets out on a Wednesday in Detroit.

What’s the last song you want to hear before you die?

Zach: Maybe like… Al Green’s “Love and Happiness”. I got married to that song a couple months ago, and it makes you feel good.

Just in case you were listening for one, This is a Good Sound. Catch The Dustbowl Revival Wednesday, February 14, at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply.


Konrad Wert, Possessed By Paul James

Photos by George L. Blosser

By Kevin Alan Lamb

No matter the certainty of struggle that accompanies human flesh, stars will always shine through even the darkest of nights. Their luminescence is present without detection; like the goodness in your veins it prevails without recognition; like the righteousness in your soul it endures independent of measurement; like the overwhelming abundance of courage in each and every heavy breath it offers hope in its absence. Goodness is abundant; but until we choose to recognize it in ourselves, we will continue to overlook it in the world around us. Those who commit to loving themselves, pursuing their passion, and the citizen he or she is capable of becoming, will blaze a trail for others who seek the path of righteousness.

Too soon we forget that we only live one life; who are we to live free of the world’s weight on our shoulders; its weight on our heart? It is the journey through the depths of darkness that inspire awe as we bask in the euphoric glow of the sun on our face atop the mountain they said couldn’t be climbed; or at least not by the likes of you.

Great books that tell the stories of better men and women are not written about those who stumble from man to majesty overnight. Our souls cannot be taxed, gain interest, or be deterred: but our souls can be measured by an enduring spirit that claws, scratches, and fights its way from worn knees to two feet, standing before the world, accepting nothing short of another breath lived in pursuit of love, excellence, and even the smallest chance to leave behind a story of our own that inspires a better world; inspires a soul broke and beaten by another man’s conception of what this life ought to be.

John Konrad Wert was raised in Southwestern Florida, by a family of devout Mennonites, who instilled in him a fervently burning flame and purposefulness to combat the pervading darkness which casts its shadow upon us all. Mennonites are a Christian sect similar to the Amish who stress simplicity, pacifism, and community service. His father Mel was a preacher and teacher, while his mother Dotty on occasion would play piano in church.

When Konrad takes the stage he is a man possessed. He blesses each soul fortunate enough to have ears to listen, eyes to see, and a beating-heart to feel the supernatural sensation of song-induced-ecstasy. Husband to Jenny, father to Jonah and Chai, Konrad deposits a piece of his heavy-heart into each and every performance as medicine to heal all those who seek his light. His gifts are grand and without ego. They will touch the tips of your eyelids and manifest as tears that trickle down your cheek, each time you recite his lyrics, and feel his spectrum of emotion poured into every inflection. It is both a privilege and an honor to be Possessed by Paul James, and I am grateful to take up arms with a star so bright, in our fight to combat the wicked and desperate; our fight to embrace the weight it takes to free a people divided and devoured by sin and suffering; our fight to illuminate the corners of this Earth where darkness has long loomed and consumed without deterrent.

You heal people with your efforts; how did you get drawn into that as a teacher?

“It’s not purposeful to heal necessarily… it’s a little more selfish on my end… it’s healing me to release all the frustrations from teaching.”

You could have taught anyone, and anything: how did you choose special education?

“My first teaching gig was at 19, up in DC in Anacostia, Southeast D.C. a non-profit. I was fairly naive, a little white boy, but the way we grew up in Immokalee (Florida), my dad was a Pasteur teacher, my mom was a nurse. It was engrained that life has to be purposeful, and it seems purposefulness is set by helping people. People that have less. We have a lot, ethnically, culturally, compared to others we have a lot.”

Are you ready for the world to start appreciating teachers more, who are shaping our youth?

“Yeah, some of the push is, yes we want to break from what we’re doing as a family, and yes we want to try and do music and art, but also we want to see if we can make that into a national conversation. Because when you’re a teacher within the district you’re held to the parameters within the district and state. The district might be a great district, the state may be a great state, but regarding what you want to advocate for, you can’t really because then you’re putting yourself at odds with your district. We’d like to say ok, we’re parents now, I’m still a licensed teacher for another six years, so how can we make this conversation effective. When will legislature realize you have to either raise taxes to put more good teachers in the classroom settings, or cut other state funding so you prioritize education? And I don’t mean salaries, I mean teachers, in my opinion, we only work nine months out of the year, we get to work with kids, it’s hard, but there’s a different element than my construction jobs, or my trade jobs, there is a lot more play in education. I mean specifically, hire more people to help kids that are in the crack. If they would just do that, I’m not trying to be presumptuous, but I can only hope and imagine that we’d see less school shootings, and less children not being diagnosed appropriately when they’re struggling with mental health and emotionally disturbed behaviors. Those children get the intervention they need, they find a loving adult that really wants that child to succeed. How do we make that a flag, that we fly as a family as we’re driving in a Winnebago, coast to coast? Otherwise, it doesn’t feel purposeful. We want it to have more value than just an adventure.”

After completing the 2012 school year, Konrad was awarded “Teacher of the Year” honors in his first year in a new district at Curington Elementary School, in Boerne, Texas. Konrad often brings his viola and banjo into the classroom to help his students with physical disorders bridge brain-and-body connections. The bearded folksinger relates connecting with a child to the rapport he forges with the audience on stage. It is an intimate, trusted, and vulnerable space that requires reciprocity and attention to detail. By volunteering his vulnerability in both the classroom and on stage, Konrad practices servitude and bestows his humble offerings to mend the fracture hidden beneath the surface of us all. As a result of insufficiently funded Life Skills programs, Konrad spends thousands of dollars out of pocket for class materials each year.

We will grow together if we look to one another when it feels like we should crawl in a hole and die. Time, like your heart will keep ticking so do not fear being defeated, we all are; a soul is measured in the moments after absorbing a crushing blow, and the moments after that. While there must be a delicate balance between action and belief to move mountains, belief will ensure fuel runs through your bones until they crumble. Man’s greatest and most distinctive attribute is heart: courage in the face of certain peril: the ability to abandon reason and triumph over unbeatable odds.

Among my favorite things about you, I know you were doing music kinda on the side, then all of a sudden you had an album that was charting, and you saw the way people were responding… talk me through the difference between getting by and surviving with music, then seeing it as something that could thrive?

“The intent wasn’t for it to be a trade; the intent was to see how could Jenny and I find a good balance between being parents and still feeling like our spirit was fed. It’s tricky, because children are an incredible thing, but what changes drastically is the way you live your life for the provision of your sweeties, and I think as parents we’re scared to take too many risks because we don’t want those risks to fail and have our children subjected to those choices. Now, there’s somewhat of a structure to the music and playing shows; we feel more confident that ‘hey we can try,’ and Jenny is a wonderful painter so we can balance that off. So I’ll just say luck, by accident, with a collective group of friends and musicians we came up with a good album that got more attention than we anticipated, and that lead into, maybe we do this for the sake of our family, because we want them to have more of a life than just, wake up and go to school, wake up and go to work, then 15 years fly by and we all say life flies by, and it flies by because we don’t take the risk or we don’t pay attention. Jenny and I don’t want that. We didn’t have Jonah and Chai to say ‘life flies by,’ we had Jonah and Chai to say ‘what a great day that was’.”

Do Jonah and Chai play music?

“They do. They are six and four, so their music equivalent is thrashing on a banjo. They’re really rhythmic boys, great dancers, Jonah likes to make up songs, he won’t necessarily have a point, he will be like, ‘The bear walks out, then the bear goes to the tree, and the bear likes honey, and I like honey,’ and it’s just a run on sentence, but they both engage in music in a lovely way.”

What was that first show or concert that you played, that you realized you were given gifts for a certain reason, and it’s having an effect on the world?

“Maybe playing with Jenny, my wife.”

She plays?

“She sings, she’s a great singer. We haven’t figured out how to sing and play together, but she responded really strongly to the music. And that’s probably what brought the attraction on. From there, I started playing open mics, so I played to Jenny then we started playing out.”

How old were you when you started writing?

“Ohhh, well see I was a fat kid, so fat kids write early. I probably started writing when I was 11.”

Were you an athlete?

“I had to be to lose the weight. I was like 260 lbs. when I was 13, and I was 5-foot-9. They tried to put me in wrestling and I got my but kicked because they put me with the heavyweights, and I was the 13-year-old with 18-year-olds who was 260 lbs. of muscle. So I got to football to lose the weight, so I could maintain my health.”

Before I ever met you, my Bosnian roommate, who left Bosnia because of genocide, and then lived in Germany, came here and years later introduced me to your music… We have the same lyrics tattooed on us, by the same artist, without meaning to do so, “Where you invest your love, you invest your life” by Marcus Mumford. She is the reason I fell in love with your music and drove to see you in Indiana, and see you perform “Heavy”, it stays with us, it’s our get me through anthem. What’s your “Heavy”, what is your North Star, a reminder to have a productive response to struggle?

“Richie Havens (January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013) man. He did a lot of covers, didn’t really write a lot. People know Richie Havens the most for opening up Woodstock. African American guy, he’s passed away now, I hope I’m right about that, that would be horrible if I’m wrong, and if he’s not, hallelujah! He had the purest passion that I’ve seen as a musician, especially as young man. I was 15 when I saw a music clip of him and I said ‘that’s what music is about.’ Definitely Richie Havens, I can say that without a doubt.”

If you could share the stage with any artist living or dead who would it be?

“Richie Havens.”

When you first saw us and our obnoxious crew with our Good Sign what did you think?

“Not obnoxious at all. Those are good people. They are friendly people. I knew you before, through social media, but I knew the reference of Good Sign, and when I started researching it I was like, ‘that’s a beautiful and simple premise.’ And correct me if I’m wrong, but what I see is, a reminder to be open to one another, have a conversation, don’t always feel threatened. And there’s some privileges there; there’s privileges because we’re white, we gotta own that. It’s different when you’re a minority within an ethnic group, I’ve seen that living in DC, I’ve lived in areas where when you become the minority the dynamic is very different. But with the opportunities you’re given you’re trying to make things better, not take advantage of the opportunities. That means something.”

We walked into Union City Indiana, and it was like Sons of Anarchy, everybody had giant beards and leather cuts, and I walk in with my suspenders and my snow pants, and everyone knew we were a little different, but by the end of the night they got it, and loved us, and they feel it right?

“That’s the problem about scenes, visually they look like very exclusive scene, but you get past that surface and realized everyone is really here to love one another.”

We talk about moral exclusivity, only because everyone is invited but not everyone necessarily does what it takes to stick around. Your music is that; this is for everybody; you might not feel this, but this is for everybody.

“It’s meant to be that way. It really is. Rich guy, poor guy, person of color, person of non-color. Man a woman. We want it to be that way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it falls flat. Tonight it was a little flat, but then it came.”

I believe in achieving a critical mass, and tipping points, the same way the Good Sign is, and you’re there… New York Times said you’re one of the best performers of 2014, what’s your biggest fear at this point?

“I don’t want to make any choices with music that would hurt us as a family. Whether it’s time, or whatever. I don’t want to not to be able to try to do this. You get older, your body changes, your throat changes. You’re trying to learn how to take care of health. I want the boys to appreciate it and not feel like, ‘Dad you’re always playing music’. So that’s why we’re talking about all together.”

If you had come and went and someone was talking about you at your funeral, what would you want them to say? What’s important to you? What’s real?

“Ahh jeees. Regardless of the flaws, we’re all very flawed… You want to be better than who you really are. The people who love you the most generally know how wicked you are. So I try to be not nearly as wicked as I really am. You make mistakes everyday, and you piss off the people you love the most, but at least, you still gotta try. You can’t accept your wickedness and say the hell with everybody. That’s not beneficial. You gotta try to make better choices with your spouse and best friends, and children, and hopefully you can achieve that. All we can do is try.”

Your label is Hillgrass Bluebilly, I know it’s a friends and family operation, tell me a little bit about that?

“Keith (Mallette) and Ryan (Tackett) started it up back in 2005, I was fortunate enough to hang out with them, we played a show out in Phoenix, and we’ve been pals ever since. I wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t for them, I’d just be chillin.”

Struggle is one of the few constants in this amazing thing called life, however, despite being constant, it is inconsistent and comes in waves. When listening to Possessed By Paul James I am reminded on a cellular level that I am good, people are good, and troubled times reveal a window for darkness to cast its shadow upon each and every one of us. In times of despair we must discover courage in the hands, hearts, and homes of those we love and trust, so they made lead us back into the light.

Throughout my journey the darkness of night has tested my fortitude and called question to my perceived righteousness; some of which nights I had no answers or rationalizations for the man I was or wasn’t. It is on these nights when I turn to the music of a man who I now consider family. It is on these nights, when I’m lonely; when I can’t quite find the strength to bear the great weight of the world on my chest and shoulders alone, that I must be Possessed By Paul James. He gives me courage when I am weak. He gives me breath when it is fleeting. He gives me the very things I believe he is seeking for himself, his family, his students, and each soul who fills the seats before his stage. Listen to his music and you will be reminded that you belong. Listen to his lyrics and discover bravery buried beneath all of your fear and doubt. Listen to his heartbeat and don’t be surprised when you discover that it sounds the same as your own. Listen to his gospel and when you are lost, let his love, light, and passion guide you home.


Jesse Miller, Lotus

By Kevin Alan Lamb

The next time you’re gearing up to jump around to some jamtronica courtesy of Lotus, you may want to leave your rage stick (totem) behind.

“If I made a totem it would be so small that it didn’t block anyone’s view. Totems are like leaning your chair back on the plane, it’s the worse,” Jesse Miller of Lotus revealed in our recent interview at Summer Set.

While I will carry my Good Sign totem for life, there is something to be said about being a conscious-concert-goer. No matter the journey behind you, distance driven, or sacrifice made to experience the music you love, try your best not to let your good time infringe upon another’s. Few places on this earth rival the richness of healing and community found in the live music scene; do not let your ego or perceived need to rage bring ruin to our sacred temple.

“The crowd makes all the difference; you feel it on the stage. When people are invested in the music, it makes or breaks a fest. Some weekends can be life changing. Such a strong sense of community through music.”

There is a fine line between the music and those dancing to it; a mutual dependence and energy exchange which produces a pulse powerful enough to move mountains, if we so choose to believe it could.

“I’ve listened to Talking Heads since I was young, and still enjoy them. It’s funny going through periods, early on in college, Miles Davis, ‘Fusion’, Bitches Brew, Dark Magnus… the energy and creativity in that music, it’s not super approachable, the melody, a lot of improv, but it’s real and nothing subtle.”

Many find home in the music they love because it is there for them when they need it most. At a young age the Counting Crows instilled in me the simple reality that we all want to believe in something, even if we don’t know what.

“Believe in me, help me believe in anything, ‘cuz I want to be someone who believes.”

Often regarded as an electronic jam band, Lotus’ sound cannot be defined and confined; it must be absorbed and tangoed with. A multi-genre band, Lotus vibes are delivered with a dash of rock, electronica, jazz, hip-hop, and funk. While their origins leaned heavily on funk, rock, and jazz with improvisational styles comparable to Phish, The Allman Brothers, and The Dead, Miller believes Lotus’ sound comes from the roots of rock ‘n’ roll mixed with electronic beats.

“I don’t understand the idea of ‘Jam Bands’, and why Lotus is grouped with Yonder Mountain String Band.”

Their latest album (2014), Gilded Age, the fellas wanted to occupy the powerful and pervasive place in the human mind that can see erosion and cracks, yet envision a palace. With a focus on simple organic instruments: drum, bass, guitar, piano, percussion, played in a live room, the album shares reflective happiness and the joy of the impermanent.

“There is an incredible wealth inequality in our economy. The Gilded Age is more about something hiding under another layer, beyond questions, and policy moves.”

Since their conception at Goshen College in 1999 Lotus has recorded 12 albums, toured Japan four times, and played a plethora of themed shows including “The Nelson Way,” where all band members dressed up as Willie Nelson.

“We’ve never played the Gorge, and I’d love to play the Hollywood Bowl,” Miller offered as the venues remaining on his Bucket List.

He may not be a sports fan, but given the chance, Miller would love to spend a day with “The Greatest”.

“I don’t follow many sports, but I’d love to meet Mohammed Ali. I’m not even a boxing fan, but he walked in some crazy circles, and had crazy good energy.”

When he’s not funking up festival and concert stages under the lights, Miller enjoys breaking a mental sweat as well.

“I read a lot. Currently on a mid century authors kick. I appreciate their styles. Norman Mailer, Graham Greene, Jonathan Franzen. Musically, I look up to people who have done it for a long time, like Tortoise.”

Typically when superpowers enter the conversation, teleportation, flight, and invisibility come to mind, but Lotus fans should be encouraged with Miller’s desired power.

“If I could have a superpower, it would be to never make a wrong choice writing music.”

Lotus has found a home headlining Summer Dance Music Festival at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, OH for six out of the festival’s seven years, with number eight just around the bend.

“At Summerdance everyone is really familiar with our music so it gives us opportunities to break out old things we don’t play much.”

The next time you find yourself bathing in Lotus vibes, try to ensure it’s not at another’s expense. We all came to dance.


Whiskey Shivers, Shoe Fest 2016

By Kevin Alan Lamb

The Beatles told us it’s all we need; some of our parents told us it’s only recipe for real success in a career, and our favorite artists try to comfort us by telling it’s the only thing that can be both heaven and hell. Cynics would tell you it’s a cliche; lesser men and women would tell you it’s a weakness; while lonely folk assure it’s an illusion; yet somehow, someway, I am none of those, and I am telling you, if love does not get you out of bed in the morning, and lay upon you as the blanket bringing you comfort before you sleep, then you will not find happiness in this life or the next.

Labor Day weekend I traveled to Shoe Fest in Manteno, Illinois to join forces with the five-piece, barefoot, sleeveless, whiskey drinking, bluegrass fueled Americana Austinites who have pole-vaulted mullets into relevance. I once heard a story of a man who described Whiskey Shivers as hipsters, three weeks later that man was found dead and buried inside of a Michigan Kmart with his toes painted fuchsia. When questioned the authorities believed his toes may have been painted to ensure he be sent to a particularly strange and painful place in Hell.

For those who have had the pleasure of experiencing The Shivers it is obvious they are simultaneously fueled and possessed by their intense thrill and self-imposed expectation to give each and every fan certainty that their time, energy, and money was well spent witnessing their performance in whichever city and whatever day no matter the duration of days they’ve traveled, shows they’ve played, or unreasonable choices made.

If you drew blood from their veins it would disprove most health experts’ theory on the basic vitals required to perform, let alone be brilliant; If you bathed in their energy and sound it would inspire dance you didn’t yet possess, while ensuring this was the first festival you showered at; and if you ever allowed doubt of to tarnish your love for music and those who not just create but live it, you’re welcome in advance.

(Unidentified responses labeled Whiskey Shivers)

Sound and Silence: We’re here with Whiskey Shivers in these lovely cabins at Shoe Fest in Mateno, Illinois, and if each of you had one superpower what would it be?

Bobby: I would go, invisible.

Andrew: Really? That’s the creepy one.


Bobby: I know [laughing].

Andrew: You’d sneak in on people? That’s the creepy one!

Sound and Silence: Well, nobody would know.

Andrew: I don’t know man, I’d have to go flight.

Bobby: How high though? Can you actually fly or just levitate?

Andrew: If I can fly like four feet above the ground that would be pretty awesome.

Bobby: Ok, that would be rad yeah.

Andrew: Travel the highway, going about 65 MPH.

Bobby: Eating bugs.

Washboard James: I’m gonna go with superspeed.

Whiskey Shivers: Nice

Bobby: Ok, but how do you stop? Are you gonna fall over?

Sound and Silence: More importantly, why do you want superspeed? What’s the first thing you’re going to do?

Washboard James: Go everywhere… see everything that I want to see.

Whiskey Shivers: But do you get superspeed and still have normal reflexes?


Sound and Silence: You’re just severely disabled, all the time.

Washboard James: I’d shower really quick.

Whiskey Shivers: You’d like rip your skin off.

[Intense laughter]

Sound and Silence: I feel like it’s fair to consider that if someone had a superpower they’d have other random super things in the body to accommodate…

Whiskey Shivers: One would hope!

Banjo James: I’d like to hold my breath forever and withhold deep water pressure…

Whiskey Shivers: You get one man!


Sound and Silence: Focus man!

Whiskey Shivers: You want gills?

Banjo James: I’ll take gills, because you could just chill under water.

Sound and Silence: Like Kevin Costner.

[Intense laughter]

Sound and Silence: Waterworld.

Banjo James: Exactly!

Washboard James: Hell yeah.

Banjo James: I’d like to be able to hold my breath forever, or I guess breathe water is similar.

Whiskey Shivers: This is a good question for Horti, Horti! Hey, one superpower…

Sound and Silence: Yeah you got one fuckin’ superpower, don’t try to say two.

Whiskey Shivers: And introduce yourself too, every question.

Horti: This is Horti, and…If I had one superpower, I think it would be gravity control.

Sound and Silence: What would you do with your gravity control?

Horti: I would probably… I could do… I would do what I would do…

[Collective laughter]

Sound and Silence: That’s fair, I’m not looking for a five-year-plan. I’m just saying what interests you about controlling gravity?


Horti: What would I do while controlling gravity? Oh jees. Well I mean if you controlled gravity far enough you could even zap light out of the situation, you could just totally just fuck entire regions of space…

Whiskey Shivers: It’s pretty much omnipotence…

Horti: I mean if someone comes at you with fire you can gravity your way out of any sort of energy situation.

Sound and Silence: If you guys could spend one month on a boat with another band, recording a collaboration album, who would it be?

Whiskey Shivers: Alive or dead? I mean it changes the whole thing ya know?

Sound and Silence: Either, I don’t want to limit you, on a boat.

Banjo James: St. Vincent.

Whiskey Shivers: Ooooooo.

[Collective laughter]

Sound and Silence: And I like the alive thing only because it plant seeds of possibility and potential. I’m not against the dead thing, but one of my favorite things about meeting beautiful, talented people like yourself is, I’m a good conduit that knows this person like Nahko was talking about The Avett Brothers who are tattooed on my wrists and then I interviewed The Avett Brothers and I can tell them that Nahko wants to go on a horseback tour with them in the LA Valley. Being a conduit… once you put something into the world it exists.

Whiskey Shivers: Awesome! [laughing]

Sound and Silence: But all of you answer whether alive or dead.

Bobby: I’d go with Jack Johnson.

Sound and Silence: I love you fuck yeah.

[Collective laughter]

Sound and Silence: I hate when people hate on Jack Johnson, he’s the man.

Bobby: He’s the man, totally. I want that life.

Sound and Silence: He’s figured out a way to not make music all the time, surf…He has everything.

Bobby: It would be so much fun, whether we wrote a song or not [laughing].

Horti: I would go with Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Whiskey Shivers: Just Flea?

Horti: Just Flea.


Horti: Fuck Kiedis (Anthony Kiedis)!

[Intense laughter]

Banjo James: Cause when you meet Anthony Kiedis, Horti says “Fuck you” but Flea is cool.


Horti: No, Kiedis is awesome but Flea just seems like he’d be running in circles the whole time, it would be awesome.

Sound and Silence: I could see that. Every time you felt like setting up a hammock he’d be doing backflips of the ship.

Horti: Yeah, totally.

Sound and Silence: It’s what it takes.

Horti: And he’s a great father apparently, and I am lacking [laughing].

Andrew: This is Andrew, bass player from Whiskey Shivers, I’d go with Pavement.

Whiskey Shivers: Pavement, sweet.

Andrew: They would be fun to hang out with, it would be a good time with them on the boat.

Sound and Silence: I’m not familiar…

Whiskey Shivers: Pavement? A nineties post-grunge… ahh that’s so lame to say.

Andrew: I just think it would be fun.

Banjo James: I agree.

Washboard James: I’m gonna go with Thundercat. I think it would be really weird. We’d do some really weird stuff, probably.

Sound and Silence: If you could play your perfect quintessential venue, as far as what you do with music as well as your family who follows you to shows, where do you think it would be? No limitations. Where is Cloud 9 for you?

Banjo James: On a boat with St. Vincent [laughing].

[Collective laughter]

Sound and Silence: Smart man!

Whiskey Shivers: That’s a really difficult question.

Sound and Silence: Because a lot people say certain festivals, or venues, but that’s a limitation because that’s only where you know people are playing, what about anywhere and fuckin’ everywhere you could play music? And it would be everyone who loved you he helped you play your best.

Bobby: Probably a medium sized house party.

Whiskey Shivers: Yes! [laughing]

Banjo James: If we could play a medium sized house party and recreate the Smashing Pumpkin’s 1979 video…

[Explosive laughter]

Andrew: This is Andrew, bass, Whiskey Shivers.

Sound and Silence: Shit guys, this is the wrong interview!

[Collective laughter]

Whiskey Shivers: Oh my God!

Sound and Silence: I was here for an interview and I ran into you motherfuckers! Son of a bitch!

Whiskey Shivers: Oh man [laughing]/

Sound and Silence: Milk was a terrible choice.


Whiskey Shivers: You’re not Shakey Graves [laughing].

Sound and Silence: You’re not Alejando!

Whiskey Shivers: There’s a haunted hotel in Colorado that the Shining is based on, and I guess they let bands play there from time to time, I think that would be pretty cool.

Sound and Silence: Alright this is where we get fun… If you could hear one last song before you die, what would it be?

Whiskey Shivers: Oh jees oh peets. One last song before I die? These are great! This is a really good question.

Sound and Silence: This is what we do, I covered professional sports in Detroit for a while and I asked them about music, and where they’d like to travel and all the athletes hated the other journalists but me and were like ‘This guy’s big and has long hair’, the Lions nicknamed me Sunshine at my fucking second practice. Nick Fairley was the defensive tackle and he watched Remember The Titans before every game, I’m walking away after interviewing Calvin Johnson, and he’s like “Sunshine… hey Sunshine!”

[Collective laughter]

Sound and Silence: The next practice I’m on the second left, players are down stretching on the field and the entire team is yelling it. I’m the youngest guy out there, I’ve got long hair, tattooes, I write for a monthly that nobody’s fucking heard of but in that moment I was like, “I’m supposed to be here, I am good at this and fuck off. For everything I was worried about, all these people see me and were like ‘He’s better at this than we are.” Sports was fun but music is so much better because your team doesn’t lose, and music saves people’s lives, and that’s why This is a Good Sign is everywhere in the world, we made it about people and music and it’s been spreading and everyone’s a part of it and it’s helping people feel better, and that’s it, that’s enough.

Whiskey Shivers: I feel like you just said Grace dude, God Damnit!

[Collective cheer and laughter]

Sound and Silence: I fucking love you guys [laughing]. And I knew we had this love from the first time I saw you and in these few years it’s evolved and now we have a chance to get to know each other, and I feel like you guys probably don’t have a lot of time or read other people’s interviews, but if you get a chance, Wild Child and I had a hilarious interview where we just talked about everything and it was cool, I was interviewing them in a series of interviews I did, and I had listened to their music…. Most of the time I’m very purposeful with my interviews but sometimes it’s just me working hard, and later I was like ‘I fucking love these guys, and I’ve listened to these guys. Now back to it!

Horti: If I had one song to listen to before I died, it would be George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue, the 26 minute version.

[Collective laughter]

Sound and Silence: Just to prolong his death! [laughing] He’s getting his money’s worth it’s smart.

Horti: I mean your life is going to flash before your eyes, you know how long you’re going to live so you might as well ride it out with this epic landscape of a song, it’s like holy shit! Then third grade, I’ve got a little bit of time to think about that, that was pretty cool.

Whiskey Shivers: Mine’s gonna be like Mozart’s Requiem…

Whiskey Shivers: Jesus.

Sound and Silence: You have something? Don’t back down just because someone revealed something else. That would be a cop out.

Whiskey Shivers: I was thinking like Allman Brothers Blue Sky [laughing].

Banjo James: It would probably be Ramblin Man by The Allman Brothers. Just ‘cause I like, what I thought was Duane Allman’s altro but it was sticky bets. But I remember listening to that as a little kid and I always thought it was cool.

Washboard James: I can’t remember the name of the song…[laughing] like this song is super important to me.

Whiskey Shivers: Washboard James!

Washboard James: It’s the last song on the OK Computer, Radiohead album…what was it? It was called Slow Down or something (The Tourist), that’s a good one.

Whiskey Shivers: Something about an alien right?

Washboard James: Yeah.

[Ominous Radiohead singing]

Sound and Silence: You enjoy life a lot more assuming there’s aliens right?

Whiskey Shivers: Of course! You have to. Ancient aliens.

Sound and Silence: I had to get that out of the way.

Andrew: I have to go with the title track to Disintegration by The Cure. It’s just beautiful.

Bobby: It might sound like a cop out but I just wouldn’t want any song to be played.

[Collective booing!]

Bobby: I would absolutely not want.

Whiskey Shivers: You should have picked the National Anthem. God damnit he was a patriot!

[Intense laughter]

Bobby: [Laughing] No, I just think I’d be pissed off by whatever, as soon as something came on I’d be like “No I wanted this one instead.”


Bobby: I’d be like ‘This is an awful pick!’ George Thorogood!? Nooooooo! [laughing] That’s my legacy!?


Sound and Silence: Can one of you say something wonderful about one other of you that speaks volumes to the family you’ve created by what you do by pursuing your love and your passion?

Banjo James: Yes, but only one of us. It has to be James. It has to be the new guy.

Washboard James: Wow, I think it’s just great what we’ve created with this group, we all push each other so hard and we push each other to our limits but we always catch each other and it always makes us try that much harder to strive to be good in what we do.

Whiskey Shivers: Good speech now do it again but better!


Sound and Silence: Do you remember the first show, set, or practice that you belonged?

Washboard James: Yeah! Really the first show I played with them in Greenville, right outside of Dallas, I remember right before the show, we’re a barefoot band and I kind of took it for granted at first, and right before we went on stage everybody looked at me and said, “You’re gonna take your shoes off right?” And I was like haha yeah that’s great, yeah that’s funny…

[Collective laughter]

Washboard James: And nobody laughed. So I was like “Oh okay they’re serious about this and the whole night, I came in on short notice and I tried to do my homework and stuff, but everybody was there to be real supportive and make the show happen, and nobody even really knew I was the new guy, I didn’t even feel like the new guy because it was just a welcoming situation and we all just started playing music.

Banjo James: I can say I knew James belonged the first time he practiced with us and he was doing the dance, shaking a tambourine hitting the 808 and the snare with your left hand, [sound effects] it’s like this cool dance that he does and I knew then. That was the very first practice in Horti’s garage and he had the 808 hooked up to a practice amp or something.

Sound and Silence: Have you guys played any shows in the last six months or year where at least of your families was there and it felt like a family show?

Bobby: Frequently, rather frequently.

Washboard James: A lot of the Austin shows. Kentucky, Horti’s folks were there. Anytime we go to New York, Bob’s mom is there.

Bobby: I think one of the best things of having this as a career is the opportunity to see friends and family that we probably wouldn’t be able to see. Like being able to make a trip to Tuscan, or New York, is a big trip, and you have to keep the community alive, keep your friends and family close.

Banjo James: Otherwise it would be like “I don’t have the budget to fly to fucking Boise and see my grandma who’s in an old folks home, but because we tour I’ll probably see her sometime which is pretty gnarly.

Sound and Silence: If you could have any actor or actress do a cameo and dance on stage during a set with you, who would it be?

Whiskey Shivers: Taylor Swift!! [pronounced with laughter]

Washboard James: She’s not an actor.

Sound and Silence: Any human…

Washboard James: I think Michael Cera doing interpretative dance would be pretty cool.


Banjo James: Christopher Walken also doing interpretative dance would be awesome!

Horti: Could it be that we all get one person!?

Sound and Silence: Don’t threaten me with a good time.

Horti: I would pick Jackie Chan.

Sound and Silence: He would give you a lot of street credit all around.

Whiskey Shivers: Who’s the guy from Evil Dead? Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness!

Bobby: Pee Wee Herman.

[Collective and ecstatic yeahhh!]

Banjo James: Dude I met him one time, creepy story.

Sound and Silence: If you could write the theme song to any animated show, what would it be?

Whiskey Shivers: Oh gosh!

Bobby: Adventure time!

Andrew: Adventure Time! This is Andrew, not Bobby, Adventure time.

[Collective laughter]

Banjo James I thought everyone was going to say The Simpsons. This is Banjo James, The Simpsons! Although Allison Cross already did a version of it.

Sound and Silence: Doesn’t mean you can’t do a better one!

Banjo James: That’s right Allison Cross! [laughing]

Horti: Squidbillies.

Whiskey Shivers: We can play that one. James!?

Washboard James: I’ve been addicted to Rick and Morty recently, it’s all I can think about it.

Horti: We already do the theme song from Game Of Thrones pretty good…

Whiskey Shivers: Dink litch Peter, dink litch Peter, dink litch Peter, dink litch peter… [singing and laughing at increasing pace].

Horti: If we can make that happen it would be pretty fun.

Sound and Silence: You guys make and play music for a living, what’s most different than you thought it would be?

Andrew: Green rooms are really weird. I always thought they were going to be this crazy party, but it’s just like sad, tired dudes, talking to their girlfriends, trying to charge their phone, on Facetime [laughing], apologizing for being a jerk.

Banjo James: Probably the end of the show. I remember as a kid, going to shows getting annoyed, “I just want to meet the band, I’ve been waiting out here and I just want to say hi and get them to sign this, what jerks! I can’t believe they’re not going to come out,” not knowing they’re just completely exhausted [laughing] and have to load up all your shit in the van.

Sound and Silence: A lot of people don’t realize that man.

Horti: And we’ve all got drinking problems [laughing].

[Collective laughter]

Whiskey Shivers: Horti’s got the drinking problem!

Sound and Silence: Opportunities! Some people might just say it’s a great PR scheme, helps people love you.

Whiskey Shivers: Shhhhots!

Horti: This is Horti, shhhots!

Sound and Silence: Does it ever get hard that your debauchery which can make you more popular and more connected to might also be simultaneously contributing to the reckoning of your soul?

Horti: Yeah but that’s been the same, nothing has really changed.


Sound and Silence: And I wouldn’t ask you a question that I wouldn’t ask myself. I know there’s things that enable me or give me more energy to talk to more people, but it’s not always good to give your energy away.

Banjo James: I can say that about touring, that’s what I thought was different. Our first couple tours we were like “Woooo! Let’s party!” And now we’re like, “Uugghhh, maybe not, it’s Tuesday.” [laughing] But as far as doing that for fucking month long tour, which we’ve done before…

Whiskey Shivers: Over and over and over.

Banjo James: Over and over and over. That’s a little bit different, learning to be like “Ohh I also have to live on the road and kind of make sure my body is okay so I can play and sing, and sleep is an important thing. I think that and no matter what show you play, it’s never glamorous, you would think… you see a band play and you’re like “Damn, that’s tight”, but then you go backstage and like Andrew said it’s the saddest fucking thing, everyone’s all tired and…

Whiskey Shivers: Not always…

Banjo James: Not always, but…

Bobby: Every single time [monster truck rally voice].

[Collective laughter]

Sound and Silence: It’s already draining of your energy because there are a lot of moving parts, it’s exhausting, and doing what you love takes an extraordinary toll, you get a ton out of it but you’re also like, “Fucking a man every night I’m giving away a part of me.”

Washboard James: Yeah, I think that’s a good sentiment, people don’t realize how, it’s a lot of fun we’re… to used the term blessed to do what we do, but it’s so taxing and we have to really treat it like a job to do well at it, we do it all the time so it can become old habit for us but it’s somebody’s special event everyday and it’s good for us to provide that, we need to show up and kick ass for these people, we want to kick ass but they want us to kick ass like… people don’t have a lot of time to do anything, some people save up for that stuff.

Sound and Silence: People have to be pretty intention with their time, money, energy to see you perform, and you give it back. And that’s, outside of you being very talented, that’s why I love you, and that’s why… I think that’s the new phase and new age of things growing…

Washboard James: You gotta do it because you love it or you’re not going to make any money.

Sound and Silence: Yeah, yeah yeah! And you guys love it, and on the flip side, and this will be the last one and I’ll let you guys be. I wouldn’t have kept talking but you guys seemed to be digging it, what’s the best thing about you guys doing what you love to do? Kind of specifically, I don’t want to hear the answer that you have the opportunity to do what you love, but something for you, we all grew up with these ideas of what we’re gonna do with our lives, our gifts, with what you’re doing now with your lives and gifts, what is best for you?

Banjo James: I think about this a lot, I kind of remember the first time I heard music and was like, “That’s really fucking cool,” and then growing up a kind of weird kid thinking “Well you can’t identify with much,” but then maybe you find something that at least for a time-being, gives you an identity and then you’re like, “I live in this fuckin’ world.” You can spend a whole year, and I feel like I have, inside an album or a song and it means the entire fucking world to you, and if I can be, or we can be just the tiniest party of that for someone, that’s fuckin’ awesome! That’s amazing. One fuckin’ person that that shit makes a difference is everything.

Horti: To speak specifically about touring, I think my favorite thing would be… I think a perfect day would be walking into a festival, being able to get fed, you get beers, a bed to sleep in, you get to play for a bunch of people and then you get to watch awesome bands, and often times those bands are your heroes. It’s awesome to be able to see people we’ve looked up to our entire lives, right there in front of us.

Sound and Silence: Who are one or two of them?

Horti: Oh man! We got to high five Skynyrd as they were stepping off stage after their set, and then back on stage they played freebird and we were like, “You gonna play Freebird!? Cool! Of course you are, and I’m gonna give you a high five, it was awesome, that was incredible… We got to play with Sam Bush the other day, that was really awesome, it was incredible.

Sound and Silence: Where’d you guys play?

Horti: That was at Blue Ox Festival in Eau Claire Wisconsin.

Whiskey Shivers: We got to see Del Mccoury.

Horti: Mark O’Connor who is also a pretty good skateboarder apparently.

Washboard James: The opportunity to travel and see so many places, things and people, you really get a sense of, we really have a fog ahead of us, a lot of people, with the way we perceive America, for example we mostly tour in America, and getting to actually interact with people and see places in person is a completely different experience than seeing it on TV or the internet or something like that, and actually getting to talk to people in different areas it really gives you a sense of how similar we are and how different we can be. It just really gives you a real perspective on how things are as opposed to somebody else shoving it down your throat, and I really appreciate that about touring.

Bobby: I think that mine’s real similar to yours, Washboard James [laughter], I think it’s being able to interact with so many people, being able to share a moment, a really specific moment, it’s the best part of touring for me. No matter what we’ve been through, traveling all day, it’s perfect now, even if it’s not the best, it’s the best, and being able to interact and share information with people, specifically have impact on people and have people impact you, but usually you’re kind of restricted to a certain size circle of people who you get to interact with right, but we get to spread it out way across the country which just makes it even richer, and I’m not sure what that would lead to but it seems to be good.

Sound and Silence: You guys kind of strike me as fellas that kind of walk with this purposefulness and intention that I’m meeting someone or something is happening because it’s suppose to, even if that something is bad, and when you’re able to do that it really shines through your music and living, and we’re all going to go through fucking shit, we all have bad days

Bobby: Yep [empathetic laughter]

Sound and Silence: But if you’re able to know and feel like this is significant because I’m growing and learning from it, then you’ll get through it a lot quicker and when people are around you can see that this was shitty, and he went through that but it was good… I think you guys have a real special opportunity to not just live that life but communicate that through fucking song. You guys have a stage and you’ve had to do so much to get there, you’ve had to work really hard to get there, and when you guys get there you’re telling a righteous story and I fucking appreciate that about you.

Bobby: Thank you.

Sound and Silence: And I know all these people here do as well. And I love telling people’s story because it makes me a part of them, but also it brings our story together.

Bobby: Hell yeah.

Whiskey Shivers: This has been an emotional interview! [laughing]

Sound and Silence: This is how I roll [laughing].

Andrew: (Wearing awesome pins on his hat). To kind of riff on what Bobby was saying, I think that our road relationships are my favorite part of it. I really like, certain bands that I’ve respect for years that we get to see out on the road, kind of digs in on James’ thing too, there are people that I’ve respected for years, people that I didn’t know existed, that we found on weird radio shows, mid-morning or some random show that we went down the road to, or whatever, and we end up knowing those people for years.

Sound and Silence: Who are some of the more significant people you’ve met by chance, who’s now a decent part of your life?

Andrew: By chance, there’s a band out in New York called The Defibulators that stands out, we played a radio show with them in Knoxville, Tennessee, Blue Plate Special, and we got on and I was borrowing their bass amp, and I forgot to turn it on and there were only three of us, and we kind of sucked [laughter], and then they got on and they were totally, completely, 100 percent amazing, and then they were super cool to us afterwards and we’ve known them for six years now.

Just in case you were looking for one, This is a Good Sound.


Wild Child, MO POP 2015

By Kevin Alan Lamb

Let’s hop into the Delorean with McFly and Doc Brown and set our clocks back to Day 2 of MO POP 2015 for a wonderful and weird conversation with the lead singers of Austin’s Wild Child.

KAL: If you had lyrics tattooed on you, what would they say and who might they be written by?

Alexander: Yikes, wow, jumping out the gate.


Kelsey: I’ve always wanted Harry Belafonte’s “Okay, I believe you.” [laughing] It has to be a duo thing like I’d get “okay” and you’d get “I believe you”.

Alexander: I’d take that.

Kelsey: Or, “Party” and “Bullshit”.

Alexander: Yeah…Party Bullshit.

Kelsey: Yeah I’d get “Party” on my ass and you’d get “Bullshit” on yours.

KAL: Something I love about Michigan, is we often have a duo, female vocalist, who are a couple of your guy’s favorite duos?

Alexander: Sonny and Cher? [laughing]

Kelsey: I was gonna say Ella Fitzgerald [laughing], I don’t like too many new duos… I like Ella and Louie they’re probably my favorite male/female duo.

Alexander: Yeah, I can’t think of anyone else.

Kelsey: Ike and Tina, but we all know how that ended up…


Kelsey: Great songs, though.

KAL: What’s the most excited crowd or venue you’ve ever performed to?

Alexander: Recently out in L.A. we had a show at The Roxie and everyone came up and flooded the stage. There were like 100 people on the stage and we felt the floor starting to spring up and down and I was moving outward because I was afraid the stage was going to collapse in… [laughing]

Kelsey: I wasn’t even playing my instrument [laughing], I was just holding it and hiding in the back but it was soo much fun.

Alexander: Yeah it was rowdy as shit! That one was dope.

KAL: After yesterday’s monsoon are you happy to be playing today?

Kelsey: Yesss.

Alexander: Absolutely!

[Collective laughter]

Alexander: Definitely won that one.

KAL: It’s going to be really festive with the hay out there…

Kelsey: Oh yeah! I love the hay cart I wish people would bring out hay for no reason.

Alexander: I think that we brought it because we got to our hotel, and were riding down the elevator, and right as we stepped outside to go to the fest it was like pssschzzzz! [rain sound effects] and the amount of time we stayed here it rained the whole time and we were ready to go.

KAL: Where you guys staying?

Kelsey: At Motor City. Motor City Casino.

KAL: Is this your first time playing here?

Alexander: Yeah first time with Wild Child. It’s been a couple years since I’ve been back.

KAL: Does it look like it’s changed?

Alexander: Not really [hesitantly]

KAL: It’s okay…

Kelsey: Not really [high pitched funny voice]

[Collective laughter]

Kelsey: The vibe is better. I dig the vibe, everyone seems genuinely stoked to be here, and to be around.

KAL: Yeah, despite the rain yesterday we were singing “Just A Friend” inside the beer tent.

Kelsey: There were people rolling around in the puddles (Lake MO POP) just lovin’ life. It was dope.

KAL: Who is someone who guys would love to share the stage with?

Alexander: Ooh, interesting.

Kelsey: Modest Mouse.

Alexander: For sure, Modest Mouse.

KAL: Who else?

Alexander: That’s a good one… We made a list one time.

Kelsey: I want to work with Mystikal. Just putting that out there.

KAL: This is where it starts.

Kelsey: I want to work with Mystikal. I want to work with Mystikal so bad.

Alexander: Hologram 2Pac.

Kelsey: Hologram 2Pac would be dope.


KAL: Hologram 2Pac in the house.

Kelsey: Yeah that’d be cool [laughing]. I wonder how easy that is?

Alexander: Jack Johnson!

Kelsey: Jack Johnson, you know what? I love that dude. I don’t why he gets so much guff because he sings about banana pancakes. Banana pancakes are dope! I love them.

KAL: He’s one of my favorite humans. He found a way to surf and make music for a living.

Kelsey: He’s got a million kids, married his high school sweetheart, donates all of his money to hurricane victims, he’s just the chillest dude.

[Music from nearby stage bullishly joins our conversation]

KAL: Individual questions. What’s the last song you want to hear before you die?

Kelsey: I’ve thought about this.

Alexander: [Laughing] Dust In The Wind.

KAL: Sung by Will Ferrell? [laughing]

Alexander: Sung by Will Ferrell! [laughing]

Kelsey: Off the top of my head, I would go Telephone Line by ELO (Electric Light Orchestra). I just think that would be dope. “Hello, how are you?” [singing with majestic harmony] Then I’d hopefully be ODing on heroin while jumping out of a plane or something like that. That would be dope.

Alexander: Maybe one of our records played backwards.

[Collective laughter]

KAL: What are some of the surreal moments that encourage you right as you’re in the thick of everything you’ve always wanted to be doing?

Kelsey: [Interrupts excitedly] Every day! Every day.

Alexander: Yeah, it happens most to me when I’m having a bad a day, and then you step back and say, “Wait a minute, you’re bitching about what now? Like, take it easy you’ve got it really figured out even though this day kind of sucks.”


Kelsey: Yeah, usually on stage if anyone is singing with you at all, you’ll be somewhere like… Detroit, Michigan and someone knows every word to a song that you haven’t even released yet and you’re just like…

[I notice Alexander’s tattoo]

KAL: Jaguar shark, Team Zissou is that really you!? I have a Zissou t-shirt that’s Bill Murray and all made out of different fish. It’s so beautiful! When I was out in California for this past winter this guy made me a Steve Zissou painting so I’m ripe with Zissou.

Alexander: I’ve got a couple Zissou paintings as well.

Kelsey: Team Zissou!

KAL: I love that album. The Seu Jorge covers of Bowie.

Alexander: It’s soo good! [laughing] “Do-do do do do do-do-do Rebel Rebel.” [singing]

Kelsey: “Space Oddity,” Seu Jorge’s version would be the one to die to.

Alexander: For sure.

KAL: What are your favorite soundtracks?

Kelsey: [Laughing] Remember The Titans. It’s a great soundtrack!

KAL: That’s one of my favorite movies. And that is a great soundtrack.

Alexander: Yeah that is a good soundtrack. Anything by Mark Mothersbaugh in collaboration with Wes Anderson is so dope. I learned that often he will take a soundtrack that is written and he will just flip it upside down and reverse it and create a new track that way [laughing]. He’s like, “It’s so easy, I literally just turn it around, and flip it, and reverse it.” And I was like “Wow, that’s so cool.”

KAL: What are you looking forward to most the rest of this year?

Alexander: We are releasing a new album in October, our first release with a record label, Dualtone. Our first release in 18 month; so, we’ve been on the grind, in the studio, we’ve been 200 days of touring a year, sitting on this record for so long we’re just so ready to get it out.

KAL: Do you feel like it’s a purging or cathartic release since you’ve been working on something for so long, this creation, and you want to share it?

Alexander: Yeah, it’s the best, it’s really all you can think about. It’s scary; it’s exciting.

Kelsey: It’s exciting, and it’s scary because you don’t know if everyone is going to like it as much. We’ve already gotten some emails, we released a single from it and we got like, kinda fan hate mail a little bit which was crazy. I didn’t think anyone was too attached to anything we were doing…

KAL: Well it’s nice to know people are passionate about it….

Kelsey: People are passionate about it but it’s weird too. How do you respond to that? I’m sorry? Well, I hope you like the rest of the record.

KAL: Well people this morning on Instagram, on a general MO POP post, commented that they were really upset that they were missing your performance…

Alexander: Yeah you’ve just got to shed off the bad skin. You can’t let it get to you because it will.

Kelsey: I know. I was like “Did we sell out?” [nervous voice] “Did we sell out?” “I wasn’t trying to sell out.”


Kelsey: It was this one song we all did together as a band for the first time. We all took Mushrooms together and it was this awesome experience and we released that song and we were like “Fuck yeah! We got ourselves a pop-hit.” And that’s the one where everyone was like, “Guys don’t sell out, you were good, you were! You’re just trying too hard.” We’re like, “What!?” [laughing] “No, we were tripping balls.”

[Collective laughter]

Kelsey: It’s different.

KAL: You don’t have all the facts, but we cannot release any other details.

Kelsey: Yeah! [laughing]

Alexander: And that’s one person’s opinion.

Kelsey: Yeah that’s one person’s opinion [laughing].

Alexander: But one person’s opinion could get stuck in your head and taint…

Kelsey: You can forget about thousands of others if that one person said just the wrong thing.

KAL: I struggle with this immensely, and somebody told me, “Kevin don’t let the little things get to you.” I go through a day and I could get all these positive experiences but one person is just getting under my skin, and we focus on it, but it’s like what the fuck? Let’s focus on these good things, like alright, nine good things happened, one bad, that’s cool, that’s 90%, that’s beyond Hall Of Fame in baseball, or in hoops, 90% is really shooting well!

Kelsey: Oh yeah!

KAL: What is one place you’re dying to visit in the world? Pure leisure.

Kelsey: Greece.

Alexander: Australia?

Kelsey: We’re gonna go there!

Alexander: Yeah? Even better. We’ve been fortunate to go to a lot of places, but yeah Australia. We will have to check that out.

KAL: When you go to places, do you have time to enjoy the places?

Alexander: We try to, yeah. As much time as we have…

Kelsey: Yeah, most of the time we have about three hours between a soundcheck and a set to be like, “What can we walk to right now?”

Alexander: Check out some food, check out some bars.

Kelsey: We can maybe go to two bars and a coffee shop in every city, pretty much.

KAL: Any idea where you first saw a Good Sign?

Kelsey: Yeah! Seattle. Someone handed me one of them in Seattle, and my parents were there, and my parents got them, and I actually took a stack of them and I kept them in the van because I wanted to hand them out. It was at the Tractor Tavern.

KAL: So you’re a Good Sign Ambassador? Look at that.

Kelsey: Yeah! I love it. I kept them in the door of the passenger seat of the van for a while there.

KAL: I often like to tell people that the Good Sign blends the fine line between the music and the people dancing to it. Even the fine line that separates us all and gives us that opportunity to step across it. Marcus Mumford gave me a shout out in front of 40k people, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros sang with my totem on stage, we create these events by being the music we love, and wanting to write about it and putting ourselves into the story. It lets people know that the only thing standing between them and their dreams is them going after them.

Alexander: Yeah, for sure. I saw this Band called Fuck Up. It’s like this big giant dude and he said, “I’m doing this, which means you can do it, look at me!”

[Excited laughter]

Let us dance out the doubt, and take home the good. Just in case you were listening for one, This is a Good Sound.

MO POP 2015 Photos


Jake Simpson, The Lil Smokies

By Kevin Alan Lamb

Songs serve as the stitching between people and memories we wish to grow through, and hold onto. They become bookmarks in the pages of the stories of our lives which we recollect when our hearts are ripped wide open, reminding us that despite the present pain we feel, we have navigated troubled waters before, and possess the strength and passion to endure once again.

You can learn a lot about a man by asking him what songs he listens to when times are tough; here’s my conversation with Jake Simpson of The Lil Smokies, and the music which moves him through troubled waters.

So what was your familiarity with The Lil Smokies when you met them at WinterWonderGrass?

Well I had been living in Lyons, Colorado and I was playing around with a very good friend of mine KC Groves. She used to play in Uncle Earl. I was playing with her and I had picked up some shows with other bands and I was looking for something more long term. It was Zebulon Bowles, the fiddle player for the Drunken Hearts. He sent me an email and was like hey you should check out The Lil Smokies I think that they’re looking for a fiddler. So I looked them up and listened to some of their music and I just forgotten about it because they were busy and I was really busy at the time. Then I got hired to play with Billy strings for that weekend of WinterWonderGrass and I got there and I looked at the schedule and was like oh The Lil Smokies maybe I’ll go watch the set. So I went over there and checked them out and thought it was pretty cool. I went and talked to them afterwards and it ended up working out.

That’s pretty badass, how was that set with Billy?

It was great man. I played, I want to say four or five shows leading up to WinterWonderGrass with Billy then we did WinterWonderGrass, and I mean honestly he shreds. But I was playing mandolin and that’s not really my forte, so I was playing with someone who was a master of their craft on an instrument that I wasn’t that good at. I couldn’t play as fast as he could!

It’s hard, you’re like man if I had the fiddle I could keep up. What do you remember most about your first visit to Otus Supply with Campfire Caravan?

Most distinctly, haha I don’t know if you’re going to print this or not. I walked in the door with my shirt off and there was a bottle of whiskey sitting on the bar. That was my first memory of Otus Supply. I just remember hearing about it from Billy Strings, he played there a lot. Yeah but the night before I don’t remember where we were but it must have been doing something fun because we were all kind of haggard. I had to learn one of the MIPSO songs because their lead singer Jacob was gone. So I was in a weird headspace you know? Because I really wanted to do that song right and I was listening to it all day long in the van. So yeah when I got to Otus I was worried but also really excited because they asked me to sing one of their songs and I really respect their songwriting. It turned out alright it was a good show.

Yeah it sure was, who’s your favorite fiddler?

My absolute all time favorite fiddler is a guy named Richard Greene. He used to play with Bill Monroe in the 60s. Then he was in a band called Seatrain with Peter Rowan. Now this is my understanding. He sort of pioneered using pedals with the fiddle. But aside from that he is just one of the most- I can pick him out of any fiddler when I’m listening to them. If you made me listen to 10 fiddle players and he was one of them I could pick him out every time. Stylistically he is just so unique. He sort of grew up playing in a similar way that I did. He was a classical player and turned bluegrass. His technique is just intricate. He does these slides that I haven’t really heard anyone else do. And also he’s just a hell of a guy. I’ve taken lots of lessons with him and he’s taught at fiddle camps. He’s just a real character.

As a fiddler do people just come up and present you fiddlers, like hey check this person out or try and introduce you to people?

Oh yeah I mean it’s difficult to say that one person is your absolute favorite. But there are all these guys who I respect and emulate my entire life. Like Byron Berline, Jeremy Garrot. Jeremy I met him in 2007 when I was… ah I can’t do the math right now this second but ya know I was like 12 or 13. He was teaching at RockyGrass Academy, in line, leading up to Rocky Grass. He took the time to sit down with me and a bunch of other kids at the Academy and really just teach us some good stuff. All these guys are super nice and just ready to help and teach all they can. I would add Darol Anger to that list he’s just an incredible fiddler. He came up playing with Richard Greene and vice versas. Those guys are sort of masters of this kind of chop I think Richard calls it the Chunky Chop. It’s just a really interesting rhythmic technique that I really tried to latch onto and use in my playing.

Nice nice, awesome. Name five songs that have helped you get through the most shit.

Five songs. Well right off the top of my head there’s a song that’s a tune. It’s an instrumental performed by Strength in Numbers. It’s called “One Winter’s Night’ and you know there was this really crummy thing that happened. A really good friend introduced me to Strenght In Numbers, and actually the first time I went through the Rocky Grass Academy she gave me this CD of Strength in Numbers and I couldn’t stop listening to it. One Winter’s Night was her favorite song and she was like you gotta learn this and play this for me. At the time I was 12-13 and she was probably 16 and she was beautiful and I was like hell yeah I gotta learn this. I ended up learning it and recording it actually and then she passed away. It was one of those well – crap deals. I mean we were very close and it’s a bigger deal than that but it’s been years. Her name was Lexa. So yeah that was one of her songs and it used to make me sad but now it reminds me of a lot of really good times. But yeah I like to listen to that one.

You know surprisingly enough most of the songs that I listen to when I’m trying to get through stuff when I’m kind of sad are instrumentals because there’s that one and “Atta Boy” which was recorded for the Goat Rodeo Sessions, with Chris Thile and Yo-Yo Ma, and Stuart Duncan. Stuart Duncan is one of my absolute favorite fiddlers. Yeah Atta Boy, that one does something to me. I think whenever I’m tryin to get through a rough time, for some reason I want to feel nostalgic, and then I start to feel better, and Atta Boy makes me feel nostalgic.

That’s kind of cool… like going backwards to go forward. Retracing your steps so you can realize whatever present pain is temporary, and this too shall pass.

Exactly, and all these tunes are kind of linked in time to a moment with me. So that just brings another one to mind. A song called “Madness” by Muse and I just remember I had this really good friend from California. We had been talking back and forth and she just came into my life at the right time. A lot of chaos was about to happen and I had no idea. She introduced me to this song and I found out that I was going to be a dad. I called her and I was like hey guess what. I kind of linked the chaos in that song to my own life. I had a daughter and she is the most amazing thing in the world, and her name is Lyric. That time in my life I was listening to that song a lot and I wish I could just yell at the top of my lungs sometimes. Then I would be in the car listening to that song singing along and I got to do that because it has this huge chorus at the end where he just belts out. Yeah man it feels good. Nowadays I find myself gravitating more towards moody rock and roll. A lot of Kings of Leons and “Revelry” whenever I’m having a rough time. Then you know if I want to listen to something I know is just going to make me happy every time it’s “Big Country” by the Flecktones. It just works for me, makes me happy.

What songs get you through tough times? Give “Might As Well” by The Lil Smokies a shot. Catch Jake Simpson and The Lil Smokies in action Saturday wsg Kind Country at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply. Just in case you were listening for one, This is a Good Sound.



Moon Hooch, James Muschler

By Kevin Alan Lamb

All good stories are best told by those who lived them. Like you, my passion for music has transformed into a life committed to appreciating and sharing its wonder with and amongst others. Once only a fan, carrying a Good Sign because I loved the look in others’ eyes when we shared it, music became the communal environment by which I learned to walk the enlightened path toward unconditional love. Music brought me to festivals like Summer Dance at Nelson Ledges, where I discovered a trio of best friends who share the stage and make music while complimenting one another’s gifts, and inspiring all those who dance before them.

Red Sky by Moon Hooch

I first interviewed Wenzl, Mike and James of Moon Hooch last summer at Gathering of Vibes, but in the midst of excitable conversation, sleep depravity, and four consecutive interviews, I forgot to record the memorable energetic exchange. While it was a great interview, life is not made by a moment made or missed, rather the series of moments made into motion by our sweat, fortitude, and unwavering choice to wake dreams into realities (Nahko Bear).

With the release of their new album, Red SkyI had another opportunity to transform a moment missed, into a story better made. Here is my conversation with James Muschler, on drums and percussion for Moon Hooch.

Sound & Silence: What feels special and unique about this new album?

James Muschler: It most accurately captures the live energy and chemistry between us, Our first album (Moon Hooch, 2013) captured what we did in the subway. Our second album (This Is Cave Music, 2014) refined our sound but disconnected the three of us. This album (Red Sky) is the best of both worlds, fueled by our raw energy.

Sound & Silence: Elaborate on the  mechanisms of spiritual growth…

James Muschler: Spiritual growth is about a lot of things… one thing that the three of us have learned is our ability to see other perspectives beyond our own being and reality. Ultimately, the willingness and practiced habit of considering other’s perspective.

S&S: Your tour is packed with international bookings, including Norway…

James Muschler: I’ve never been to Norway, it’s going to be amazing. We played the Mercury Lounge (NYC) and our manager brought booking agents from Europe, and now we are playing Poland and the UK as a result of the show. We are all beyond grateful for everything going on.

S&S: What’s your favorite album of all-time?

James Muschler: John Coltrane, One Down, One Up (Live at the Half Note).

S&S: If you had one lyric tattooed on you, what would it be?

James Muschler: My God… I don’t know. ‘I love supreme’ Coltrane, to stick with the theme, and also because I’m a nerd.

S&S: If you could share the stage with any drummer?

James Muschler: Zakir Hussain (Award winning Indian tabla player, musical producer, film actor, and composer).

S&S: Outside of music, where is your passion?

James Muschler: Cooking, food in general, nature, being in nature, hanging out with other human beings, and having a good time.

S&S: When are you coming to Detroit?

James Muschler: Hopefully in the fall, I know we will be in Chicago.

S&S: Where are you from?

James Muschler: Cleveland Heights.

That was fun! Be sure to catch Moon Hooch in a city near you! Check out our review of Red Sky HERE!