Tinkerers of Melody and Rhythm-Eastbound Jesus-Interview By: Liam Sweeny
Written by Staff on October 7, 2021
RRX: You all are from Greenwich or the surrounding areas, and my apologies if there are any commuters. Greenwich, that whole area, has a certain feel to it. I spent some time there, enough to say that I’ve seen the Tractor Parade. I was one of maybe a thousand, which surprised me. What’s the music scene like up there?
EJ: The tractor parade is quite the scene. We played it one year, but it rained on us and ruined our soundboard. It was fun though! The music scene up here is a bit sparse as we don’t have a real venue of sorts to play at but there’s some good performers out and about playing at a couple local breweries. Then there’s the Throwdown venue of course where we put on our festival each year so that spot helps the music scene cred. around these parts. Music has always been a part of Greenwich though. It’s the home of country legend Hal Ketchum and more recently Sara and Josh of Phantogram.
RRX: I just picked up Full Moon Over Salem, which is your fifth album, including a live album. And honestly, I love it. It’s got this really rich, full sound, with just a sheen of something, I don’t know, glamorous. I want to say country/bluegrass, but I’m not sure if that covers it. Can you tell us what you were going for with Full Moon Over Salem?
EJ: Full Moon over Salem was really just a collection of songs written over five years. Some of those songs we have played for a long time and others are much more recent to our catalog. I don’t know if we were going for anything really except to push our musical sound and make another fun album. That album took us a while to write so it’s kind of slowly developed over the past few years and it took some time to arrange the songs how we wanted them and also to write new tunes to fill it out more.
RRX: You have five albums. That’s five entry points for someone getting into you. So, I’m getting in at number five, and I’m feeling the music a certain way, and I’m seeing the band a certain way, but a different way than someone that comes in with album two or album one. What about Eastbound Jesus would all comers agree with?
EJ: I think all of our albums are great and show the progress of the band, but I think we as well as the fans always come back to Northern Rock as kind of that ultimate album. It was our third album and we were in a great zone writing material. We did three albums in three years and we were kind of musically on fire at that point. People always love the first album though too. It was recorded with one mic in my bedroom and there’s something great about the simplicity of it. We still play a lot of those original songs at shows today because we loved them so much when we wrote them eleven years ago.
RRX: We haven’t covered a lot of country and bluegrass in our publication. But not through any conscious choice; we just haven’t. You interview a rock band; they’re talking rock bands. Interview a rapper, they’re talking rappers. So, let’s talk country and bluegrass, and local players. Who’s been on the country/bluegrass circuit here?
EJ: I’d say the country/bluegrass scene is still a bit small in this area but we’ve had the opportunity to meet and play with a lot of great bands in the Northeast such as Driftwood, Cabinet, The Mallett Brothers Band, The Blind Owl Band, Saints & Liars, and our local buddies The North and South Dakotas. It’s been fun to become friends with these bands over the years and help get them in front of the local music scene so people can see how great these players are.
RRX: My inspiration is the Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton that I watched TV at 3 a.m. So I always ask people about their method, and their craft, even bands. So, when you’re going from “Damn, we need some new songs,” to excitedly playing that MP3 for friends in your car, what does the band go through?
EJ: Our process can be anywhere from someone plays a riff and we work for months off that to slowly build a song to someone brings a song with lyrics and music to practice and we quickly fill in the gaps. There is no real method, I guess. But regardless we are constantly tweaking our songs. They never end up on the album how we first iron them out. We either forget how we played them (haha) or we throw something different into them to change things up.
RRX: Let’s talk about country and bluegrass. A lot of people who grew up with country think that it’s gotten soft, and “poppy” but bluegrass has been able to avoid that. It’s almost like when bluegrass gets poppy it just branches off to become just an element of a pop song. Country doesn’t seem to have that luck. Why do you think that is?
EJ: I guess bluegrass is just more of an old timey traditional sound with diehards that want it to sound a certain way. But there are a ton of musicians taking that traditional bluegrass style and making it their own, it just will never make it to the radio like the top 40 country music is. I have no idea why that is. I would categorize us very far away from the pop country music that is out there today so it’s hard to call us a country band when we sound nothing like Kenny Chesney. But music is music. Just play what you love to play and forget about the whole genre game.
RRX: This is where you answer the question I didn’t ask. Where do you hide the twang when you’re not using it? Ever jam out on one of the tractors? Educate, enlighten, emote – the floor is yours.
EJ: Haha. No, we never jam out on tractors. None of us are farmers so we don’t own tractors. Just normal dudes working and taking care of little kids that get together every week to try and make some great tunes. Music is our therapy and our escape from the craziness that is everyday life. That’s why we want our fans to escape with us when they listen to our music or rock out at a show. Music is a powerful tool and medicine for all whether you’re on the stage or in the crowd.