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CukoRakko: The Southeast's Best Kept Secret October 12, 2018 12:00

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography 
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If you've paid the slightest bit of attention to this website in the last three years, you're well aware of my affection for CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival and Horse Pens 40. I was fortunate enough to cross paths with the Cuko team in early 2015, and it didn't take long to realize the impact that this festival would have on my life. What once started as a tiny, grassroots festival featuring predominantly Alabama-based bands has evolved into a bi-annual showcase of incredibly diverse talent from across the southeast and beyond.
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Each year, I leave that beautiful property thinking, "How can this weekend possibly be topped?" and the bar continues to be raised. I'll be the first to say that the team at Big Friendly Productions absolutely crushed it yet again, and their work never ceases to amaze me. And I would be remissed if I didn't mention that this festival would not be possible without the support of the title sponsor, Land Rover Birmingham, as well as Birmingham's Avondale Brewing CompanyTrimTab Brewing, and Cahaba Brewing Company.
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We should probably start off by talking a little history on Horse Pens 40HP40 is a privately owned outdoor nature park located in St. Clair County near Steele, Alabama. The park is situated atop Alabama's third-highest mountain, Chandler Mountain, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The park is known among the rock climbing community as a premier bouldering site in the American Southeast
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The natural rock shelters located in Horse Pens 40 have seen over 15,000 years of human habitation. The park contains ancient Indian burial grounds dating from the earliest inhabitants of this area, all the way up to the time of the Cherokee removal known as the "Trail of Tears".  During The American Civil War, the site was used as a hiding place for horses and their owners wishing to avoid invaders from the north and the Confederate recruiters and "bushwhackers". Once it was discovered by Confederate forces, Horse Pens 40 was then used for the storage of supplies to be used by Confederate troops as they passed nearby.
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It was home to one of the first outdoor bluegrass music festivals in the country, and by the 1970s had grown to be one of the largest in the world. The park served as a venue showcasing many legends of the bluegrass genre including Bill Monroe, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Lester Flatt, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake. Emmylou Harris made her first public appearance at Horse Pens 40, "standing barefoot on a wooden door propped up on the rocks." During this period, the park was designated by the Alabama State Legislature as "The Home of the South's Bluegrass Music".
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Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Those who were lucky enough to make the Thursday night pre-party witnessed something truly special. Winston Ramble and The Pearl each laid down powerful thirty-minute sets, before joining forces for a full hour of blazing hot Grateful Dead covers. The level of collaboration was borderline overwhelming, with special guests such as Davis Little (Little Raine Band), Desmond Sykes (Tragic City), and Connor Broome (The Broomestix) joining the party early and often. A tremendous amount of Alabama talent was on hand for the opening set, only to be followed by Doctor Ocular of Johnson City, Tennessee. I was shocked to learn this band formed in late 2016, as their combination of acid jazz, jamtronica, and roots rock had a very cohesive feel all night. 
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Watch Ramble On Pearl perform "Shakedown Street" here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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The Jauntee and Skydyed made the trek all the way from Colorado, and it's safe to say that they both left their mark on Alabama. Many of us had gotten our first taste of The Jauntee the previous weekend at Saturn Birmingham with Twiddle, and thankfully, we got 90-minutes this go round. A product of Berklee College of Music, it's clear that these guys will continue to climb the ladder of the festival scene.
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One of the most dynamic sets of the weekend came from The Fritz. This was just an all out dance party from start to finish. Frontman Jamar Woods straight up owns the stage and works a crowd about as well as anyone I've seen. It's rare to see the front man standing up behind the keys and synth, but these guys are far from you're average band. A combination of fresh originals, as well as covers of Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime," Michael Jackson's "Black or White" and "Don't Stop 'Til Ya Get Enough," and Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" will certainly remembered for years to come.
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Watch video footage of The Fritz performing "Life During Wartime" here:
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Video by Isom Morgan Photoraphy
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Friday night was capped off with a surprise late night set from The Illuminators, a brand new band out of Birmingham. You wouldn't believe it if you were there, but this was the band's first official public performance. These spontaneous late night collaborations will be amongst my best memories of the weekend. Members of The Fritz, The Jauntee, and the Tragic City horns even joined in on what seemed like a three-hour dance party.
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Saturday began with Huntsville's Lamont Landers Band, a recent finalist on 'Showtime's Live at The Apollo'. I had heard a fair amount of hype about these guys, and festival attendees were buzzing about their performance all weekend. Early James & The Latest was one of the more intriguing acts on this lineup for me. I can't get enough of their sound, which has been described as "a mishmash of blues, country, folk, and jazz with crooner-esque styling." Whoever came up with that hit the nail on the head. You've got to hear the pipes on (Early) James Mullis. You won't forget him.
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After catching Steady Flow at the CukoRakko Fam Jam back in May, there was quite a bit of anticipation for this set. This band hits you with an onslaught of upbeat funk from start to finish, with some of the funkiest riffs you'll find. It would be impossible to make it through 90-minutes of Steady Flow without a little movin' and shakin'. Guitarist Tanner Brown's use of the talk box adds an especially fun element to the table, as seen during the band's creative spin on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Thankfully, this wouldn't be the last time we saw Brown on stage shredding. 
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Watch footage from Get Rhythm's drum circle here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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I try my best to stay in tune with as many bands as possible, but there are always going to be a few that slip through the cracks. The New Orleans Suspects were a perfect example for me...until Saturday night. They're easily one of the most seasoned, accomplished groups to play this festival, and I haven't stopped listening to their music since leaving. Specific highlights came in the form of songs such as "Let's Get It Started," "Cocaine Jane," and a cover of The Wild Magnolia's "Peace Pipe." Do yourselves a favor and give those tracks a whirl.
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Following the Suspects, Skydyed took the festival in an entirely new direction, and I couldn't have been more impressed. While one could classify this band as 'jamtronica', a simple term couldn't possibly do them justice. Their placement as the final band on Saturday night couldn't have been more fitting. As I stood in front of the stage and looked around the amphitheater, hundreds of people were getting down in ways I can't even describe. It was a perfect picture in many ways. 
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Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend came from The Talismen, the youngest band to ever hit the stage at CukoRakko. The Montgomery-natives are scattered across three different colleges, but you would never know it. The original plan was for two thirty-minute pop-up sets under the pavilion, between sets on the main stage. It didn't take long to decide that these guys deserved an additional late-night set. Word quickly spread across the festival grounds, and the band took full advantage of the opportunity.
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The level of improvisation displayed on The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup," Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle," and Phish's "Chalkdust Torture" was ridiculous. Tanner Brown, Wildman Steve, the Tragic City horns, and others joined in for Kool & The Gang's "Get Down Tonight," which was sandwiched perfectly with Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing." Equally as impressive were a few Talismen originals: "Strange Man" and "The Lawnchair Song." Get ready, because you'll be hearing a lot more about this band in the future. 
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Watch The Talismen performing "Chalkdust Torture" > "Whole Lotta Love" > "Chalkdust Torture" here:
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Sunday started off with one of Birmingham's hottest acts, The Brook & The Bluff. This was a new band for me, but after hearing of their recent signing with The Paradigm Agency, I knew that we were in for a treat. This band's unique sound and beautiful harmony vocals made for a perfect early Sunday set. Another Birmingham act, Eat a Peach, would take the stage next and lay down a scorching 90-minutes of Allman Brothers Band classics. All five members of this band also perform with the Black Jacket Symphony, and I can't imagine there is a better ABB tribute out there. You can see for yourself with the video footage of "Melissa" below. 
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Watch footage of Eat a Peach performing "Melissa" here:
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The living legend Charlie Hunter would then close out the weekend with his amazing trio. I had been waiting to see Charlie perform live for many years, and he was even better than expected. Watching this guy essentially play bass and lead guitar simultaneously is nothing short of mind blowing. For this performance, Hunter was joined by Grammy Award winning drummer Derrick Phillips (Hank Williams Jr.) and Ms. Dara Tucker, whose vocals had all of Horse Pens 40 melting. This was yet another Sunday that we'll all be talking about for years to come. 
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At the end of the day, I just can't say enough about this festival and the team behind it. I consider it one of my greatest honors to be involved with CukoRakko. Having the ability to live out these magical experiences at Horse Pens 40 is something that I will never take for granted. I can say "thank you" enough to the Schultz family for their willingness to share this magical property with us. The CukoRakko family is beyond special, so I won't even try to cheapen it with words. You know who you are. And for everyone else, if you ever have the opportunity to witness live music at this incomparable venue, I advise you run, not walk, towards that opportunity. Until next time...
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CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival Confirms 2018 Lineup August 07, 2018 16:20

 

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Festival organizers have revealed the initial lineup for CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival, which returns Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL for the fifth consecutive year on October 6th - 8th. This annual, grassroots music and arts festival has seen tremendous growth with each year, and 2018 looks to be no exception. The Fall Fest lineup includes veteran nationally touring acts such as The New Orleans Suspects, Charlie Hunter Trio, and The Fritz, as well as Steady FlowThe JaunteeEat a Peach (Allman Brothers Tribute)The Brook & The BluffLamont Landers Band, Early James & The LatestSkydyed, and The Pearl

Advance general admission tickets and VIP packages can be purchased at CukoRakko.com.  Stay tuned for info on the official Thursday night pre-party, future updates, exclusive artist interviews, and everything you need to know about CukoRakko. See below for further info on what to expect from this year's lineup.

As part of our CukoRakko preview coverage, we're giving away a pair of weekend passes to the festival. To enter the contest, head over to the Live & Listen Facebook page, share this post, and tag a friend in the comments section. Make sure your settings are designated to public, so we can see the shared post on our end. 

Artwork by Mike Sears: Light Train Studio

The New Orleans Suspects

New Orleans Suspects began playing together in 2009 as a pick-up band at the Maple Leaf in New Orleans. Comprised of some of the most seasoned, highly respected players in NOLA, the group called themselves The Unusual Suspects. Their chemistry was undeniable and by the summer of 2011 they decided to tour full-time, renaming the band New Orleans Suspects. They quickly began attracting large crowds from San Francisco to New York. They've released four CDs and established themselves as one of New Orleans’ best supergroups.

Charlie Hunter Trio

With a career spanning 16 years and almost 20 albums, Charlie Hunter consistently ups his game as an innovative writer and bandleader. He has worked with the likes of Norah Jones , Mos Def, John Mayer, D’Angelo and countless others. He is widely considered the authority on the seven and eight - string guitar, and continues to stun audiences with his ability to simultaneously bust out tasty bass parts, melodic leads and swinging rhythms.

Hunter has previously recorded for the venerable Blue Note label, Concord, Ropeadope, GroundUP and others. His recent independent venture is steered by his motivation to release music that most inspires him. Critics have touted his genius technique, but it's his profound artistic sensibility that propels his original music. Hunter's signature style of writing and performing has secured his place as one of today's great guitarists.

The Fritz

The Fritz is a soul-driven dance rock band hailing from Asheville, NC. The group’s aggressive approach to funk, soul, and rock creates a sound that is uniquely their own. Their high-energy, danceable songs provide a platform for each member to shine. With powerful vocals, climactic solos, and tight grooves, The Fritz has built a devoted following and is captivating audiences everywhere.

Originally formed in the rehearsal spaces of University of North Florida's School of Music, The Fritz discovered an immediate chemistry. Drawing on influences such as Prince, Talking Heads and Jimi Hendrix, the quintet integrated their diverse musical tastes and began writing music together. 

With their college days behind them, the Fritz soon set their eyes on the mountains of Western North Carolina, eventually settling in Asheville in July 2011. After the release of their 2012 debut album, Bootstrap, the band launched into a near-constant touring schedule. With appearances at festivals such as Hulaween, Wakarusa, and Catskill Chill, the band quickly gained a reputation as a live act not to be missed.

Steady Flow

From the Heart of the Midwest, Steady Flow brings a unique style of powerful funk music like you've never heard it before. Formed in 2012 by 18 year old, soul guitarist extraordinaire, Tanner Brown, and his older brother, Ky "Goonie-Mom" Brown on bass guitar, the group has now transformed into a six-piece funk-powerhouse, quickly claiming their spot as one of the best live acts around.

In Steady Flow's short existence, the group has taken on music festivals such as North Coast, Summer Camp, Phases of the Moon, and the list goes on. The band is constantly turning heads at every performance as their hard hitting Funk Rock compositions shake the room and force all audiences to dance, rage, & simply feel good.

Steady Flow released their first EP, "The Oneoff Sessions" in 2013, and their debut album, "Loud." in June 2015. The band released their newest full length album, "Do You Like That?" in April 2017! Do not miss a live show near you. Steady Flow is "The Future Of Funk."

The Jauntee

In a world filled with instant gratification, gimmicky over saturation and a lack of true improvisation, The Jauntee pays tribute to music’s ability to transcend simple entertainment and cultivate a truly distinctive experience. The Jauntee has fostered a musical community based on a breadth of original material that engages fans through nightly exploration and risk taking. Averaging over one hundred shows a year, with each containing a unique set list and their own special improvisational moments, the band is constantly expanding upon what defines them and their live performances.

With almost a decade’s worth of touring experience; appearances at major festivals such as Peach Fest, Catskill Chill, and Resonance; and 36 states toured with stops at national touring staples such as Brooklyn Bowl, Georgia Theatre, and the Paradise Rock Club, The Jauntee have been nurturing a fanbase of dedicated followers who are inspired by their music and willing to travel to see what the band has in store next. Fans that thoroughly analyze their music, track their set lists and passionately promote their music. The Jauntee makes each night an exciting prospect of a new shared experience with bust-outs, fresh jamming, poignant covers, and accessible songwriting.

Their upcoming live album “ALWAYS NEVER KNOWING” is a quintessential selection of live works from the band’s 2017 two-night-run at The Bridge Sound & Stage in their hometown of Cambridge, MA. It features 16 tracks that were professionally recorded, mixed, and mastered by sound engineer Alex Allinson. It showcases the band’s masterful playing and inspiring ability to take their original music and create something uniquely theirs night after night. It also features nine previously unreleased tracks that have quickly become staples of their live show. Experience the band in their purest element, pushing the boundaries of their sound while sharing that trip with their fans.
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Eat a Peach (An Allman Brothers Tribute)

Eat A Peach consists of five guys from Birmingham that share a mutual respect for the Allman Brothers music. With Will Cash on guitar, Matt Casey on guitar, Peyton Grant on keys, Mark Lanter on drums, and Aaron Branson on bass, what was once just an idea in high school came to life in the summer of 2008. All the members found their way back to Birmingham and back out on the music scene again. After a lot of rehearsing and learning tunes, the boys were ready to take the classic songs to the stage. With a great deal of local success, the band decided to hit the road playing college towns, private events, and festivals. Keep your eyes peeled for Eat A Peach in a town near you! Anyone who is a fan of the Allman Brothers Band is sure to have a great time at an Eat A Peach show.

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The Brook & The Bluff

Established in Birmingham, AL, The Brook & The Bluff is a four-man band that has been traveling and recording music since late 2016. The group consists of frontman Joseph Settine, drummer John Canada, guitarist Alec Bolton and bassist Fred Lankford. 

The guys have quickly become recognized for their evocative blend of instrumental talent and vocal harmony. These elements are readily apparent in the band's first single, “Masks.” Released in September of 2016, the song has helped spur the band forward in their musical pursuits. 

The group's first year as a full band has been widely successful. From charting on Spotify's US and Canada Viral 50 Playlists, performing at the NAMM shows in both Nashville and Anaheim, and selling out shows in Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville, the band has had an exhilarating 2017. The band will be releasing a variety of new music in 2018!

Lamont Landers Band

Born and raised in Alabama, Lamont Landers grew up absorbing the soulful sounds of the south that surrounded him. At the age of 14 he taught himself how to play guitar, and at the age of 19 began singing. He spent years quietly honing his talents behind his bed room doors, listening to records by Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Sly & The Family Stone, and Ray Charles on repeat. At the age of 22 a candid video recorded by his sister of him performing the Ray Charles’ classic “Hit the Road Jack” went viral on YouTube, and with the help of Reddit.com garnered over 400,000 views overnight. His YouTube channel now has over 11,000 subscribers and over 1.9 million views, and his four-piece outfit, The Lamont Landers Band has since become a staple in college towns and perform across the southeast bringing their joyful noise of Soul, Funk, and R&B to audiences of all sizes.

And now with their crowd-pleasing performance on Showtime at the Apollo, the Lamont Landers Band is destined to become a household name.

Early James & The Latest

Birmingham based Americana band that attempts to re-spin what has been spun before. A mishmash of Blues, Country, Folk, and Jazz with crooner-esque styling.  While drawing influences from both old and new, we attempt a unique spin on something that has been spun many times over. A combination of genres that will not only knock your socks off, but put them back on for you afterwards.

Skydyed

Skydyed is a three-piece band that blends cutting edge electronic production with live instrumentation from Fort Collins, CO.

Featuring Andrew Slattery on bass synths and bass guitar, Max Doucette on guitar and keys, and Craig Babineau on drums, the band integrates generations of the state’s extensive musical heritage with their own deep-seated ties to the electronic music scene. With roots in rock, funk and jazz, Skydyed has created their own, diverse sound that intertwines organic live drums, bass and guitar through soulful jam, hard-hitting bass and profound break-beats.

With their unique and advanced production, Skydyed has established itself as a can’t miss performance that bridges the gap between EDM and live music.

The Pearl

The Pearl is a product of collaboration... a natural progression of musicians playing next to one another in different settings with different people, starting in 2016. All three members are quite good at keeping themselves musically busy, so as the gigs began to overlap, side projects and pop-up shows, typically featuring a mixture of this trio with other local talent, starting becoming more frequent.

As musicians, they also share a common thread in that all three work exceptionally hard between shows to practice and grow as musicians and people. Each member, even before they had met, had developed borderline excessive practice routines so, in hindsight, forming a trio was the move to make. 

Finally, in the Spring of 2018, when Taylor moved back home from Nashville to finish his masters in music education from Belmont, all it took was one trio gig for The Pearl to start writing, booking, and practicing together many hours a week. 

Here we are, just a little ways down the road, with full sets of original material + pages of cover songs, pulling crowds to some of the areas most popular venues & festivals.
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Pigeons Playing Ping Pong Announces Domefest 2017 Initial Lineup January 19, 2017 13:48

Today, festival organizers Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have announced the initial wave of bands set to play their eighth annual music festival Domefest on May 18-20, 2017 at Fort Royale Farm in Bedford, PA. 

High-energy psychedelic funk band and official hosts Pigeons Playing Ping Pong will play four sets throughout the weekend, alongside performances by Consider The Source, Aqueous (x2), Electric Love Machine (x2), Broccoli Samurai and many other jam scene favorites. This year’s event will be the second consecutive Domefest held in Bedford, PA.

We’re really looking forward to bringing Domefest back to Fort Royale Farm,” said Jeremy Schon, founder of Domefest and lead guitarist of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. “The venue has the perfect vibe, and I couldn’t be happier with the lineup we’re bringing there this year!”

Advance tickets are on sale now for only $75 here (mt.cm/domefest-2017). Tune into Domefest’s Facebook Page for full details and more artists TBA.

 

Domefest 2017 Initial Lineup

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong (x4), Consider The Source, Aqueous (x2), Electric Love Machine (x2), Broccoli Samurai, The Fritz, Swift Technique, LITZ, Deaf Scene, Strange Machines, The Clock Reads, and many more artists TBA.

Watch this pro-shot multi-angle video of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong performing “Whoopie > 1999 > 2001” at Domefest 2016:

 

 


Live & Listen's 'Bands You Should Know': The Fritz July 29, 2016 13:48

Photo by Joshua Marc Levy and Asheville Art Family

Live & Listen is pleased to continue a brand new weekly feature known as Bands You Should Know.  This new concept will highlight a different band each Friday with an interview, general background information, current happenings, as well as videos and audio from each band.  After nearly two years of various interviews and artist spotlights, we feel that installing a consistent weekly feature is the perfect move as we progress forward.

For our fifth edition of Bands You Should Know, we sat down with Jamie Hendrickson (guitar) of The Fritz, a progressive, five-piece funk project that has been making major noise out of Asheville, North Carolina in recent years.  We were fortunate enough to catch The Fritz's recent String Cheese Incident Afterparty in Atlanta, and we haven't stopped listening since.  If you're looking for a fresh dose of soulful funk with elements of improvisation, look no further than The Fritz.  You'll end up with an impromptu dance party of epic proportions.  

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

The Fritz is going on five years strong now.  Tell me a little bit about this band's background and how everything ultimately came together in Asheville.

Jamie: We all actually met in Jacksonville, Florida.  Everyone was in school studying music.  We started playing together; maybe a local show every couple of months.  We were writing a lot of music.  Once everyone started graduating, we decided that this was something worth pursuing.  That's when we moved to Asheville, about five years ago.  From there, we started doing everything ourselves from the ground up.  We were booking our own gigs, buying a crappy old van, and just trying to be a touring band.  It's been a very long, gradual, slow process of getting there.  It's been a lot of hard work, but now, it's really going well.

Yeah it's definitely not an easy task, and it takes time to build anything great.  

So, many people tend to think of cities like New Orleans and Nashville for their music scene, but Asheville's music scene is certainly strong as well.  How much of an impact does such a strong, tight-knit music scene have on a young band like The Fritz?

Jamie: We moved to Asheville because it was a booming, central location on the east coast.  We knew that we wanted to be playing up and down the east coast.  We didn't want to get too far from the southeast, because we had already started building a following in Jacksonville, Tampa, and Atlanta.  Asheville is a beautiful place.  It offers a lot of things we love, like camping and hiking.  It's a very affordable place for a musician to live.  It also just has a great, bustling local music scene.  People go out and support live music.  The Tuesday Night Funk Jam has been an Asheville staple for 8-9 years around different venues.  That really helped us out when we first moved here.  We would go out and play often.  The guys from Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band hosted it and welcomed us with open arms. We were able to blend into the community pretty quickly.

Watch The Fritz perform "Calculate" with The Horns from Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band on 07.08.16 here:

It's really cool that a city the size of Asheville still manages to have such a nice variety of venues.  It seems like there are multiple spots for a band of any size to get out and play.

Jamie: Oh yeah, exactly.  Asheville is a music destination.  That's why a lot of great music comes here.  Even the really big bands, like Widespread Panic and String Cheese Incident.  Phish even came and played here several years ago.  Nine Inch Nails and other bands like that come and play the arena.  Then you have mid-sized venues like The Orange Peel, which still holds about 1000 people.  Smaller than that, you have the Asheville Music Hall, New Mountain, and The Mothlight, and tons of other venues.  There is so much music coming through all of the time.

I've had some really fun nights at The One Stop as well.

Jamie: Yeah, of course.  That was actually the first venue we played when we moved here.  They’ve done an awesome job to build the smaller bands into regional bands.

That makes sense.  I've seen some great music in the corner of that little bar.  I can only imagine how many great bands have come through there at one point or another.

So, I recently saw you guys for the first time at Aisle 5 in Atlanta, and that funky, soulful nature of this band really gets a room moving.  There seems to be a whole lot of room for creativity within each song.  What's your strategy towards improvisation?  I'm always interested to hear about this concept.

Jamie: Most of the time, we improvise within tight parameters.  Sometimes, there will be some slight improvisation over a section where it sounds like it isn't improvised at all.  We know exactly how long it's going to be and when it's going to go into the next section.  Most of the parameters are planned and rehearsed, but hopefully, we're trying to fool people into thinking that we're coming up with it on the spot.  Once per set, we like to have a part that is purely improvised.  We know where it's going to go, but we don't really know how it's going to get there.  Ideally, people wouldn't even be able to tell the difference.  It would be nice, at the end of the set, for people to really have no idea where we improvised.  

Watch The Fritz perform "Another Way" from The Shoe Sessions Vol. 1 here:

You guys got in the studio back in 2013 and recorded Bootstrap.  I'm sure that was a pivotal moment.  What was the recording process like?  Any plans to get back into the studio this year?

Jamie: We recorded that album a few years ago down in Florida at Crooked Tree Studios.  We had some great engineers help us with that.  It was a lot of fun, and it was just us taking our first batch of songs and putting them together.  We only play about three of those songs live now.  To really excited to say that we're recording our next album in January.  There is this great band, Turkuaz, and the singer/songwriter/guitarist of their band is producing it with us up in Syracuse, NY.

Wow.  So, that would be Dave Brandwein, right?

Jamie: Yeah, it's going to be really fun.  We’ve played a handful of shows with Turkuaz in the past year and have become great friends with them.  We just loved them. They're great people.  We had discussed it then, and once we started seriously thinking about a time frame, we gave Dave a call.  It ended up working out with everyone's schedule.  We've been writing a ton of new music, and we can’t wait to get it all down in the studio.

That's a great idea and a perfect fit.  I'll be looking forward to hearing this one.

Jamie: I don't know if you've heard the most recent Turkuaz album, Digitonium, but it's amazing,  It's really, really good.  He's really creative.  The plan is to have a single out next summer.

Very cool.  I've probably listened to Turkuaz more than any other band in the past year.  They are pretty amazing, and they put on one hell of a show.

Jamie: Oh yeah...they're great.  They are a huge band, and they are power funk.  They advertise power funk, and that's what you get.  It's ballsy, and it's great.

Photo by Nick Sonsini: Sonsini Media

Things really seem to be taking off over the past two years.  You guys have been touring more extensively and playing a lot of new cities.  What have been the band's favorite cities and venues thus far?  Any particular shows that have really stood out?

Jamie: I would say that Atlanta is getting to be a place we really look forward to.  We really just started playing there regularly.  Of course, we always love going to Spirit of Suwannee Music Park.  We're actually heading down to the Roosevelt Collier Summer Splashdown this weekend.  We'll be back there in October for Hulaween.  Collectively, that's probably our favorite place.  It’s just a one of a kind music venue.

I can relate.  Suwannee is definitely an amazing place.  There is a little magic in the air there.

Jamie: It's great.  We were down there this spring for AURA, which was a blast.

We're in the midst of a time where album sales are nearly extinct.  There's also more bands and more music than ever before.  What do you guys have to focus on moving forward to allow this band to flourish and take things to the next level?

Jamie: I would say number one...and this seems like a cliche thing to say...but it's just the music.  I think it all comes down to that.  You have to have a good product to put out there.  There are all sorts of important business things as well, but when it all comes down to it, it's all about the music.  We try to make it as good as it can possibly be.  People can tell if you're constantly pushing it, spending time doing it, and assessing over it.  People can tell that difference right away.  They might be able to translate what it is right away, but they know it's good.

That's a great point.  You can't let yourself get caught up in the business aspect.  You've got to stay true to yourself and the music.  Nothing can replace that tight-knit chemistry of a great band

Jamie: You can have the greatest music in the world, but if you don't have the right business strategy, it's not going to work.  So that's really important.  The things I love the most about the bands is just seeing them and thinking, "Wow!  That is undeniably amazing."  We just saw this band in Asheville last night called Mingo Fishtrap.  They're from Austin, Texas.  Oh my god, this band...they are so fantastic.  From the first song you hear, you're just like, "Wow!  I don't know what this is, but this is amazing.  I have to know about this."  Trying to have that WOW effect is our main focus.

Watch The Fritz perform "Sawbones" at 1904 Music Hall on 07.02.16 here:

Aside from what we've discussed, what's on the horizon for The Fritz the rest of this year?  What do you guys have on the calendar that you're really looking forward to?

Jamie: Well, the thing that I'm most excited about, as far as this summer goes, is the cool festivals that we're playing here over the next few weeks. We're doing a festival around Asheville called SoulShine with Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band and The Mantras.  That will be a late night set.  We also have Camp Barefoot, which we're excited about.  We should be super busy this fall all along the east coast, which will culminate at Hulaween.  That's going to be a blast.  Hopefully we’ll be able to get some hang time after we play our set.  We love that place so much.

That would be a difficult festival to leave as soon as the set is over.

Jamie: Usually, we will hang out for the night after our set. This is one that I would certainly like to stay for at least two nights.  The lineup is amazing.  The production staff does an excellent job.  I haven't actually been to Hulaween yet.  Since the band is usually playing elsewhere for Halloween, this will be our first time playing and going to the festival.  I've heard really great things, and I am pretty excited about it.  We were hoping it was going to work out, and fortunately it did.  We've been playing around Florida for a while now and have a lot of family friends down there!

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Photo by Nick Sonsini: Sonsini Media