David Leyes The many bands that count on the seasoned session players who…
- Posted on Jun 15th 2011 11:30PM by Richard Trapunski
Courtesy of New Country Rehab
You play a lot of shows. Does that get tiring?
It's been a little chaotic over in New Country Rehab land recently because John, our singer, just had a baby. A little baby Showman. We're all really proud of him. He seems a little tired, but in love and happy. In terms of touring, it works well for all of us that we're not just going away for an indefinite period of time. We're going on specific trips
How did the band originally get together?
It was originally supposed to be John's solo project. I was recently just looking over old emails and I have one from John from three Novembers ago that says, "Do you want to come over and play 'Black Mountain Rag' in my kitchen?" which is a pretty innocent beginning. What we started to sound like was different from what his solo stuff was sounding like, so we thought we'd check that out more and just push as far as it could go.
So you started out playing just covers?
John is really versed in really traditional old-time music, and he did his homework and found some tunes he wanted to do. So then he and I would reinterpret those tunes and often rewrite the music for it. In some cases, we would end up with entirely new songs, so we figured we might as well put new lyrics on it, too. That was the case for a tune called 'The Last Hand,' which started out as a traditional called 'The Jack of Diamonds.' And 'Angel of Death' was originally the Hank Williams tune 'Angel of Death,' but we rewrote the lyrics and music until it became our own.
How do you choose which songs to play?
For any one of those tunes we're just asking ourselves, "Why are we doing this? Why are we playing this song?" And the answer is that we just love those songs. They're really beautiful songs with beautiful messages. Sometimes they're dark and lonely, sometimes they're happy, but it always stems from the fact that we just love playing those songs.
You're starting with pre-existing songs, even for the originals?
That was our first writing technique but since then we've come up with more. Usually John and I will get the music going and once we feel like we have somewhat of a skeleton and semblance of a shape of a tune, then we'll bring it to Ben and Roman -- it's really important that we get everyone involved. 'The Houses in this Town Are All Falling Down' and 'Cameo,' those were both originals that we wrote from scratch.
You all play in a number of other bands as session musicians and sidemen. Is this more of a personal project for you?
"Session player" kind of looks like a dirty word, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. If there's a distinguishing line between artist and session musician, this band falls directly in the camp of artist. Everyone's looking at this band from an artistic standpoint, not just showing up and trying to do a job. We all know our way around our instruments, but it's something that we've consciously made secondary.
Do you consciously try to avoid showing off?
John is the fiddle guy north of the border, and he can pull out face-melters on that fiddle like nobody's business, but he'd rather play a good song. I think it happens a lot that people who are good at their instruments try to use songs as vehicles to impress you with how good they are. I always find that to be so paradoxical, because if you do that a lot of the time it just shows an immature approach to music.
I've heard your name is a way to distinguish yourself from New Country. Are you trying to present a better version of modern country than what's in the mainstream?
I think the term New Country is dated in the same way Nu Metal is dated, but none of us have any problem with what Taylor Swift, for instance, is doing. It's not like an angry statement on that sort of thing. It's more about professing our love to what we think is good, honest music. The root cause of this band was taking the music that we liked from the turn of the century until the '50s, and we just kind of bypassed what happened between 1960 and now.
There's been a resurgence of Americana music of late. Where do you think that's coming from?
I think it's a result of the values being really solid. People like those ideas; I don't think they're ever going to die out. Like the idea of being desperately lonely for whatever reason, anybody can identify with that. Waylon Jennings said "country music is a white man's blues" and I don't think he's wrong. It's somewhat back in style but certain elements of it I don't think have ever gone out of style.
New Country Rehab play the Dakota Tavern on Saturday, June 18 @ 1AM