It had to happen, someday: Without sibs of their own, Leo and Sami came to blows at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes... Or are they just rehearsing contra-dance steps for their July 23rd gig at Lake City?
If you don't know her, then, let us introduce you to Kristin Andreassen, singer/songwriter and Portland native who has graciously accepted our invitation to be the opening act at our CD release, April 4 at Seattle's Town Hall.
Kristin is a dazzling singer, and is equally impressive as a songwriter. Plus for us, she's absolutely grounded in traditions we love, including old-time American--she can pick a guitar and clog like it was 1899! For years, we knew her a one of those amazing Uncle Earl g'Earlz. (If you don't know the all-girl old-timey band Uncle Earl, check them out!) And today, she releases her second CD, the water-buoyed Gondolier. We're excited not only for a complete listen to the CD, but also for her online CD-release concert tonight, starting at 6 p.m. at an Internet connection near you. (Don't miss it!)
Kristin grew up in Oregon, went to college in Canada, did social work in Cape Breton, and discovered that music needed to be her professional path. Since then, she's toured the world, performing in a professional clogging company, playing with Uncle Earl, and recording with a star-studded roster of trad musicians (Dirk Powell, Aoife O'Donovan, Ruth Moody, Jefferson Hamer, Laura Cortese, Sufjan Stevens, and the like...).
She's now based in Brooklyn, New York, but travels a ton still, often landing in Portland (and Seattle, where her brother lives). Her new CD juxtaposes deep traditional roots with modern NYC indie influences. Featuring guests (O'Donovan, Hamer and Punch Brother Chris Eldridge to name a few) from the exploding New York folk scene, but written largely on a remote island in New Hampshire, the lyrically and instrumentally rich arrangements on Gondolier "explore secret passageways connecting the outer edges of disparate notions – urban and rural, childhood and old age, expectation and reality," according to her press materials.
We finally met her a year ago, spending a week staying up till dawn playing tunes with her atop a Big Sur cliff. We taught her tunes, she taught us songs, and we played and played and sang and sung, all night long. (Indeed, with out her our recordings of "Jubilee" and "Big Sur" on our new CD would never have happened.) She's played Seattle in various guises before, but she likely will be a new name to a large number of Onlies' fans, so we're delighted to share her with you!
Alas, that will have to wait until April 4. But the good news is that you can listen to her concert tonight, and buy Gondolier if you like what you hear!
By Tom Braman
As Sami’s father, I asked The Onlies if I could write a little something on their Web site regarding activities over the last two weeks, and they said yes. What follows is an attempt to convey what it’s like for an outsider like me to watch/listen to The Onlies rehearse for and record a CD.
To back up a moment, I need to tell you The Onlies are recording a new CD. About a year ago, they decided to record once more while in high school, and the summer before their busy junior year was it. They wanted the experience to be educational, and to that end they hired a professional producer, Tristan Clarridge, a musical genius (and I’m not blowing smoke here—he truly is!) best known for his work as cellist with Crooked Still and The Bee Eaters. And along with Tristan, they sought a top-notch studio where they could work long hours, away from the distractions of the city.
I’m writing from the control room of that studio, Paradise Sound, on a forested hill above Index, Wash., a stone’s throw from the north fork of the Skykomish River. Riley, Leo, Sami, and Tristan spent last week at a cabin just west of here on the Skykomish, courtesy of friends/fans (thank you Theresa, Tom, and Samia!). There, they practiced from 9 a.m. till midnight for four days straight, stopping briefly for meals and the occasional river dip. Surrounding two microphones, they played the tunes and songs for hours upon hours, listening to recordings of each take. With those, Tristan—gentle as a lamb, focused as a laser—coaxed them further and further, refining their arrangements, tightening their harmonies, locking in their rhythms.
Tristan and The Onlies broke for the weekend, and returned to Index Sunday night. Here, they met Pat Sample, owner and sound engineer of Paradise Sound. Pat’s had a home-based studio in Index since 1984. After a flood attacked his first studio, he moved it to a hill east of town, and later built a gorgeous home immediately next to it. He’s got a guest residence down the hill, to which musicians repair after long days in the studio.
Pat’s as easy-going as Tristan, and as oriented toward excellence. His control room is state-of-the-art, but he hasn’t had the heart to part with his once-state-of-the-art (circa-80s) analog tape recording deck. The main studio, walled in tenor-reverberant oak and bass-dampening cotton, is where The Onlies together have spent most of their time this week. They might have spent it separately, in any of three adjacent rooms, playing away from each other except for earphones and windows, but Tristan—seeking a groove that only physical ensemble playing can generate—wanted them playing and singing together, in the same room.
And now, four days later, at 7:14 p.m. on a Friday night, with only 3 hours and 46 minutes left to record (Pat needs to close shop tonight at 11 p.m., as he’s doing sound at a nearby music festival Saturday and Sunday), the Onlies are in the studio doing take No. 8 of “Past The Fog,” a difficult tune they’ve been playing since Leo wrote it over a year and a half ago. They’ve been joined today by bassist RuthMabel Boytz, whom we parents like to call “The Fourth Only” (she’s an only child too, and plays with Sami, Leo, and Riley quite frequently). While most of the takes have been very good, this one gets nearly derailed when Sami accidently launches into an improvised version of her solo, catching everyone (including herself) off-guard. Laughter emerges, threatening a train wreck, but miraculously they all return to the tune, finishing with a modicum of polish. \
Rehearsing the band for the next set of takes, Tristan focuses on one particular line, “Squint or look away, so you can't see past the fog. Settle in for the winter.” He has The Onlies and RuthMabel sing and play it over, and over, and over. And over and over and over. And over and over and over. For the perfect take. Will it come? We’ll see.
Tonight, after Sami, Leo, and Riley have fallen asleep, after the recording phase has ended, Tristan will be pulling an all-nighter on his laptop, splicing the best parts of Take 8 with the best parts of other takes, and the same with the other tracks recorded this weeks. He began the editing phase earlier this week, but hasn’t completed it and hopes to do by tomorrow morning, before he treks back to California. Will he finish? We’ll see.
Sami, Leo, and Riley return here on Monday, to work with Pat on mixing. Mixing is the art of insuring that each recorded sound blends perfectly with all the others—that no sound dominates others, that none is lost among the others. Pat hopes they can complete at least five tracks a day—a quick pace—because after Wednesday he’s gone for a week and a half, and after that The Onlies start their junior year at Garfield. Will they finish? We’ll see.
Assuming the editing and mixing phases do come to a proper conclusion, the recordings will be sent off to yet another engineer who will “master” them—mastering is the art of making sure that all the recorded cuts on the CD have roughly the same levels, that everything sounds consistently recorded and nothing sticks out like a sore thumb. All this, some time for advanced publicity and concert planning, and with a little luck, The Onlies hope to launch the new CD in early 2015. No name yet for the CD – they’re open to suggestion. Stay tuned!
Yes, once again, Sami's bow catches fire during an Onlies' practice session. It's such a common occurrence these days, nobody in the photo seems to care. Fortunately, the band has hired a firefighter to stand by for all practice sessions and concerts, and she was able to put the fire out in seconds. Alas, the costs of purchasing new bows for Sami has become a major drain on the Onlies finances.
Wow. This year has been one heck of an amazing year filled with endless wonders. To attempt to encapsulate this greatness, we thought we’d highlight our favorite musical moment from each month of this year. We hope to include every one of you—the most supportive and enthusiastic group of fans (more like friends) we could ask for. We owe 2013’s success to you!
Note: Links to videos are included, so do click!
January: We had the pleasure of playing the Portland Old-Time gathering for the first time! Here's a video of the Family Dance, Portland Old-Time Gathering. It was a weekend bursting with music, dancing, inspirational people, and Voodoo doughnuts. We got opportunities to jam with friends from near and far, along with deepening our Old-Time musical skills. We’re looking forward to returning again in 2014!
February: Our album was close to finished as we headed over to the East side of Lake Washington to attend Wintergrass' 2013 kid's program. Along with crazy-fun jams, adventures, and parties within ngton to attend Wintergrass 2013. We were Youth Academy Teacher Trainees (YATTs) for the deep corridors of the Bellevue Hyatt hotel, we got the opportunity to play on-stage with Darol Anger and the Furies for a song. T'was a most fabulous fiddle weekend. Later that weekend, we attended a Rushad Eggleston house concert, and got the deep and true honor of accompanying him on "Hegwilard Basugiman" (Spell check?). If you know Rushad, you know that we were joining him on a Sneth journey toward a Fwethering Ubujnux party (Spell check....again?)-circle extravaganza, as you can see in the video.
March: This month marks the birth of our first full-length CD, Setting Out to Sea! On March 16 at Hale's Palladium, the three of us rosined up our bows and tuned our strings in preparation for our CD release party. We must say, it was quite an exhilarating night. With the combination of 300+ enthused audience members (made up of friends, family, musical mentors, and personal mentors), The Barn Owls (the opening band), and our boundless excitement, the night couldn't have gone any better. The energy in that room could have fueled infinite rockets to the moon. We also received notice that we were accepted into More Music at the Moore, a program in Seattle for young artists to collaborate to put together a musical show at the Moore Theater!
April: Along with rehearsing new material for the Moore, our families decided to take a trip to Hawaii over Spring Break. It was relaxing, inspirational, and snow-cone filled. While inspired by the island, we arranged Past the Fog, the song we would later sing at the More Music at the Moore show. Mahalo, Kauai!
May: Always a crazy-busy month, we started it off with performing a collaboration with beatboxer CDQ on New Day Northwest! Under the mentorship of bass player/singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, we spent a week preparing for the big More at the Moore show after school at the Moore theater. Meshell was a great musical and personal role model for us, exemplifying her love of music and performance through her teaching style. Almost everything that came out of her mouth could be put into an inspirational quote book, we thought. We loved this experience--though different from what we usually do, because it gave us a chance to meet other young musicians in Seattle and learn to cross genre barriers. Who says a fiddle can't back up a beat boxer!
We also had the honor of performing and having an interview on KUOW!
Later on, we had an annual Folklife gig, and were asked to play the National Anthem at the Experience Music Project's Sky Church to honor Jimi Hendrix's musical influence. We put our own twist on it, just like Jimi did.
Here is our performance at More music at the Moore: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYug_j255RU; here is Riley's performance with Otieno Terry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wscoZf6qIW0; here is Sami's performance with Emily Randolph: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HLBbF2Fuxs.
You can find more videos of the group collaboration at the STG Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/seattletheatregroup?feature=watch
June: With the conclusion of school comes the favorite time of the year....SUMMER! Leo and Riley drove over to Weiser, Idaho for the Weiser fiddle contest/festival (Sami, alas, couldn't attend). With a week of jamming and fun, Leo and Riley decided to compete in the twin fiddle category of the competition. They made it through to the finals, yet had to leave too early to compete once more. Here's the video.
July: We boarded the ferry boat on our way to one of our most beloved fiddle camps, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes! While there, we spent our time roasting marshmallows, exploring abandoned barracks at Fort Warden, playing tunes in those barracks (great acoustics!), playing tunes about everywhere else, putting on crazy hats for the annual campsite hat-party, and not getting much sleep. We all got the opportunity to play a couple tunes on Ed Haley's fiddle, a really memorable musical experience.
August: Man, this month was jam-packed as well! It started with Leo's Clifftop adventure in West Virginia, winning 4th place overall and 1st place in the youth division for fiddling! We are renaming ourselves "Leo and the Onlies" as a response to his success...haha, just kidding! At the end of the month, we embarked on our West Coast Tour! T-shirts were made:
Headed down to Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle School (VOM), lead by the fearless Alasdair Fraser, we stopped to play house concerts and shows in Portland, Arcata, Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Cottage Grove. Along with MANY hours in the car, we saw many friends on our way up and down and played a lot of music on our way up and down. Valley of the Moon, like all many fiddle camps, was quite amazing. We played all sorts of tunes with all sorts of people, reconnecting with old friends and meeting new. Riley was constantly pullin' out his ole' banjo, and began to jam in the three-finger style with it! Sami was learnin' new chords on her ole' guitar, and also began to jam with it. Leo was also pullin' out his ole' banjo, and clawhammered it up. I don't know why we just went abbreviation-crazy there, but it seemed to fit the rustic mood!
September: We readjusted to school life, you know, the kind where it isn't quite the "norm" to pull out your fiddle at any time and start jamming on some tunes in the middle of the hallway like it is at fiddle camps. Schoolwork piled up, teachers were good and teachers were bad, life was busy. We did, however, play one show at the Oxbow Pumpkin Farm outside on a day where it was POURING rain...we ended up selling one CD to the two people who showed up! Here's our set-list after the day was done....
October: We played the Issaquah Salmon Days Festival, which was quite a blast. It was a warm and sunny day in October...something unheard of in Seattle!
We also played a show at the Royal Room in Columbia City, a very fun night where we saw many friends! We opened for Scrape, a small orchestra Riley is part of.
Finally, we played a show with A Thousand Years At Sea, made up of Colin and Ethan, two friends from VOM!
November: We Onlies were getting into the Mexican mood rehearsing with Paul Anastasio, Elena Delisle, Juan Barco, and RuthMable Boytz for our Calentano music show! Paul and Elena had asked us if we wanted to play some Mexican tunes (from the region of Tierra Caliente) for a couple of shows, and we had our first one at the Bounty coffeehouse! La musica de tierra caliente es muy bonita, nosotros pensamos! (Now this post is tri-lingual! Notice the Hawaiian we used earlier:) Here is a video of us playing Piedritas Al Agua.
December: Ah, we've reached the end of this fabulous year! We were notified that we made it on to Sound Off, a competition between local bands hosted by the Experience Music Project in Seattle. We're looking forward to it! We're also looking forward to having our own concert series, "the Onlies Presents." A bluegrass supergroup is coming to town on January 8th to play a show--we'll be opening for them. We played a private event on the Paramount Theater stage with a couple friends from More at the Moore, and enjoyed looking out at the massive theater from a new point of view. Our recent meeting solidified our goals for 2014, and there is some pretty exciting stuff to look forward to! Finally, we've been working tirelessly on New Year's Eve to complete writing this, complete embedding videos and pictures, complete adding a few stupid jokes to keep y'all interested. If you still are, congratulations! YOU win nothing except for extra knowledge
Aaaaannnnnddddd.....that was our year! Other stuff happened, of course, but these were our Onlies highlights. We are looking forward to the future! We hope you, the best supporters EVER, are looking forward to the future. 2014, here we come!
Definitely give the interview a listen -- it includes tunes by several of the bands -- synth pop from Laser Fox of Seattle and ethereal electronic coolness from Manatee Commune of Bellingham, and hip hop from Tommy Cassidy of West Richland. Great stuff, and stiff competition. We're excited!
When we think of music, the word "competition" isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Rather, it's being in the groove, in harmony, tight and in the pocket. But alas, we're going to throw that all aside now that we've been invited to join the Experience Music Project's 2014 "Sound Off!" battle of under-age Pacific Northwest bands.
The four-Saturdays event (Feb. 8, 15, 22, and March 1) pits 12 up-and-coming soloists and ensembles against one another, though we're guessing it'll be a lot more fun than fight. Our big date is Feb. 15 -- hopefully you can come and cheer us on. We know several of the performers, and listened to all the others today, and we know that we'll be in great musical company, performing alongside folkies, indie rockers, hip-hop artists, soul singers, hard rockers, and so forth.
The fans have spoken. We have created an email list for news about upcoming concerts and other news. We must admit that that this development came with more than a tad of heartbreak: We are, after all, trad musicians, and have always relied on word of mouth, smoke signals, and the occasional Web/FB post. But with this act, we are firmly moving into the mid-1990s (when we were just little visions of anticipated familial gratification in our parents' heads), when Al Gore invented the Internets and e-mail lists grew exponential.
So, here's the deal: Subscribe here! And let us know what you want to know. We'll do our best to tailor. Hey, it's a 20th century technology, right? Doesn't that make it trad?
We've had some pretty good publicity of late, and of course we want to make sure that you can check out what you may have missed.
There was our New Day Northwest appearance on Monday May 6th, in promotion of More Music @ The Moore. Here's a link to the video of that.
And we were excited to be interviewed in the super fancy KUOW performance studios by Marcie Sillman for the highly rated morning radio show "Weekday." The segment was aired on May 10th, and is linked here.
We are so dang excited: Our CD's gone to the printers and it should be available for download soon: 11 tunes, and three songs, and one heckuva good time.
Oh, and another heckuva good time: Our CD release party, 7:30 p.m. March 16 at Hale's Palladium in Ballard. Come! We've asked our buddies The Barn Owls to open. It's an all-ages event. Doors open at 7 p.m., and there'll be food, soda, beer, wine. Cost is $10 adults, $5 for students (10 and under free).
More details in the weeks to come, including some video fun, behind-the-scene details on the CD and its tunes, and anything else we can think of. Oh yeah -- maybe even a taste of the tunes!
See you March 16? We really hope so!