Leftover Salmon's Vince Herman: "The string music revolution will kick dubstep's ass"
Alicia J. Rose
Leftover Salmon (due this Sunday in the middle of 7th and 8th street on Santa Fe between 1 and 6 p.m) has graced the the bluegrass scene with their talents for 22 years and counting. With the passing of Mark Vann, the band hasn't produced an album in eight years. The new addition of Andy Thorn, carried over from Emmitt-Nershi Band, sparked a new interest in touring and inspiration is in a steady flow among the members. The band's new album, Aquatic Hitchhikers, drops May 22, but the band couldn't resist to take over the streets for a little while to show Denver that they still got it. We spoke with Vince Herman and asked him some questions about this new situation they got themselves into.
Westword: Why did it take eight years for the band to release another album?
Vince Herman: Well, when Mark Vann passed in 2001, we were spiritually limping along -- just trying to keep it going. We finally called it quits because the vibe wasn't feeling right anymore. I made a few records with Great American Taxi. Then, we played a few festivals here and there, so we decided to put some more effort into Leftover Salmon. Andy Thorn, our new addition, re-established the energy that we had with Mark Vann from those previous years. Andy is a great guy to hang with and he is obviously a great player. The music had that little something extra with Andy, we figured let's write a new record and get back on the bus - the time seemed to be right.
What is so special about Thorn?
His fast, one-string stuff is insane and has a lot of characteristics like Mark -- playing, his electric guitar work, and he always surprises us with his solos. And, like I said, he is a fun guy to hang out with, so we wanted to bring him on the road.
How did he end up joining Leftover Salmon?
Chris Pandolfi suggested him as a replacement when he decided to leave the Emmitt-Nershi Band, and Andy was living in Ashville, North Carolina. After doing a few gigs with them, he moved up here. Matt Flinner -- who had been with Leftover Salmon -- couldn't make one of our shows at the time, so he had Andy fill in for him, and he had a perfect fit from the word go. Since Andy moved to Colorado and he was familiar with the material, we got him in the band.
Have you guys been preparing for the upcoming show on Sunday?
Our manager can be applauded for this one because he had to get through all the city permits and rerouting the buses so we can play on the streets. He put in a major effort for us, and this is an event that we have been wanting to do for a long time. It couldn't have a better time to do it because of out new album and it's spring time in the Rockies.
How long did that whole process take?
It took about six months to jump through all the hoops.
What was the angle you guys focused on when you first had the idea to make a new album?
We knew that our song-writing abilities had to step up since it is the first album in eight years. We got together for a couple writing sessions four or five days before we went into the studio. We tried to make the songs efficient and hard-hitting as possible.
How is this new album different from the rest in the Leftover Salmon collection?
It's definitely a Salmon record, but our song-writing has advanced and the sounds are more diverse than ever -- we owe a lot of that to Steve Berlin. I think doing the other solo and side projects helped us feel more comfortable in the studio, and our collaboration tactics have sharpened.
Did Thorn shed some new light on the band when making the album?
His writing is great and his instrumentals are progressive new-grassy type of stuff. His song "Light Behind the Rain" is strong and he pumps out new powerful material. We took that opportunity to get more diverse stuff going right a way.
What is the future looking like as of right now?
We are going to do sixty shows this year, maybe a little more when it is all said and done. We plan on doing some festival dates then back on the road for a three week tour in the fall. You know, we are just feeding the beast like we use to. We have about four hundred songs that we can pull out at anytime in our repertoire, and I feel even better about the new material that we have.
Have you guys accommodated with the new times versus when you use to tour in the '90s?
It's a badge of pride that we have played this long. We are pretty psyched. It was a whole different world when we started to tour twenty years back, when cellphones or the internet weren't around. It a different process to advertise your shows and how to communicate with all the folks back home. It's cool not to have a pocket full of quarters and finding a payphone all the time now. Things have changed over the years, that's for sure.
We are all tech savvy now. We are working on getting a hologram like they did for Tupac at Coachella. It's kind of top secret stuff at this point. We won't have it on this Sunday, but we are working on it. The times open up all new doors nowadays. Maybe we will have Mark Vann sit in again. All there is to know is that we are working on it and I probably shouldn't have said anything about it.
How long does Leftover Salmon have left?
At least another twenty years. We are going like the Rolling Stones man. We have another few albums left in us. We will probably come out with another in fall. We are going to focus on a dubstep record coming up soon, and we are going to abandon all of out instruments on stage, so we can play on laptops. We believe that music should come from instruments in human hands. We play the same kind of music that you would play on your porch, but just turn it up a little louder when we are on stage -- that's how we roll. It's all about interacting with other human beings.
Do you think you guys have a solid spot in the music scene in terms of the all the new music popping up these days?
It's already happening, man. The string music revolution will kick dubstep's ass in the long run -- that's my prediction. Roots, man. As a country, we are trying to figure out how to live in this economy. I think we should go play music on our porch, grow gardens and depend on each other. Our music reflects those values in ways that other music does not.
Bill Clinton was in office and the economy was cranking at the time. It's been twenty years since the L.A. riots -- for those who felt they weren't sharing in the process. One thing is for certain, the streets of Denver are ours. It's our town and it's where we live. We are going to bring music to the streets and that's a powerful thing. People coming together in large numbers is what America is all about.
We get together as people and support each other, and live music in the streets emphasizes that largely. It's time for people to get out from behind their Facebook pages and into the world to do real things. We feel grateful because people have been putting us in their ears for 22 years and that's why we have to celebrate. What better way to thank our fans is to put on a free show? Plus, I am approaching my fiftieth birthday too.
How did you get that special guest spot at this past Snowball Music Festival?
We have been friends with Scott for some time now, and we were going to play in Vail a couple days later, so we couldn't announce it. One of the funniest things happened on that day thought. There were some kids asking who we were on our Facebook page and they were standing in the front row screaming, 'Who are you guys?'
The kid was obviously tripping, and he put his hands on his head and said, 'We are about to see the Doobie Brothers! I can't believe we are going to see the Doobie Brothers!' That was a special moment there. It awesome to get out in front of a bunch of kids and show them what slam-grass is all about.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.