Ponder the Albatross's Members Are in a Long-Distance Relationship

Ponder the Albatross
Ponder the Albatross Stephen Welchel
click to enlarge Ponder the Albatross - STEPHEN WELCHEL
Ponder the Albatross
Stephen Welchel
Ponder the Albatross has broken up — geographically speaking, that is. The once and maybe future Denver band, which mixes gypsy folk music, metal, bluegrass and jam band influences into its own style, has seen its members head for opposite ends of the country in recent months.

Frontman and mandolinist Josh Bower has set out for northwest Arkansas. Fiddle player Luke Lindholm is splitting his time between Fort Collins and Florida — “snowbird style,” as Bower puts it. Bassist Eric Vrtis is also calling the Sunshine State home, albeit in a different city than his bandmate. Only drummer Adam Chiszar has remained in Colorado, and he is currently nestled in the small foothills hamlet of Lyons.

They aren’t letting the distance break up the band, however. They like playing together. They have fun on the road. It never feels like work.

“We’ve played a lot together,” Bower says. “We are pretty much best friends. For me, it’s not a business type of thing; it’s seeing your buds again. So it’s really exciting. We're all in this together. It wouldn’t work if it weren’t for the people.”

The band has been touring rural spots in Colorado and northern New Mexico the past couple of weeks, as well as playing its first Denver show in quite some time. It’s all been going great, except for the van breaking down in Eagle outside a venue after a gig.

“It’s probably some weird air sensor,” Bower says. “But we couldn’t get it started.”
Undeterred, they ditched the van and rented a U-Haul, threw all their gear in the back and made it to their Taos show and then Las Vegas, New Mexico, over the weekend. At some point, they'll have to return to Eagle to fetch the van from the mechanic.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big fix,” Bower says. “We just have to go get it, and then we're heading for Fort Collins. We're renting a U-Haul box truck, so the sooner we can get rid of this thing, the better.”

The tour isn’t the first this year, and the band has been playing all over the United States. The musicians are picking up the pieces somewhat after losing several high-profile gigs last year because of the pandemic, including a slot at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin.

“That was one of the first ones to fall,” Bower says. “It’s good to be back on the road.”

The group's first Denver show in quite some time — at the Larimer Lounge in July — went well. The return to the Mile High City felt triumphant, even if it was on a Wednesday night.

“Great crowd,” Bower notes. “After being away for so long, it was really great. … It was pretty overwhelming for me, just all of the love, you know. … I’d love to come back and do a weekend night in Denver based on that last show. It’s fun stuff.”

It’s been about three years since Ponder the Albatross last released an album — a self-titled affair that saw the band continuing its gypsy-inflected rock. The bandmembers are working on new material, with one new original that they plan to play at their upcoming Denver show, the second in just a matter of weeks.

And they have no plans to stop, long distances be damned. Figuring out how to collaborate across thousands of miles sits at the top of the band’s priorities. Vrtis started streaming music live during the pandemic lockdowns. Bower says he just picked up some software to get the collaboration for new songs under way. It’s all kind of new.

“We're just kind of a touring band,” he says. “We're improving on all of the technology aspects of it. That will be cool to figure out."

The bandmates get most of their practice playing live, so they aren’t too worried about rehearsing over the internet. They fell right into their songs as they got back to touring this year.

“The songs are fresh in our minds,” Bower adds. “We’ve played them so many times together. There is a little dust to get off. … We’ve been playing with our original drummer. It’s really easy with him to get back. The first song — he hits it perfectly. That’s really helpful, too.”

Ponder the Albatross takes the stage at 7 p.m. October 3 at the Black Buzzard, at Oskar Blues, 1624 Market Street. For more information, check out Ponder the Albatross online.
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