Artist: Lonesome Ace Stringband
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Latest Album: Try to Make it Fly
(Editor’s Note: Answers provided by Lonesome Ace Stringband banjoist Chris Coole.)
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
Although I think the answer for each of us individually would be different, I think the most obvious single influence on us as an ensemble would be John Hartford. Specifically, the last several albums he made with the “John Hartford Stringband” (which featured Bob Carlin and Mike Compton, among others). Their approach to playing old-time fiddle tunes, especially on the albums Wild Hog In the Red Brush and Speed of the Old Long Bow, was based on a highly improvised and reimagined way of playing backup that Hartford called “Windows.” Although it wasn’t a conscious decision, and we don’t follow the approach to the letter, I think the spirit of those albums really influenced the way we play and perform old-time music, especially (instrumental) fiddle tunes.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc. — inform your music?
As a band, I think the art form outside of music that has had the biggest impact is the crank (prank) phone call. For years we’ve been listening to the Jerky Boys. We are old enough to remember the late ’80s and early ’90s when underground Jerky Boys cassette tapes were passed around organically and treasured by all who were lucky enough to possess them. About five years ago, the guys from The Henhouse Prowlers introduced us to Longmont Potion Castle, who has been anonymously releasing psychedelic crank calls since the ’80s (he’s still at it). You might think I’m being tongue in cheek when I say that these influence us as a band, but the attention to detail – especially in regard to language – and the level of improvisation are both relatable to music and inspiring. Most importantly though, it’s a great reminder that we live in a crazy world, and it’s best not to take yourself or anyone else too seriously.
What rituals do you have, either in the studio or before a show?
We like to get our heart rates up before a show if possible and maybe a bit of stretching. This often involves us having an aerobics dance party to ’80s pop and new wave. “Betty Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes is a favorite, as is “Dance Hall Days” by Wang Chung. [John] Showman favours doing some version of the “Mountain Climber” while Max [Heineman] and I are usually doing jumping jacks, dancing on the spot, or some sort of hippie clogging. Seeing three middle-aged men dancing around in the green room to The Pretenders or Blondie seems to warm the hearts of promoters and venue staff and there are probably bootlegged videos of us doing it circulating around.
If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?
The title of our new album is Try to Make it Fly. That is a line from one of the songs called “Sweeter Sound.” I’d say that song encapsulates what our mission as a band is. We are all in our 50s and have been playing music professionally (mostly full time) since we were teenagers. That song is about not giving up, even when everything might seem to be pushing you in the other direction. It’s about keeping sight of what’s important – community, friends, family, art – and letting the quality of those things in your life be the gauge of your success. With where we are in our lives and careers, that seems to be the only way forward.
Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?
There’s a song on the new album called “Smoke on the Shoulder” which is basically a recipe for smoking pork shoulder. We all love to cook and appreciate good food. We rarely miss a chance to stop at a good BBQ joint when tour routing allows. With this in mind, I’m going to say the food would be smoked brisket and pulled pork with sides of coleslaw, beans, and macaroni. The musical accompaniment to this meal would be provided by, none other than, George Jones.
Photo Credit: Joel Varjassy