north pacific string band

Local Santa Cruz band North Pacific String Band releases debut album “Steak & Eggs”!

photo by Blake Goodmacher; featured image by Yasamine June

“Sure, sure…fersherrsure,” the boys of North Pacific String Band mumbled enthusiastically when asked to play some more tunes on my show, Pickin on the Porch with Auntie Em, a few weeks back.

The five-piece string band consists of Steven Stubblefield on mandolin and vocals, Jeff Wilson on banjo, Alex Bice on upright bass and vocals, Evan Penza on guitar and vocals, and Jan Purat on fiddle and vocals. All these boys live locally within Santa Cruz County and have played many houseshows, on-campus shows at the UC, and gigs at local music venues. This summer, they packed up and headed out to tour throughout Northern California and Oregon. When they came back to release their debut album “Steak & Eggs” on August 22, I asked them to come hang out on KZSC’s own bluegrass show.

In the times between being gratefully serenaded by the band in the studio, I asked a few questions about the recording & production process and the tour.

All thirteen original tracks were recorded live with two microphones in the Corralitos Grange Hall. This specific place was acceptable to bassist Alex after clapping his hands a bit and recognizing its “sweet wood tones.” And the central coast of California in general provides as North Pacific’s key source of inspiration–what they like to call “central coast ramblin'” with all its trees and ocean and big blue skies.

When I asked about their favorite show played while on tour, I remembered that the best gigs aren’t always planned. They all agreed on a scenic overlook at a truck stop near Manzanita, Oregon. The crowd’s energy was on cue; everyone was feeling NPSB’s impromptu busking. After seeing these boys play more than a few times, I can attest that a spontaneous, outdoor setting that revolves around nature’s beauty is precisely where they flourish most.

Of course, North Pacific String Band did not forget to mention the lasting relationships made and incredible musicianship witnessed at the Northwest String Summit festival put on by Yonder Mountain String Band in Oregon. One can only imagine the plethora of amazing stringy sounds heard that weekend in August. And get this–NPSB played music on top of the Further tour bus. Cool?! I’d say these boys have their priorities set straight.

Back in the air-room at KZSC, North Pacific played a few songs they worked on while on the road called “Goin’ to the West” and “Big South Skies.” Then they got down to their song “Murphy” (track 2 on “Steak & Eggs”) with more elongated notes and gritty, bluesy chops. They slowed it down to the point where it sounded like their instruments were talking to each other (which I’ve noticed these boys do a lot–they work together beautifully). They built up the tension little by little then picked it up again with some groovin’ guitar slaps, sweet harmonic fiddle/banjo duo, delicate mando chopping, and finished it off with Alex’s heavy bass punctuation.

Stevee, Jeff, Alex, Jan, and Evan have been playing together for a while, have had time to experience lasting memories, and are individually pretty damn funny characters themselves. North Pacific String Band incorporates a “prograssive” sound to their bluegrass–and sometimes jazzy–roots, making sure to give each member solo time to shine, while keeping a youthful humor that the audience utilizes in its own stomp and clap. Their sound is coherent, tight, and undeniably heartfelt; you can really hear the feeling in the melodies and accompanying harmonies.

Check out North Pacific String Band for more information, merch, and show dates at northpacificcompany.org!

intrinsic

Interview with The Contortionist’s Jonathan Carpenter

Every now and then, a band comes along that just blows everyone out of the water with each musical piece that they write. Right now, that band is The Contortionist. I recently got a chance to sit down (or rather, stand up) with their lead singer, Jonathan Carpenter, to talk about their newest release, Intrinsic.

Bröötalisk: Alright, let’s cut to the chase. Intrinsic is, to say the least, a powerful record. Can you give me your though process behind the transition from Exoplanet to Intrinsic? What did you want to accomplish with this record?

Jonathan Carpenter: When we did Exoplanet, we went with the space vibe and that was something that I think, even before I was in the band, was a goal for the end result to be a sci fi type of story. With this album, we had to make a choice of where to go. It’s kind of like a novel style of music. I think we just kept the elements that makes us different and stand out and what we’re good at and finally carved out all the shit we just didn’t want to do anymore. Kinda made a new sound that represents what we enjoy playing live and what we can play live well. We wanted to push ourselves further and know that we’re getting better at writing music and performing it. We tried to get our wide range of sound in the new album and diversified it. Keyboards are definitely more pronounced this record, but they also don’t take over the album. I think overall we’re really pleased with how production and our concepts turned out.

Bröötalisk: Where Exoplanet was about the destruction of our homeworld and our search for a new one, Intrinsic is more about the human mind and how we interpret reality. What inspired you to write such a complex album? Are these kinds of thought provoking themes something you plan to do with later records?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdnIMto1WNU

Jonathan Carpenter: There a bunch of books that I’ve read, mostly science, not necessarily science fiction, that talk about topics that are still being discovered, like neuroanatomy and different biotechnologies that are discussed on the album as far as story goes. Reading books like that inspired me to talk about things that could happen in the future. Things that could really change our daily lives and experiences of reality.

Bröötalisk: Misha Mansoor of Periphery mentioned that Intrinsic is more of a “grower album”. That is, you have to listen to it multiple times before you really understand and appreciate the record. Is that something you were going for with Intrinsic?

Jonathan Carpenter: No, I don’t think that necessarily motivated us. But we didn’t really have a goal to make music that could easily be understood either. We would ask ourselves, “Do we feel like these songs are any more commercial or simplified that represents pop music or anything that’s not thought provoking?” We still feel like the sounds and everything are very interesting and that they break expectations.

Bröötalisk: Speaking of Misha, he always speaks very highly of your band. Is it safe to say that The Contortionist and Periphery and are BFFs?

Jonathan Carpenter: Haha yeah, that’s a good term to describe it. Whenever we’ve toured with them, things were amazing. We got along really well. Buddying up with everybody in the tour. That was an amazing tour in general, but Periphery was definitely great to us. It was a lot of fun.

Bröötalisk: Is that when you first met the band?

Jonathan Carpenter: We had played one show with them before that, and it was just a one off day where two tours got combined randomly. It wasn’t expected. We were the first band to play out of 10 bands, so we played in front of like 15 people. They were one of the coheadliners. So yeah, we met them there, and a year later we toured together.

Bröötalisk: Many people have been speculating that Periphery and you guys might tour together some time soon. Is there any info you can give out on this?

Jonathan Carpenter: We don’t have anything solidified right now, but there have been talks between their manager and ours. Summer Slaughter was definitely something we tried to be in the running for, and unfortunately it didn’t work out this year. But who knows, maybe next year we’ll get that.

Bröötalisk:A little more off topic, I’m what you might call a vinyl enthusiast, so when I saw that Intrinsic wasn’t being pressed on vinyl, I was disappointed. Are there any future plans to release the album on vinyl?

Jonathan Carpenter: I’d imagine that’s very likely that will happen. The reason we just released a CD is because we wanted to focus on just getting it out there and then maybe later on do some secondary things and spice things up.

We just couldn’t keep our hands off of each other.

Bröötalisk: So, every time I mention that I listen to The Contortionist, almost every one seems to think I’m talking about something Cirque de Soleil. This made me wonder, where did you get the name “The Contortionist” from?

Jonathan Carpenter: I’m pretty sure that that originated from Joey, our drummer. I don’t know all the reasons for it. I think it’s kind of a mixture between sounding fucking awesome and the fact that we change our sound a lot. But I’m not really sure, it wasn’t me. I would say that it’s basically those two things. You know how it is when you have to pick out a name.

Bröötalisk: What are some of your favorite bands out there right now?

Jonathan Carpenter: There’s a lot of lighter stuff that have nothing to do with metal that I like to listen to, Deerhunter, Minus the Bear. I really like Wild Beasts a lot. As far as metal goes, the newest Textures album is still really sick, I like to jam that out. I also like Last Chance to Reason, busting out Level 2 never gets old. The new Periphery was also really awesome, I liked that. Other than that, I haven’t really been listening to music because I’ve been so busy finishing up recording. But now that that’s over, I’m starting to get back into the cycle again.

 

Cash

Johnny Cash Special Saturday

Set your alarm early Saturday morning to hear a special honoring Johnny Cash. “The Man in
Black” recorded some of the greatest early rock & roll records for the Sun label, followed by more hits for Columbia as a country star. You’ll learn the truth about some of Johnny’s #1 Hits and have a chance to win a copy of the newly release “Number Ones” compilation. Your Wednesday aloha DJ Lani B. will gallop roaring out the chute at 6 am this Saturday as we whoop ‘n holler with Cash in hand on KZSC.