ERIN AND THE WILDFIRE RECORD THREE-SONG EP AND PREPARE FOR FLOYDFEST 14

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY ROB PATTERSON AND PROVIDED BY ERIN LUNSFORD

Though their music will not actually ignite a flame, ERIN AND THE WILDFIRE will certainly make you feel the need to burn up the dance floor and sing your heart out. Based out of Charlottesville, Va., the band, which started in a student club at University of Virginia (UVA), was formed by the president and leading lady of the group — vocalist, guitarist, and banjo player Erin Lunsford.

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DIRT MERCHANT RELEASE NEW SINGLE “BREACH” FROM THEIR NEW ALBUM, DEVIL’S ORDERS, TO BE RELEASED ON MARCH 22

dirt merchant

INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY ROBERT FULLER AND TOM HALL

Coming straight out of the depths of hell, the Richmond, Va. band DIRT MERCHANT combine elements of psychedelic and stoner rock, along with the delta blues, which was one of the earliest styles of blues originating in the Mississippi Delta. The band’s lineup of voodoo children include vocalist and guitarist Jason Kusterer, bassist Buddy Bryant, and drummer Casey O’Farrell, and they will be releasing their second EP later this month. We caught up with O’Farrell, Bryant, and Kusterer to discuss their sludgy sound and name, their conflict with smoking weed in their song “Hell,” as well as details on their new album to be released on March 22.

Your music combines elements of psychedelic and hard rock, as well as blues. What prompted the decision to pursue this musical direction?

Jason: I’ve always been influenced by bluesy players. JIMI HENDRIX is a big influence for me. I’ve always like that darker, sort of bluesy sound. It’s always sparked an interest in me.

Casey: I agree with Jason about JIMI HENDRIX. Those guys and the people that were doing the “delta blues” style in a more loud, amplified way were really inspiring in the way because they were combining things that nobody was combining, besides in England. … It goes back to that and delta blues, basically. [We] just wanted to find a way to bring that to modern music but paying respect to both and just finding ways to be heavy aside from the standard down-tuned, chugging. Not that that can be good, but [out goal was] to find other ways to bring that kind of feeling to our music.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO WOLVES IN APESKIN

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO WOLVES IN APESKIN

Did you choose the name DIRT MERCHANT because it reflects the sludgy sound of your music?

Jason: Yeah, that’s part of the reason. But the real reason was I went to a comedy podcast by comedian Doug Benson called Doug Loves Movies, and one of the things about Doug’s podcast is he does a game with nametags. One of the nametags was DIRT MERCHANT, and I thought it was one of the funniest things that I had ever [heard] (laughs). The way the words sounded together sounded so funny, but also sort of gross and filthy. We kind of wanted to be a filthier, sludgier, kind of dirty band. So we thought the name DIRT MERCHANT was appropriate.

Since forming in October 2012, your band has released a demo and an EP, Wolves in Apeskin, and both include your song “Hell.” Can you tell me what that song is about?

Jason: “Hell” is about how I’m torn about marijuana use. On the one hand, I love it, and it’s one of my favorite things. On the other band, it makes me fuckin’ so dumb, and it is so expensive and makes my mind dull so I can’t do as much as I would like to. … I like pot, but I don’t want to waste my time smoking weed instead of doing things that are important. So it’s just [about] that battle within me.

Casey: I think, in a sense too, it’s like grappling with a symbol of a vice and living a working life. You need to deal with certain things to get through, and it’s kind of dealing with the balance of the two and also finding time for yourself in there as well.

I understand that you are currently working on a new album. How much dirt merchant 2progress has been made on that?

Jason: It is completely recorded. We tracked everything; it’s completely mixed. We are just waiting on the master, and we are probably going to release it in the middle of March. More details are withstanding. [Update: The band has received the master copy of their album and will be releasing it March 22.]

Who did you record it with?

Buddy: We recorded it with Pedro Aida in Richmond, Va. He recently just finished his studio and started tracking bands. It’s called Audio Veritae. He also recorded some of PAPER TRAIL’s other stuff, and some of the other hardcore bands from Virginia Beach

Have you decided on a title for it?

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CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO DEVIL’S ORDERS

Jason: The new album is called Devil’s Orders. One of the lyrics in one of the songs on the new album is “The devil takes his orders from me.”

Casey: In naming the demo Devil’s Orders, it’s referencing that lyric in that it encapsulates that the CD is “devil’s orders” and that it was made under devil’s orders.

Do you have any upcoming shows that you would like to announce?

Jason: We are planning our EP release show, which will be in the middle of March when that comes out.

For more updates on DIRT MERCHANT, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, and check out their latest single “Breach” from Devil’s Orders on Bandcamp.

THE TRUE VIRGINIA GENTLEMEN, PEOPLE’S BLUES OF RICHMOND, CREATE A CARNIVAL-LIKE ATMOSPHERE WITH COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS BETWEEN THE BAND AND THE AUDIENCE

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY COVINGTON PORTRAITS, MATTHEW VOLKES, AND  GERMINATION PHOTOGRAPHY

VIDEO PROVIDED BY THE HOT BOX MEDIA

Inspired by a mutual love for good music and cheap whiskey, guitarist/vocalist Tim Beavers II and bassist/vocalist Matthew Volkes formed PEOPLE’S BLUES OF RICHMOND, which the band members self describes as “Heavy, psychedelic, loud, manic, emotion-driven rock n’ roll kinda stuff.” When the band hits the stage, you should already know, good times are ahead. Since they released their sophomore studio album, Good Time Suicide,  the band has been on a rigorous touring schedule, perfecting their current arsenal of tunes and even finding time to create new songs. I had the opportunity to catch up with Beavers and Volkes, as well as their new drummer Neko Williams while traveling on their current tour in the southeast, which has included dates in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. We  discussed their affinity for cheap alcohol, their carnival-like stage presence, as well as memories of past and present and those to come in the near future.

Being from Richmond, is Pabst Blue Ribbon your favorite beer or do you prefer something more original, like a craft beer?

Matthew: When we started this band, me and Tim were 19, and PBR at the time was our favorite beer. We were just drunk and drinking it a lot, but I would say that the band is more of a whiskey drinker. We’re not really too picky on whiskey. We’re more economical. We usually get some Kentucky Gentlemen or Virginia Gentlemen, or something cheap like that. Ya know, nothing bu the good stuff (laughs).

Your live performance has been described as “a carnival-like mayhem to [your] dark, blues-infused psychedelia,” but do you think that translates well to your recordings?

Yeah, I think the difference between our live show and the past album, especially, was we got a new drummer and we got rid of the keyboard player, which was all on mutual terms, but our goal is to emotionally connect with the audience as well as ourselves. We put everything we have into it, and it’s not just a hobby. It’s not just playing music to us. We drive eight to 12 hours to unpack and load-in for an hour, to sound check for 10 minutes, to play for 60 minutes, and unpack at 3:00 a.m., be the last ones out of the club for little pay because we love this so much. And we know that 60 minutes is important to us. So I think that when we put everything into the show you can see it in the audience when they start to interact with us, and we’re trying to think of new ways for the audience to join in the carnival-like atmosphere we’re trying to create. At Lockn’,  we laid down a white 20’x20′ canvas, and we had buckets of paint for people to dip their feet in and dance while we played. It was a collaborative effort with the fans and the band, and I think it brings people into it a little bit more. Everyone gets to be a part of it in their own way.

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On August 6, 2013, you guys released your most recent studio album, Good Time… Suicide, and since then you have released a series of live recordings. Do you have any plans to record another studio album any time soon?

Matthew: As far as future studio work goes, we are hoping to have some cool stuff, but it takes a lot of time and money to make that happen. We’ve been perfecting the material that we have and writing a lot of new stuff. There is definitely plans in the future, but we are also trying to be patient and take the necessary steps to make it the best recordings we can. That way the people that buy the album are so happy with it and can really connect with it.

How has your current tour been going?

Tim: We started at home in Richmond, and then we headed down to Savannah, Ga. We’ve been to Savannah about 30 times now. We go down there every two or three months. It’s one of our favorite spots, and we have a lot of friends and fans there. After that, we went down to Miami, and that was only our second time in Miami. But it was way better than our first time. We had a bunch of people come out, and we had some friends that had recently moved down there. And they promoted for us. It was at a new venue in a better part of town with more regulars, so that went well. The next day, we played a festival at a brewery in Dunedin, Fla., and that was awesome too. This tour has been one of our best Florida runs. That same night, we played two 75-minute sets from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and then we drove over to Tampa, Fla. and played from 1:30 a.m. to  2:15 a.m. to a packed house for a music festival that was taking place at a couple different bars, kinda like a small scale South by Southwest thing where all the bars in town are hosting different bands.

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Since your band started in 2012, what is one of your fondest memories with the band?

Tim: I have to say that South by Southwest might have been one of my favorites. I know I have never seen that much music in one week before. We got to play eight shows, and there is a different band on at every bar every 45 minutes or so. If you didn’t like that band, go to the next bar (laughs).There’s no way to not find something you’re into there. Not only was it great for my love of music, it was awesome because as a musician, you want to be in places that people who love music go. So a lot of our shows were packed with people who were in town to see music. It’s not always the most advantageous thing to be playing in a vacation setting where you don’t have those regulars the next time you come, but in some ways it’s cool because all those people collect together in one time and place — Austin, Texas  — and then they all disperse all over the country, and they leave with your sticker, your koozie, and your song in their head.

Next weekend, your band will be performing at the annual Virginia Hops and Harvest Festival. What are you looking forward to most about that show?

Matthew: We haven’t gotten to play that stage yet, and the group that puts that on are some cool people. We just love playing  good shows. Me and Tim grew up in Chesterfield, which is just south of Richmond, and I can imagine a of families are gonna be coming out, nephews and nieces, which is cool. Most of the time my parents don’t wanna come see us at 11:00 at night (laughs), so it’s always good to have a show where the family can come out. And it’s a beer festival, so what more could you want? We are pretty lucky in Richmond with the craft breweries, and there are a lot more coming in. A lot of cities have different goods and exports that make them special, and beer could be one for Richmond.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Virginia music scene?

Neko: Everybody is real close. The bands that are in Richmond, everybody is fitting in with everybody. Everybody has got the same dream and coming out to support at every show. … It’s really coming along, and it’s really picking up. Richmond has always had good tunes, but I definitely think it’s on the map for sure a little bit more now.

Who are some of your favorite local bands or musicians?

Neko: I guess my dad’s band, THE RAGING POSSE and THE WIERDNESS ART ENSEMBLE. They’re old school. You gotta look them up. SHACK BAND and SOUTHERN BELLES too. The rest of you guys, you know who you are. Like I said, everybody is fitting in with everybody. We are all kickin’ it.

For more updates on PEOPLE’S BLUES OF RICHMOND, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and check out their music on Reverbnation and Bandcamp.