Q&A - Travis McNamara of Trout Steak Revival
NC Music Magazine’s Brian Turk chatted with banjo player Travis McNamara of Colorado-based bluegrass band Trout Steak Revival. Trout Steak Revival will be playing Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC on Oct. 4. Trout Steak Revival has been quickly building steam since winning the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 2014, and they will be bringing a fresh Rocky Mountain sound to the Tarheel State.
BT: So, you got a new album about to drop, huh?
TM: That is true. We are very excited about it. It's called Spirit to the Sea. We are very close to announcing its release date. We recorded it a few months ago, in June, at Mighty Fine Audio in Denver. Chris Pandolfi, of the Infamous Stringdusters, produced the album. We got it all recorded in six days with live tracks and live lead vocals. Everything is mixed and mastered and we are sitting on the album right now.
BT: How long did the album take to make?
TM: From start to finish I would say four months. We were developing songs for this album as soon as we were done with the last, though. The process of recording an album allows you to put some songs to bed and frees up some mental space. So as soon as Brighter Everyday was finished we were writing new songs.
BT: Why don't you tell me about the recording process and working with Chris Pandolfi.
TM: It was great. After Brighter Everyday we looked around at other studios and other producers. We compared all those new situations to our experience with Colin Bricker at Mighty Fine Productions as engineer and Chris Pandolfi as producer, and we realized we already had the A-Team, so we stuck with them.
BT: How did working with the same team benefit the band?
TM: Well, it really felt like we could hit the ground running. One day we set up all the mics and then tracked three songs in their entirety. That’s a pretty fast pace. We kept that pace throughout the whole recording process. In terms of mixing the album, working with the same team allowed our sound to evolve from the last record. We explored some new sonic territory that we probably wouldn't have accessed if we weren’t with a team we were already comfortable with.
BT: What can we expect on Spirit to the Sea that’s different than Brighter Everyday?
TM: It’s probably a little darker in tone. We had a big and busy two years since the last record and our songwriting has evolved. We are writing more from life now. Each member of the band contributes to songwriting and you get to hear our evolution from five different perspectives. Each member of the band processed big life situations on this record.
Sonically, there has been a lot of evolution too. I think a lot of that has to do with touring with certain bands. For instance, Yonder Mountain String Band took us out on tour for a month. We played twenty-eight shows with them on the East Coast. Spending that much time with them definitely influenced our sound. We became much more comfortable opening up to a wider improvisational landscape.
Members of Trout Steak Revival would sit in with Yonder Mountain String Band for long jams. Bevin Foley, our fiddle player, was up on stage with them for twenty-four minutes or something, and it was just two songs. It’s like trial by fire. You learn how to develop ideas in a different space. We took some of those experiences and wove them into our own style.
We also toured with The Lil' Smokies and fell in love with the infectious hooks in their songs. I think some of that influence leaked into our band too.
BT: Your band has always been transparent about the amount of effort, practice, and studiousness you put into your craft. Has that approach weakened as the band has developed, or are you practicing and studying even more?
TM: The influences we have and how deeply we get to experience them has pushed us even further. We get to do this as our full-time job now, and we are throwing ourselves in deeper and deeper every day.
We do a lot of independent study on the bus. We drive for an average of seven hours a day when we are on tour, and it has turned into productive time for us all. Everyone has been writing a lot.
True to form, Trout Steak Revival is quickly writing new material as soon as another album is put to bed. Trout Steak Revival is running a Kickstarter campaign to finish funding their forthcoming release. They raised their initial goal of $21,000 in the first five days of the campaign and the Kickstarter campaign will be running until Oct. 19. You can donate here.
Catch them on-stage:
Trout Steak Revival with Dead Horses
Wednesday, Oct. 4
Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Show starts at 8:30 p.m.
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