by: Sarah Wilson
We caught up with Wolf van Elfmand, one-fifth of the Fort Collins, Colo. based quintet, Von Stomper last week to talk about relentless touring, their multiple songwriter approach, and their latest album, the excellent sophomore album, Américado.
On Américado, the five-piece blend their love of American roots music, rambling charm, and music that’s close to the bone. The roots-rocking stompers will be opening for Taddy Porter tonight (Friday, Oct 30) at The Blue Light.
Listen/Watch the music video for “Down by the River,” their latest single, below.
New Slang: When you guys hit the studio this time, what did y’all do differently as a band?
Von Stomper: With this new record, it was a completely different process than the first record. The first record was recorded almost entirely live, including the vocal. This record, everything was done here locally in town and we were able to track all the instruments individually and we worked with a six-track so we were able to get everything as tight and professional as possible.
NS: How long did this album take to record?
VS:I think we tracked for seven months. That’s how long we were in the recording studio. Then it was probably another four or five months before it got released with mixing and mastering. We still operate as a DIY band–certainly with a big sense of urgency, you know. We tried to get it out and into peoples hands as quickly as possible.
NS: Were there any songs that just didn’t make the cut for this album?
VS: Oh yeah, a lot [laughs]. We’re a band of four songwriters and a few of us write on the regular. We don’t even really have enough time to learn all the song we write. We started as a bar band, playing three or four hour gigs so we had to be somewhat selective when it comes to the studio. Which can be good because you want an album to take on a certain theme and emotion of the tone and you get to choose those songs that fit that the best.
NS: Yeah, have you or any of the other writers started writing a song that you just couldn’t finish for any reason?
VS: Oh sure yeah. I mean I’m sure that’s true across the board for us, and probably for most songwriters. You’re your own worst critic sometimes, and sometimes, it’s good to be free in the process, and just lets things happen certainly. You just have to be self-aware when things aren’t working, you know?
NS: Yeah. It’s hard cutting that off. When y’all write, where do you find inspiration? Do y’all write on the road well, or is it more comfortable to be home and writing?
VS: It seems like for most of us, it’s easier to be home. I can speak for myself, it’s easy to get inspiration on the road and sometimes it comes in the form of free writing or poems–things like that. It’s the opportunity on the road to get enough alone time to actually hash something out is not that common. The songwriting process for me is a certain way and it’s meant and sometimes for me, it’s a manic process. It can involve a lot of pacing and alone time, which is something we’re not too privy to on the road.
NS: That makes sense. What’s your favorite song to play live right now? You can list a couple if you can’t narrow it down.
VS: Oh man, that’s hard. We have a lot of fun playing a Jimmie Rogers cover, “Mule Skinner Blues,” we have a lot of fun with that one. I certainly have a lot of fun singing “The Ballad of River Rat Johnny” off the new record. It’s one of my tunes and a lot of fun to sing. They’re all fun in their own way, if you’re playing them or you’re singing them. I like backing up guitar on the other guy’s songs just as much as I like singing lead on mine.
NS: That’s an awesome attitude to have. What are some challenges y’all have faced this year so far?
VS: I think just keeping our energy up is a challenge. We’re a hard-working DIY band that is able to make a living basically exclusively by touring. Really, the balance of the lifestyle, and a balance of being a booking agent, and then being out on the road and managing there as well as you’re at home and personal life can certainly produce challenges. But it’s a lot of fun.
NS: Was it hard to find that balance when y’all firs started touring?
VS: You know, it ebbs and flows I think because everyone has their own time and their own lives. We have been touring now for almost non-stop for about two years. Its pretty wild. None of us had really done it before. It doesn’t come with a manual, so you figure a lot of things out. It’s interesting, and we’ve been able to learn a lot in all areas of the industry.
NS: Who are y’all listening to in the car on this tour?
VS: Well, our influences are all over American and folk-blues history. As a band, we really dig into a lot of the artists that came through American folk. A lot of the songs and the people he discovered stems from that. Lead Belly, Mississippi John Hurt and a lot of those early blues guys. We also have a bluegrass influence and country too so I think there’s a lot of old-timey stuff that kind of snuck into our lives. It really is across the board.
NS: That’s such a fun mix; it really ends up turning into such an awesome put together sound.
VS: Thanks. Well of course we are a contemporary band too so we love rock and roll, Frank Zappa, and all kind of things that have a little bit more of a danceable drum beat to them. You know?
NS: Of course [Laughs]. Have y’all already stated on the next album?
VS: We have not. We’re always talking about different ideas, sort of relevant to the last question, we have been talking about a live album of tradition and folk tunes. That might be the next thing to pump out to give people a taste of our influences.