Yonder Mountain String Band: Charting New Territory
Yonder Mountain String Band sure sounds like an old-time name. But guess again.
The producer of their album "The Show," Tom Rothrock, also works with Elliott Smith, Beck, and the Foo Fighters. And though Yonder Mountain's instrumentation onstage resembles traditional Bluegrass groups, co-founder Dave Johnston acknowledges that though the band "may look traditional, we've created our own music that transcends any genre." As for Bluegrass or rock purists, Johnson says, "What could be more pure than making your own music?"
And so they do. On the album titled "The Show" all 13 songs are written by the band. And a look at their past concert venues shows the variety in the Colorado fivesome's stage show. They've played rock clubs, festivals, Telluride, Austin City Limits, Red Rocks Amphitheater and (by the way) opened for President Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Mile High Stadium.
"Their loyal fan base," according to one critic, "has been built from this diverse setting of musical venues as fans latched on to their genre-defying original sound." But what would you expect from a group whose musical influences range from Bluegrass greats Bill Monroe and Del McCoury to punk-rockers Black Flag and Bad Religion and alt-rock bands such as Postal Service and Grandaddy?
"We love that people come out and see us," Johnson says. "Everyone appreciates good music. Some people want to go to a recital and some people want to party." A partier's favorite might lean toward the song "Fine Excuses" which is said to "find some excellent middle ground between Bluegrass and rock, thanks in part to a scorching guitar solo by Adam Aijala."
Band members rounding out the group are Johnston on banjo, Ben Kaufman on bass, Allie Kral on violin, and Jacob Jolliff on mandolin. All five contribute to vocal harmonies.
Six of the tracks on "The Big Show" feature drummer Pete Thomas, of Elvis Costello's bands, playing alongside Yonder Mountain's acoustic sounds. A country-leaning number that critics have especially liked is "Steep Grade, Sharp Curves," which is noted as "describing the group's home base as well a particularly dangerous femme fatale."
In an interview with Allen Scully of The Planet Weekly, Ailala commented on Younger Mountain's two newest additions: "Allie’s stage presence is awesome. People just love her. There are like women and men screaming ‘Allie, Allie,’ every show. It’s awesome. And Jake’s just a demon. People are looking at him while he’s soloing, and putting their arms up the air like ‘What the heck? This dude’s out of control. He’s so good.’ So it’s a different dynamic completely. It feels more, I don’t know what the word is...there’s more camaraderie? But on and off stage, I feel really synced."
"Somewhere we all kind of recognized that we had something unique," Johnston adds. "But there's no way I could have imagined the amount of success the band has had."