Thursday, September 26, 2013

NEAF ' 13 Feature Artist: Andrew Kramer of Comanchero

Today we have a very special feature. A gentleman who not only plays in the festival with his band this weekend, but was also the co-engineer of the New England Americana recording project that will be released tonight! Very exciting stuff. I give you folks the co-owner of Riverview Studios and bass player/mandolin playing/whatever stringed instrument that is laying around player for Comachero (and all around good dude), Mr. Andrew Kramer.

1)      First and foremost, who are you, what do you do? That is, what band are you in or are you a solo artist, what have you guys been up to leading up to the festival, anything exciting we should all know about? Your chance for shameless self promotion…go!

Hi!  My name is Andrew Kramer.  I am Comanchero’s Bassist, and I occasionally get to play mandolin with the band as well.  Professionally, I am an audio engineer, so I also handle the band’s recording projects and assist with live sound as needed.

Comanchero frontman, Sam Margolis, and I are partners at Riverview Studios in Waltham, MA.  This is where the band practices and records, and where we recently completed the ‘New England Americana Project, Volume 2’ compilation album.

Comanchero teamed up with our good friends from The Honky Tonk Knights to record a song for the album.  We had loads of fun recording a ‘Spaghetti Western’ style version of a traditional folk song called 900 Miles.  The collaborative process was great.  It was a fun challenge for us to arrange and record the song, which Bob Moon (lead guitar) found in a book of old folk songs.  And working with the Honky Tonk Knights was a blast. 

It was truly an honor and a pleasure having so many great musicians through our studio to make this record.  Similarly, Comanchero has had a number of other exciting events leading up to the festival.  We did a small European tour this summer, including a music festival called Youbloom, in Dublin.  We had five songs licensed by PBS for a show called Road Trip Nation, and our song ‘The Other Side Of Town’ was recently featured in Relix Magazine’s September 2013 sampler CD.  The New England Americana Festival is always a highlight for us, and a great way to end the summer!

2)      New England Americana and the Fest firmly plant their roots and morals in “community”. The event is a culmination of a community of musicians and artists that is going on all year. What does that community mean to you?

Over the past several years, I have witnessed the local Americana community growing larger and tighter.  We are lucky to have such a thriving music scene here in Boston and in the northeast.  While every musician/band has his/her own unique style, we are all part of the same web, knit from the same fabric.  We’re all in this thing together!

I remember playing shows way back when, that made no sense whatsoever – Singer-Songwriter > Metal band > Hip Hop duo > Comanchero > Comedy act… you get the picture!  These days, people come out to our shows and they stay to enjoy the whole night, because the music flows better and the night is more cohesive.  You know what you’re gonna get, and in the end it feels good!

With our work in Riverview Studios, Sam and I have produced a series of compilation albums.  We made a holiday music compilation called ‘A Highlife Holiday’ and a St. Patrick’s Day compilation called ‘Everyone Is Irish’.  If you haven’t yet heard them, you should go to our page and get the FREE downloads:  Producing these recordings and the recent New England Americana Project has been an amazing way to connect with other like-minded artists.  All while pouring our hearts into doing what we love to do – making music together.  Comanchero’s involvement in the local Americana community, and our dedication to music have made this all possible.

3)      Name a record that shaped you as a musician early on. What music initially made you want to sing, or
pick up an instrument and make music?

When I first picked up the bass, circa 1991, I was listening to a lot of classic rock.  I played my Led Zeppelin, IV, and Pink Floyd tapes until they nearly wore out, and listened to a lot of radio.  WZLX, WFNX, WBCN, WUMB, and WMBR, were some stations that really shaped me early on.  I would stay up late at night, tuning in local radio shows and making mix tapes, hitting record on an old boombox placed in front of the radio.  It didn’t matter what genre or style, it was exciting and it soothed the soul. 

A friend introduced me to country music, listening to Merle Haggard, Jimmy Rogers, Hank Williams, and Ralph Stanley at his parents’ house.  Family members would come from near and far, including the French Canadians, to ‘have a tune’ - a weekend of jamming and singing country music together.  I remember thinking how cool it was that these folks live far apart, but still get together every year to sing and play music together.  I could see this happening over time with my friends, and knew that we were building a musical family tradition of our own.  That sense of family still inspires me to make music.

4)      What are you listening to now that you think folks should be aware of?

I’m often listening to old vinyl in the studio, WUMB radio in the car, or to Pandora while doing house work.  I’ve been enjoying the Sarah Jarosz Pandora station in the morning, Willie Nelson’s station during the day, and Tom Waits’ station in the evening.  I like hearing the variety of musicians associated with an artist I’m following, and getting turned on to new stuff that way.  In fact, I learned of Sarah Jarosz from listening to the Chris Thile station!

5)      Music  festivals, in general,  are fairly well known for surprise sit ins, improvisational jams and collaborations. If you could see any two of this year’s acts collaborate on stage at this year’s NEA Festival, who would you like to see?

How many one-man-bands are their?  Can we pair Eric Royer and his amazing guitar-machine up with a similar multi-instrumental one-person act?  Could we still call them one-man-bands at that point?

Second choice; we get all the bass players on stage and play Spinal Tap’s ‘Big Bottom’.

6)      Why is creating music important to you? Why do you pick up your instrument and write songs? Why do you play that dive bar on a Thursday night? What keeps you going?

I can’t imagine life without music.  I am lucky to have multiple musical outlets in my life – songwriting and recording in the studio, playing shows, having a tune with friends and family in the living room, or singing in the car – it’s all good!  I even get to work with other people’s music, as an audio engineer on stage and in the studio.  

You don’t need to be a musician to experience the power of music.  Sometimes all you need to do is give yourself the gift of a night out, to see your local musicians perform.  We musicians feel that positive energy in the room, and it is shared and recycled; listener to musician, musician to listener; between you, and between us; full circle.  These are the kinds of things that keep us going.  

Check out Comanchero’s album, The Undeserved, and other free downloads here:  

Comanchero will be  playing at Tommy Doyles on Saturday at 8:40 PM.

(photo credits for first two pics to Johnny Arguedas)

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