The Road To ARISE Part 2- The Drunken Hearts
“The Road To ARISE” is a series of conversations writer Brian Turk will be having with ARISE Festival Artists. It is presented by ARISE Music Festival, Oskar Blues Brewery, Listen Up Denver, The Marquee Magazine and Harmony Yoga.
The Road To ARISE – Part 1- The Drunken Hearts
Chances are, if you are a music lover in Colorado, you have been hearing about the band Drunken Hearts lately. And for good reason. Colorado is no stranger to new music. Or good music. But sometimes a band just hits the nail right on the head, and that’s what Drunken Hearts are doing. The band is dubbed “Americana”, and their album Live for Today features plenty of roots sounds, but when the band hits the stage, they stretch their songs out and explore new territory. In other words, they jam. Drunken Hearts is one of the many local Colorado bands on the ARISE Festival lineup this year, and I had the opportunity to chat with Andrew McConathy, guitar player and vocalist with the band.
BT: What’s in the name? How did you choose Drunken Hearts?
A: We stumbled across it. It’s the title of a Robert Johnson song. “Drunken Hearted Man”. It seemed like the right feel for us.
BT: Based on what I’ve listened to, and your Facebook page, looks like you are a Jack Kerouac fan.
A: I definitely am. I went to Middlebury College in Vermont and studied creative writing, then ended up at Naropa in Boulder studying Kerouac at the Disembodied School of Poetics. Definitely into the Beat Generation.
BT: Were you a longer form writer before you got into songwriting?
A: I started out writing in longer forms for sure. In high school I took a crack at my first book, and started writing a novel which quickly turned into a novella. (laughs) Then starting in college, my writing seemed to be getting briefer as years went on. I started the YarmonyGrass Festival, and began to have direct connections with some of the musicians that really inspired me at the time, and I realized I should start writing songs. It was just there in front of me.
BT: Tell me more about those connections.
A: Scott Law is one of my guitar teachers and he certainly has taught me a lot. Bill Nershi and Keith Mosley have been a big part of what I am doing, as well. Those three right there have pretty much been at every YarmonyGrass since the beginning. Scott’s actually missing his first one this summer, but the other guys are nine for nine. The String Cheese Incident certainly had a huge impact on why I started YarmonyGrass, which was my professional entry into the music industry. Before that I was a wild and crazy fan for 15 years. Having that hands-on experience with those guys and having the ability to call Scott and ask him technical questions about the guitar. Or have him show me skills and alternate chords and things you really need to spice things up. All that was invaluable.
BT: You found mentors.
A: I got pretty lucky with those guys. And Tim Carbone from Railroad Earth. He produced our last album, and just played two shows with us a couple weeks ago in Denver, and he’s actually going to be playing some more shows with us in the future, which we’re excited about. We are very lucky to have those musical resources, and it’s certainly made a huge difference. Without a doubt.
BT: Did songwriting come easily at first? Since you had been writing creatively for so long?
A: Not at all. At first I didn’t really know what I was doing, and it was almost a joke. It’s evolved over time. Over time you just realize there’s more depth out there. You do everything in your ability to constantly hone that, and you kind of develop some tricks. At first when you’re just starting to put pen to paper and chords to guitar there aren’t that many ways it can shake out, so I gave it a little time and things started to open up a bit.
BT: Your music is described as “Americana”. How do you define “Americana”? Not just the music, but the term? Is it the structure of the song? Instrumentation? State of mind? What is it to you?
A: I like the state of mind concept for sure. I also think it has to do with storytelling. That’s a tough one cause I think “Americana” really stems from the term American music. Americana music tell the tale of the American landscape.
B: Well said. Let’s talk about the Drunken Hearts line-up.
A: At the moment, we are a five piece. There is Jon McCartan on bass. Rob Eaton Jr., who is the son of Rob Eaton from the Dark Star Orchestra, on electric guitar and vocals. Ted Welles plays on a full drum kit. Cody Russell is on banjo, lap steel, and pedal steel. Cody is a multi-instrumentalist from Arkansas who definitely gives us a real psychedelic, honky-tonk, country vibe. We made a lineup change about six months ago replacing standup bass with electric bass.
BT: Psychedelic Honky Tonk. I dig it. I am just realizing you are the second musician I interviewed today who has started a festival in Colorado. I also spoke with Scott Stoughton of Bonfire Dub today, who started WinterWonderGrass and Campout for the Cause.
A: Scott is a good friend of mine and works a lot on YarmonyGrass, as well.
BT: Well, I will ask you the same question I asked him. Now that Colorado’s marijuana laws have changed, Colorado’s festival scene might be seeing some changes. Specifically, how do we set an example for marijuana tourists? Festivals seem like the perfect opportunity to educate people about marijuana.
A: Well that’s an interesting question Brian, I actually work for O-Pen Vape, which is a company that makes vaporizer pens.
BT: Of course you do.
A: Well, most festivals in Colorado are very family friendly, so you have to act appropriately, and that’s on us as individuals. I hope marijuana tourism brings all kinds of people to this state. Things really haven’t changed much. Colorado is still the same glorious state with just a little more freedom. I think respect is the key word here. And for those coming to ARISE and wanting to partake in our freedoms with discretion, they might want to check out O-Pen Vape. I had to throw that in there.