Local Folk-bluegrass-neo-americana music group Quicksand Marching Band completed its eponymous first album earlier this year. The band formed in 2009 for Whole Earth Festival and has played various live shows at local hotspots, as well as for KDVS. While the band members themselves contend over what genre of music one can put them under, it can be comfortably said that the band sounds like a cross between Fleet Foxes and Old Crow Medicine Show. Some of the most requested cover songs for them to play include Old Crow Medicine’s Wagon Wheel and Man of Constant Sorrow. The band is made up of five members: Zach Harju, Jon Williams, Jon Jordan, Patrick Langham and Robin Croen. While recording their first album the band members sought equal representation and opportunities for each member to contribute to the song-writing process. The albums itself was recorded at their house locally here in Davis as well as in places around the city of Davis.
This week, band members Jon Jordan, Patrick Langham and Robin Croen sat down with MUSE for a Q&A session concerning their music and influences.
The Aggie: How did you guys settle on the band name?
JJ: Zach was like ‘I thought of a good name’ and we were like ‘done’. He was writing down names in engineering class and was like ‘boom, that’s the winner.’
When did the band start playing?
JJ: Whole Earth Festival, two years ago. Zach and I were playing and wound up getting a gig at KDVS, we knew each other from working on Seamoose and worked on pulling together a bluegrass set…songs mostly Zach had written at the time.
PL: Four out of the five us also played in Seamoose. It started off as a side project and grew more as it went along. It took on more of a life of it’s own instead of just being a side project, which culminated in us recording the album over the summer.
How would you categorize the type of music you play?
PL: That’s usually the question artists never want to answer, but it’s the question you have to have a good answer for.
RC: I could say folk, neo-folk, americana, bluegrass and that gets people narrowed in a little bit but I could have a different set of tags for each song instead of the whole thing overall. Each song has a little bit of a different direction.
RC: Sure, why not?
PL: For the album, because of the variety on things on there, it’d be much easier to try just to go by each song writer and song-style because there are so many different styles being represented. There’s some pretty standard folks songs and there’s some folks songs that are a little weird and messed up. There’s gospel songs and blues songs.
With a five piece band and everyone contributing how do you guys find what works among yourselves?
RC: Sometimes we all would be sitting around twiddling our thumbs because it’s five people each with a different idea. Sometimes one person or two people would have to make the effort and push a song or the project in the next step. It’s something we grapple all the time with, with all our different musical projects. We want to have a democracy and have everyone agree but at the same time, sometimes we have to have a leader. You can also take a step back. Just because you’ve decided to go one direction doesn’t mean you can’t try that other person’s idea later.
PL: I would say that this band, better than other ones I’ve been in, has worked fairly well together. People are pretty cool about being like ‘Well, your idea actually sounds cooler than mine, let’s try that.’ Just because it’s your idea, it doesn’t mean its the best and luckily people are pretty good at recognizing that. There’s been in less contention in this band and the songwriting process than other ones I’ve been in.
JJ: The other guys were really able to remove their ego from the songwriting process, which is really rare. We could just say ‘stop doing this part’ which is something normally people wouldn’t like to hear, but it’s like ‘okay, I trust you enough to be making a good decision.’
PL: Zach has more of a background in music theory while Jon Williams doesn’t. Jon never really cared if something was theoretically right or not, just whether it sounded good. Sometimes there would be little battles in between them where Zach would say “this doesn’t theoretically sound right” and Jon would say “I don’t give a shit.”
Can you tell me about the importance of a full album?
PL: We thought really hard about the order of the songs
JJ: We tried to present it as one complete thought. Every artist or person who does music has a different answer for this. I think it’s important that if you’re going to produce something that it will be this complete idea. We will have only this CD for essentially the rest of our lives, regardless of how long the band goes on. We want this one idea to be the best representation of who we are as a band and who we are as musicians.
RC: There was a actually a deadline as well for us. As we were recording this CD, Zach Harju and Jon Williams would be both moving out of Davis. The three of us weren’t sure how busy we were going to be in the future so we wanted to take a snapshot of all the effort we put into this project. We were performing live but didn’t have much to show for it. This represents a finished project and all the work we put in.
PL: Nowadays, it’s about the single and as a kid I would by a CD just for one song and the single would end up not being my favorite. We liked the idea of all the songs flowing one into the other. It was a desire to make that kind of thing, to adhere to that kind of idea. What maybe helped was that some of us had experience working together and knew the pitfalls of things we’ve done in the past that were counter-productive. It’s like being in a relationship, except you’re in a relationship with four other dudes.
What are guys’ influences?
RC: As far as influences tied to this band, Fleet Foxes is definitely the big one for me. A lot of newer folk bands are doing a lot cool things right now.
JJ: What started me out on it was M. Ward, and he is doing is basically modern Americana. Within the last year I’ve gotten deep into classic folk and bluegrass, stuff that’s recorded on wax cylinders from like the ‘30s and ‘40s. But fortunately a lot of people are putting it on the internet since most of it isn’t in print anymore. A lot of old-time blues artists and gospel.
PL: Before I started playing for the band, I really didn’t listen to this type of music very much. I played with friends back home. For me it was about how I would bring all the other musical influences I have and contribute to the band. The biggest ones for me would be Robert Johnson and Sunhouse.
What music are you guys currently listening to?
RC: I’ve been listening to Bulldog, which has absolutely nothing to do with folk music but they’re a really cool funk band out of Canada.
PL: We listen to a lot of The Ohio Players.
JJ: Pokey Lafarge, he’s a contemporary artist who’s doing straight-up Americana. The Wiyos as well.
Quicksand Marching Band plans on playing shows in December with details soon to follow. The full album is available for streaming at http://quicksandmarchingband.bandcamp.com/ and fans or appreciators of the album can also pay $10 for a physical copy that the band will personally ship.
Rudy Sanchez can be reached at email@example.com.