10 Questions with The Sideshow Tragedy.

By the time I had listened to “Time to Taste” for the second time it dawned on me just how funky it was. It has a funk groove in a “a la Elvin Bishop filter” kind of way. This is one of the stand outs from the blues-roots rock duo’s latest release, The View from Nowhere. Nathan Singleton (vocals,guitar) and Jeremy Harrell (drums,percussion) continue to evolve with each new release in a very organic way. Songs like “Trust” showcase their ability to combine jagged shards of chords, that lurch forward propelled by the insistent drums to form a thing of beauty. Imagine a quilt that feels like satin, even though it was woven from burlap. This is the kind of musical chemistry that has to come naturally to a partnership, I believe.

For this episode of 10 Questions with the Musical Mind I wanted to try something a little different. Made possible by the assistance of publicist Bernadette Quigley , Sideshow Tragedy was the perfect group to form a “compare and contrast” set of inquiries. As a duo, each is fully 50% of the band and have a broader view than say, one member of a sextet. I came up with ten questions, identical for both Nathan and Jeremy and had them answer independently of each other. The results paint a complete picture of the band’s outlook and opinions, because they are the band,

Nathan Singleton:

1. Hailing out of Austin, TX. You recorded your latest album in upstate New York. Do you think your environment affects the music you write? If you spent years on the east coast, how different do you think your music would be today?

I’m sure it has to some extent, especially on earlier stuff, but I think it’s mostly been influenced by travel, and what I happen to be reading and listening to. And maybe if I’d been on the East Coast early on, I would have gravitated to New York stuff sooner – but New York is all over the stuff we come up with these days.

2.As a duo, are you conscious of what extra instrumentation can’t be reproduced live? Do you worry about it, or do you make the album you want and worry about live arrangements later?

We have in the past, but definitely not with our most recent record, and less still with what we’re working on now for the next one. Live is definitely a different thing.

3. What are your indispensable pieces of musical equipment? Ones that you personally have a connection with?

My vintage Nationals. I’ve been playing them for over 20 years, all over the road, and they’re kind of an extension of my body at this point.

4. A well known band asks you to fill in for a night. In your imagination, what band would that be ideally ?

Hmmmmm…I can’t think of one really. The Stones?

5. How do you see your songs as having evolved since your first album?

I consider Persona to be our first true album, so I’m using that as my starting point. Since then, what I’m trying to do lyrically has sharpened – what I want to say and what I actually end up saying are closer together. Musically, it’s less blues-rocky, more varied, funkier, more groove-oriented, and the songs are stronger. And we’re better players.

6. The two of you have to integrate a bass player into the band. Hypothetically, would that bassist be minimalist or busy, melodic or stick to the root?

As long as they are a good driver and can take shifts driving the van they can play however they want.

7.Who were your musical heroes as a teenager?

The Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, Johnny Winter, Chris Whitley, Muddy Waters

8.Who are your musical heroes now?

Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, John Coltrane, Tom Verlaine, Bob Quine, Miles Davis, Chris Whitley, Muddy Waters

9.Do you ever add accents in your playing in response to the vocal melody, or is it the opposite?

Kind of both – I’m very particular about the phrasing of the lyrics, the way they ride on the groove, but I’ll definitely play melodic things that follow the vocals at times, kind of like Hendrix did.

10.What different approach, if any, do you anticipate for your next album?

All I can say is it will be a logical and ripening extension of where the last one left off…

Jeremy Harrell:

1. Hailing out of Austin, TX. You recorded your latest album in upstate New York. Do you think your environment affects the music you write? If you spent years on the east coast, how different do you think your music would be today?

I think all of our varied travels have definitely informed the way that we play and write. We have spent a lot of time touring the east coast and other parts of the country, as well as Europe. It’s hard to say what it would be like living in a different place but I can say that our music has continually evolved due to the fact that we are always moving.

2. As a duo, are you conscious of what extra instrumentation can’t be reproduced live? Do you worry about it, or do you make the album you want and worry about live arrangements later?

We view the records and live show as completely different entities now and have been moving towards that throughout our career. We are unconcerned with being able to produce any extra instrumentation during the live performance as that is a raw retelling of the story we craft on tape.

3. What are your indispensable pieces of musical equipment? Ones that you personally have a connection with?

Because I am a drummer, I am expected to play backline kits a lot so the pieces i’m able to consistently play at shows are snare and cymbals. I have many options available that have been carefully selected throughout the years to sound good in any environment and make any kit feel a little more like “home base.”

4. A well known band asks you to fill in for a night. In your imagination, what band would that be ideally ?

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

5. How do you see your songs as having evolved since your first album?

I think that you can hear how each album is informed by the previous ones but moving in a slightly new direction. I love to listen to stuff from way back when and think, oh man I didn’t know I did this or that back then. It’s cool to hear the foundational elements in the new tunes.

6.The two of you have to integrate a bass player into the band. Hypothetically, would that bassist be minimalist or busy, melodic or stick to the root?

Can they drive the van?

7. Who were your musical heroes as a teenager?

Tom Petty, Brad Wilk, my uncle Jimmy Cowen, Van Morrison, Dire Straits, Snoop,Tupac, Warren G.

8.Who are your musical heroes now?

Jack Martin, Nick Cave, Kendrick Lamar, Marc Ribot, Ziggy Modeliste, Kenny Siegal, Charlie Watts, Bowie, Prince

9.Do you ever add accents in your playing in response to the vocal melody, or is it the opposite?

Absolutely

10.What different approach, if any, do you anticipate for your next album?

I’m learning flute so we’ll see what happens…

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Photos by Michael Craft.

So if you live near Austin, TX., and have a valid driver’s license, congratulations ! You are now a bass player!

Learn more about The Sideshow Tragedy here: http://thesideshowtragedy.com/

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