If ever there was a time for The Americans to blow up, this it.
The band – Patrick Ferris, Zac Sokolow, Jake Faulkner, and Tim Carr – is celebrating the release of its latest record, I’ll Be Yours.
This foursome has toured with Ryan Bingham, Nick Cave, and Lucinda Williams, twice appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, and were featured in American Epic, a documentary produced by T Bone Burnett, Jack White, and Robert Redford that featured, among others, The Avett Brothers, Taj Mahal, and Willie Nelson.
With a hefty resume like that, this new record – which is fantastic – should be just the thing to bring new ears to what is truly a great band well versed in the heritage of real American music.
I recently caught up with Patrick Ferris to chat about blending old time music with rock and roll, the new record, and the band’s killer National guitars.
BRO – Your band came together due to a common interest in old time music. That is pretty standard here in Virginia, but how does it happen in California?
PF – Surprisingly, there’s a vibrant old time scene here in Los Angeles. Early on, we met Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton and Frank Fairfield, both of whom are in American Epic with us. The California Feetwarmers are another great act out of L.A.
BRO – You are just as likely to feature clawhammer banjo as you are electric guitar during a live set. Is it difficult to do that kind of genre hopping during a show?
PF – We don’t think of it as genre hopping, but of course our perspective is warped by being in the band and writing the music. The banjo comes out for our longer, lyrical songs, like “Gospel Roads” and “I’ll Be Yours.” Live, I used to preface them apologetically as “long story” songs, until Jake, our bassist, finally told me one day, “You know, you don’t have to actually call it a ‘long story’ . . . ”
BRO – You guys have one of the coolest collections of guitars that I have seen in a long while. What can tell me about those National guitars?
PF – All of us love old instruments. Who doesn’t? We’ve done some after-market work on those guitars. Zac sawed off a few of the tuners on his so he could add some Scruggs banjo tuners, and I rewired his pick ups to make it twice as loud.
BRO – Who are some of the vintage artists you dig that I should check out?
PF – Blind Willie McTell, Robert Wilkins, Johnny Burnett Trio, Memphis Jug Band, Dennis McGee & Sady Courville.
BRO – We are featuring “The Right Stuff” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
PF – It’s a song about taking a shot at something and looking back once you’ve whittled down your options. It’s about quitting, and not necessarily gracefully, because it’s the only option left. Not autobiographical, ideally.
You can see The Americans over the next week during a run of shows throughout the Pacific Northwest. The band will be in Washington, Vancouver, and Oregon before returning to it’s native California later in the month.
For more information on The Americans and the brand new record, I’ll Be Yours, surf over to the band’s website.
And be sure to check out “The Right Stuff” on this month’s Trail Mix.
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