by Paul Doyle Jr.
Hard core touring and a patient grassroots approach is starting to generate grand scale recognition for Burlingtons Strangefolk, who recently signed on with Mammoth Records. Guitarist, Reid Genauer explains Mammoths lineage as, "Well, they are owned by Disney. Were, you know, Mickey Mouse music, thats what I want to get across loud and clear. Unlimited space mountain."
Genauer and Jon Trafton began as an acoustic duo in Burlington in 1991. They played folk, but it was strange because of the electronic enhancements and distortions that Trafton had on his guitar, hence the name. As Reid says, "Jon is really responsible for that. He created a whole unorthodox blend of acoustic and electric styles. Both of us are playing hybrid guitars which have acoustic pickups and electric pickups in them, so they are a blend. Most of his rhythm parts have a very acoustic woodsy feel and for solo and select parts of other songs hes got different textures and voices that he uses."
In 1992, they added Erik Glockler on bass and Luke Smith on percussion. Genauer recalls that this line up "made the most sense at the time." Strangefolk has been building a growing fan base thanks to four years of near solid touring. As Genauer explains, "the Northeast...thats our heartbeat. But other places that have been good to us, the West Coast, San Francisco, California, Oregon...Colorado has had great towns for us, Montana believe it or not, theres a lot of University towns there, and Chicago...Atlanta...sort of little blossoms going, you know what I mean."
Strangefolk put there energy into the crowd and spent little time worrying about actually getting signed. Genauer describes industry interest in the band: "Its always been consistent nibbles and weve never really gone out and pursued anything, we waited until stuff landed on our table. We never shopped ourselves what its called in the industry, shopping your demo we never went through any of that. Mammoth came along. They are a small organization. They got a very Indie vibe. Nice group of folks. They came to understand what we were all about. So it just worked out."
Getting signed means a variety of things to a small band, especially distribution. "Thats the biggie," explains Reid. About touring support, "there are certainly possibilities for that written into our contract, its sort of up to us what we want to utilize and what we dont. The things they basically provide for us are...the big one is distribution. The second one is a bank basically for recording and touring, and then thirdly, some recognition in the world of music." By bank, he means, "they are advances is what they call it and most of those advances are recoupable. The are certain things, not many, but there are a few select ones that are non-recoupable or split with them(Mammoth)."
In the meantime, Strangefolk will not be changing their in house management. "Weve got a really homegrown team working with us, and weve all evolved together. So its not like we went out and hired some slick manager or anything. We all have grown into this together. Hes (manager, Brett Fairbrother) been with us since the early days along with the other folks that work for us."
Strangefolk has multiple songwriters, usually a healthy sign for any band. Genauer explains their song writing approach as the following: "Generally there is somebody who sort of has the incipient idea whether its a chord structure, or a song. Everybody comes together and creates parts. Usually the guy who has the beginning idea tries to steer people in the direction that he envisions for the song, and invariably fails, but at least he has some input into what the mood and tempo and the overall vibe of the song is going to be."
Mammoth will be re-releasing Weightless in Water (1997) giving Strangefolk their first taste of national distribution. The band will play their annual Garden of Eden show at the Addison County Fairgrounds beginning with one set on Saturday night, Sept. 5th, and three sets on Sunday Sept. 6th. On September 8th they will begin an 8 to 10 week national tour including ten dates opening for Bob Weirs Ratdog. Upon their return, they will look to begin work on a new album, probably some time in January.