Lighting a fire under Leftover Salmon, talking it over with Drew Emmitt
Leftover Salmon’s 2012 comeback was not just a reunion. The influential band, which melded bluegrass and jam, is plotting its second album in as many years and is on a two-month tour across the West with a show in the Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room on Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 18. Founded in 1989, the Boulder, Colo., band ended an eight-year break from touring last spring when it released the album, “Aquatic Hitchhiker.” It also released a documentary, “Salmonlandia,” and appeared on “After the Catch” on Discovery Channel. The band is Drew Emmitt, Vince Herman, Andy Thorn, Greg Garrison and Jose Martinez. Before going out on tour, Emmitt spoke with Lake Tahoe Action’s Tim Parsons.
Q What does Leftover Salmon have in store for the Presidents Day show on a Monday night at Crystal Bay?
A We are still playing some new songs from “Aquatic Hitchhiker” and we’ve got some other new songs and we are gearing up to make another record in March.
Q So you have some new songs ready to work out?
A Yes. We are getting the creative juices going again and getting ready to do some recording. We are the sort of band that gets down to the wire with our songs then kind of bust them out in the studio and they come to life there. That’s definitely how the last record came about. We were kind of under the gun and that’s how we operate best, it seems like.
Q After a reunion after a long hiatus, a band a lot of times will make one album and that will be it. But a second album from Leftover Salmon makes it feel like the band is back for good.
A After we came back from our break we were just doing some one-offs and festivals and we started gearing up for touring again and we felt it was time to not just be a reunion band but get back on the stick. And when we hired our new banjo player, Andy Thorn, it was really feeling like a band again. Our manager was really instrumental in pushing us to do the record. It was time to show the world that we were a band again and the best way to do that is to make a record and it’s also the best way to light a fire under the band creatively. We’re going to keep it going.
Q Tell me if I have my history correct. After Jerry Garcia died, Leftover Salmon was among the vanguard of jam bands to fill the void.
A We started touring a couple years after Phish started touring and Widespread Panic and that was pretty much it for a while. A couple of others were Shockra and Little Women. This was before the myriad jam bands started popping up everywhere, so I guess in a way we were part of that first wave of those bands getting on the road without the label support or getting the radio play or hits but just getting out and touring and playing shows.
Q Did you always have drums?
A Vince had the Salmonheads and I had Lefthand String Band. Those bands didn’t have drums and so when we formed Leftover Salmon we wanted to have a band that had a little more firepower and would do better in clubs and theater situation so that’s when it got a little more electric.
Q Leftover Salmon was the house band for “After the Catch,” which was after the television program “The Deadliest Catch.” What was that about?
A They were doing “After the Catch” shows in Breckenridge and they went looking for a band that would represent Colorado and they found us. They saw we had been around for a long time and I think they liked our name. It seemed to fit what they were doing and they liked our music. I have been a fan of ‘The Deadliest Catch” for a long time, so I was really excited. It’s just amazing it came together. It was a really good time and something people saw all over the world. I think it gave the band some exposure that it really hadn’t had before.
Q There has been a rise in popularity of organic and bluegrass music. Is that a response to the rise of techno music?
A There’s never going to be a substitute for real organic music. People are always going to want to hear instruments. Electronica has its place and people enjoy it and it’s a cool thing but I don’t think it’s ever going to overtake actual people playing instruments and singing. As society becomes more mechanized and technology becomes more and more intense, I think people also really need the roots of what life is all about which is real human beings making music and creating art. It seems like the more technology advances, I think the more people yearn for that because life can’t just be about technology.