Yonder Mountain Sting Band | Jay Blakesberg ·
When: April 3 | Doors at 7 p.m.
Where: MontBleu Casino | Stateline, Nev.
Admission: $25 advance | $30 day of
Drawn by the growing music scene in the Front Range of Colorado, Yonder Mountain String Band members Adam Aijala, Dave Johnston, Ben Kauffmann and Jeff Austin crossed paths while playing during informal jam sessions and found a unique chemistry together.
“I don’t think there was any conscious decision or intention. When the four of us got together we found we could understand each other musically so it was very intuitive and very easy,” said Johnston, Yonder’s banjo player.
The group has continued to spend the last 13 years redefining bluegrass with influences ranging from traditional string bands including Del McCoury, Johnson Mountain Boys and Jimmy Martin to alternative rock such as Grandaddy and Postal Service and incorporating inspiration from punk rock staples Bad Religion, Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys to create a sounds that bend the genre and keep fans dancing all night.
Spending the majority of their career on the road, Yonder Mountain String Band has played several high profile events including opening for Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. They regularly headline bluegrass festivals across the country including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Austin City Limits Festival, Bonnaroo and Rothbury. Each year the group hosts the Northwest String Summit in North Plains, Ore.
“I don’t know the details of how it really came about. We were working with some people in the Northwest who wanted to have a host band for their festival, so they asked us and we said yeah,” said Johnston. “It ended up being a very fortuitous series of events that got us to headline that festival.”
Logging more than 100 live shows a year has a strong effect on the music, as well. Their most recent release, “YMSB EP ’13,” is a four-track EP featuring one song written and sung by each member of the band. The project was recorded entirely on the road and is the first in a series of EPs to be recorded and released while traveling. Recording while on tour allows the group to polish songs in front of their fans before hunkering down in a studio to lay down the final tracks. The group seeks out studios they can work with on the road and maintain the freedom to write and record when inspiration strikes.
“If you’re playing live all the time you want people to get excited and feel like they’re having a great time with your songs,” said Johnston. “Being a part of other’s experiences is important.”
While the self-described “hit and run” concept appeals to the band now, they still plan to release more full-length albums in the future. In the meantime, they will continue the balancing act of a busy tour schedule and family life.
“It’s challenging, but it makes you appreciate the time you have to play music and the time you have to be with the people you love. It’s important to work on the smaller particulars and don’t worry about creating a grand scheme,” said Johnston.
Yonder Mountain String Band rocks the MontBleu Casino with The Brothers Comatose on April 3. For tickets, visit ticketfly.com.