Yonder Mountain String Band's Jeff Austin and Dave Johnston on being inspired by Colorado

Categories: Profiles

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Brandon Marshall
Jeff Austin. Slide show: Yonder Mountain String Band at Red Rocks
Do those local performance milestones still stand out in your memory?

JA: The first time that we sold out the Fox, that was a monumental achievement, and not just for us. Bands that come through, when you sell out that theater for the first time, that's a big deal. That's a statement to make. It's amazing how something that happens here can really spread nationwide. If you sell out the Fox in Boulder, people in San Francisco will hear about it and then check you out.

On that note, you've hit the national stage. It's no longer a matter of the Fox or the Boulder Theatre -- you've sold out venues in Chicago and New York and played on national late night talk shows. Do you still feel like your sound is still rooted in Colorado?

DJ: I still think our sound is a Colorado sound, and I think that sound is something that people like a lot. We're not a North Carolina thing, we're not an East Coast thing, and we're not all the way far out there like San Francisco.

But having been to all of those places and traveled there and gotten to take in a little bit of what each of those different regions has to offer, I like them a lot. The Colorado thing is very unique, but I wouldn't be able to name characteristics of it. Still, I think our sound is mainly that. It hasn't been genericized to anything. People have tried to hyphenate our band to nonexistence, but it hasn't happened yet.

JA: We definitely sound like a Colorado band, and that's just a natural thing. Three of us still live here. I live in the mountains outside of Nederland. I'm in my office right now. I turn around and look out the window, and it's an immediate reference to what we do. If I'm ever locked up and can't think of a tune...I just stop for a second and I look out the window. It just starts coming.

You're both string players. Do you find the style resonates with fans of people like Bill Monroe and the older bluegrass players? Is it something that reaches across different spectrums?

DJ: I think that we are accessible to the traditionalists. Where we are on stage, we see the kids in the first few rows. But we've gotten to meet more and more older folks, and it's a nice thing to see that you didn't know as much about your demographic as you thought you did.

You're working on a new record. The last record, 2009's The Show, included drum work by longtime Elvis Costello collaborator Pete Thomas. What's the direction for the new release?

JA: We just laid down some basic rhythm stuff, just as bare bones as you can get, in Chicago, where we were on our October tour. We kind of set up camp at a studio there for a few days. It's a little bit more complex now; we don't all live in the same area. We were trying to figure out the best way to get us all recording. The main thing now is trying to reinvent the wheel. We're our own record label, and for us to turn and throw $200,000 at a project that probably won't sell 10,000 copies, it makes no sense.

The biggest brainstorm sessions that we've had is, 'What's something new that we can try?' Is it recording and releasing little EPs? Is it releasing songs? Is it going in the studio and spending six figures to put a record out, where the majority of the people who hear it download it illegally? The music is in their hands, but at that point, what have you thrown a bunch of cash behind it? It's a tricky thing right now, trying to figure out a way to come up with something new. God knows we have enough material. We've got so much material sitting around; we've got enough for many records
DJ: It's aging in oak barrels, like cured meats.

Continue reading for details on the band's upcoming New Year's sets.

Location Info


Boulder Theater

2032 14th St., Boulder, CO

Category: Music

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