Posted by: Necci – Jul 24, 2012
Back in April, Sounds of RVA previewed a rough version of M.H.'s "Where Are You Going? (The Easy Song)," and now M.H. and His Orchestra proudly present the final version of the song as the first single from upcoming album The Throes (The Champe Ford Recording Co., 7/27). The calypso-Cure sound is really fresh and, to reiterate from the prior article, fairly infectious.
Charles Diamond has released a few singles and videos, but right here is his new mixtape, Poetic Diction. There's some good classic material in its freshest incarnation ("Take 'Em to Church"), as well as new hits ("New Jazz"). There is also a bunch of guest stars including Jo Casino, Tony Luciano, KO, Big Blick, the Veteran, and Cons.
(film stills from video by Derek Keaton and Stephen Eldred)
The Subterranea Collective is working furiously to release some new albums by several bands. Subterranea TV has made a video for Way, Shape, or Form's new single, "Option House." This sounds delightful in a The Sea and Cake sort of way. We can't wait for the album!
If you're not familiar with The Inflatables, prepare yourself for full disclosure. The bluegrass band is one of the best Richmond has seen since The Hot Seats. Zach Hudgins (bass), Ben Butterworth (guitar) and Alex Murphy (banjo) answered some burning questions (sometimes contradicting one another) about the band's origin, crazy gigs, and an "inflatable" walrus.
How did the Inflatables meet and get together?
Zach: Ben begged and pleaded to have me in the band and, after a few months of nagging, I decided to join and play the music festival Elysian Fields with them.
Ben: I was involved in putting on a music festival called Elysian Fields. I had a little bit of an in since I was part of the production team and so therefore, I was fortunate enough to be able to be able to also play at the festival. I wanted to put together a band. Not necessarily a bluegrass band, but something with acoustic instruments. I asked some of my friends who I'd met at Emilio's open mic night to be a part of the group and they happily obliged. The original line-up for the band included Corey Wells on lead guitar; Alex Murphy, one of my best friends from high school, on banjo; Jesse Wells on fiddle; and Raphael Katchinoff on drums. I had intended to play bass myself, but being the sly dog that we all love, Zach Hudgins of Think? calls me up and asks if I wanted a bass player... I told him I'd think about it, truthfully not intending to ever follow up on it. Fortunately for us all, Zach was persistant and he indeed did become our bass player.
Our first show was complete and utter slop, and Alex's parents wouldn't let him come because he was preparing to go to South Korea to teach English to children. Rightfully and accurately so--we would've been bad influences on Mr. Murphy, and he may never have made it to Korea at all had he come to Elysian Fields. We tried to do some pretty ballsy stuff at our first show... including a bluegrass version of "I am the Walrus" that I incorporated a kaosillator synth pad into. Cool idea, but not well achieved. After those shows, we picked up a residency at the Camel playing for what Zach coined "Beers and Banjos," a happy hour slot every Friday night. We picked up some odd gigs here and there and eventually landed another residency at Cary St. Cafe every Wednesday. We recorded an album during that same time, at Montrose Studio with Adrian Olsen. Then Alex went off to South Korea and we were estranged from our banjo player for a year.
During that year we played alot of shows, about two every week. It was during this period that Jesse got scooped up by Jackass Flats to be their fiddle player as well. This made scheduling gigs tricky, and sadly we had to bid Jesse adieu. Corey went shortly thereafter, and the future of the Inflatables was uncertain. Zach and I played a bunch of shows as a duo around then. But it wouldn't be long before we were rejoined with Alex. Another old friend of mine, Stavros Calos, would soon join us on fiddle, and the future got a little brighter. And as icing on the cake, Adrian Ciucci, formerly of Bad Noise, currently of The Southern Belles, would also join us on most of the gigs, and certainly the best ones. And that's pretty much where we are now.
Alex: The Inflatables were a thing, or getting to be, before I got back from college in 2010, but I had been playing with Ben since high school, and I think he knew I would have egged his house if he started a bluegrass band and didn't let me play banjo in it, so he asked me in, perhaps out of fear.
Did you all grow up in Richmond? When was the first time you started playing music?
Zach: Yes, I grew up here in Richmond and started playing music when I was about 15.
Ben: Everyone but Alex is from the Richmond area. Alex is a San Francisco boy. I grew up in Hopewell on the Appomattox River. Zach and Adrian both grew up in North Side. And Stavros lived off Forest Hill Rd. Zach, Adrian, Alex, and myself all live in Richmond currently. Stavros lives in Charlottesville. So he's commuting to all our Richmond shows. And we love him for it. He's the band historian and aficionado on all things old time, and we couldn't do what we do without him. I started taking piano lessons in second grade, but all my teachers were crotchety old ladies who only wanted me to learn what they wanted me to learn, and I didn't get all that much out of it. I was in church choirs, and choirs in elementary through high school. I have always been a performer. I remember playing piano at a Christmas service when I was in third grade. I also used to write plays when I was a kid and have my friends and my brother, Andy, act in them. We would put on shows for our parents. I acted all through high school. Finally, one day in ninth grade, probably more because I wanted to get girls than to learn music, I started learning how to play guitar, and it's all been downhill from there.
Alex: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. [I] played trumpet at first, tried guitar, hated it, then someone threw a banjo out of a moving car and the sound it made when it hit the dumpster was life-changing. I think that's how everyone starts off on the banjo.
Who is recording you at Sound of Music? Why did you choose Sound of Music?
Zach: Bryan Walthall, the coolest producer I know and most all around badass, is recording us, and we chose him for this reason.
Ben: We are excited to announce that will begin recording our second album at the beginning of August. Our friend, Bryan Walthall, will be recording us and whipping us into shape at Sound of Music Studios. Bryan has recorded some of our favorite artists, including Cracker, Tea Leaf Green, The Hot Seats, GWAR, and The Southern Belles. "How ya living boys!?!?"
What have you been listening to lately?
Zach: The Red Elvises. Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. Hillbilly Jazz
Ben: The new Old Crow Medicine Show album, Carry Me Back. Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. Paul Simon's There Goes Rhymin Simon. The Red Elvises. The Infamous Stringdusters. The Civil Wars. Elvis Presley. Also, the NYC trio, Moon Hooch, is incredible. It's two saxophones and a drummer, and it's the most unreal sound I've heard in a long while. Check them out. RIGHT MEOW!!
Alex: Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Karen Dalton, Hako Yamasaki, [and] other tragic female singers.
If you could collaborate with any living musician, who would that be?
Zach: Tupac and yes, he is alive.
Ben: If I could play with any living artist it would have to be Trey Anastasio. I've seen almost thirty Phish shows and I can't get enough. The only thing keeping me from being a complete lot rat is The Inflatables.
What did you do for July 4th?
Zach: I was super hungover for the 4th and, no, I did not shoot or watch fireworks.
Ben: I had a really wild and magical July 3rd and July 4th. On the third, my roommate Jordan and I had people over to our house in Oregon Hill. A few friends turned into a full on rager. Grilling hot dogs, getting bit by mosquitoes, and celebrating true freedom. There had to have been about thirty people up on the roof watching the fireworks from Belle Isle, all while Jimi Hendrix's performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" from Woodstock wailed away on the boom box. That was great.
Then came the jams. Our good friends from The Green Boys came over, and we played till our fingers turned blue. It was a full moon that night, and what better a time to go walking in Hollywood Cemetery. Right? So, that's just what we did... Walking among the spirits on a patriotic evening. The Fourth was pretty awesome as well, starting off by dipping my toes into the fan with my friend Kathleen, going to New York Deli and having a French Dip... or should I call it a "Freedom dip?" It was the Fourth of July after all. Later that day, the two of us went to Hardywood Brewery to see PBR play and to kick back a few cold ones. We could see fireworks in panorama, from the Diamond, from Dogwood Dell, and from everywhere else in Richmond. I felt truly American. And it felt like a real old fashioned kind of summer.
Alex: On July 4 i went swimming in Hanover County. The night before, I got hit with a water balloon at Ben's house and called the cops.
Do you have any new cover songs you've been working on?
Zach: I have been working on flatpicking old time traditionals and, as of tonight, will be learning the mandolin.
Ben: "Big In Japan" by Tom Waits.
Alex: The Inflatables never play cover songs.
What was your favorite gig ever and why?
Zach: Busking in Carytown for the first time this spring in perfect 75 degree weather.
Ben: Hands down for me has to have been opening for The Carolina Chocolate Drops at Brown's Island for Friday Cheers this past May. They are incredible and so is the entire production staff at Venture Richmond. Stephen Lecky, I can't thank you enough for hooking us up with that gig. It was inspiring to say the least. It was a dream come true and it was like looking the future square in the face. I've been going to see shows down on Brown's Island for years and it was such a beautiful thing to look out on a crowd of I don't know how many thousand people who were really into what we were playing.
Alex: I'm happy whenever we don't end up owing money on our band [bar] tabs.
Do you all write the music, or is there a main songwriter?
Zach: I only write some songs and collaborate with Ben a fair amount.
Ben: I guess I write most of the songs. But really it's more like I write most of the lyrics. The rest of band is way more musically talented than I am, so they help with the structure of the melodies and chord phrasing. There are a few songs I've put together all on my own, but there's not a snowball's chance in hell that I could do it on my own. My favorite songs are the ones that Alex writes though. And our fans' favorite songs are the ones that Zach writes, so I think I might try and take a step back from the frontman role for a bit and just listen to those guys. Also, it gives me a little break from having to remember lyrics...
Alex: Ben writes most of our songs. Zach has written a good batch of entertaining songs, [but] I've only written a few thus far. Like three. Everyone always wants to be the George Harrison in a band. By that standard, I suppose I'd be the Pete Best of the Inflatables. that doesn't quite work actually. I'm more like the Stavros Calos of the Kinks.
Where is the craziest place you've played music (for fun or gig)?
Zach: The time we played the nut house and got asked to play "Barbara Anne" and "La Bamba" over and over again. The Zeus gallery for a late night private party that we got invited to play after we played at Café Diem .
Ben: The craziest "show" I ever played wasn't really a show at all. I was playing with my cousin Clay Schutte, who was the head honcho for the Elysian Fields festival. It was at Elysian Fields in 2009, the second year we threw it and we decided to jump up on the stage at 3am and we didn't stop playing until 8'30am. I'd like to say I remember that night well, but I really don't. What I do remember though was a really twisted version of the Grateful Dead's "Ripple," and a lot of diminished chords. This jam will forever be known as the Walrus Party. I had brought an inflatable walrus that we had tied to the roof of the main stage. Over the course of the weekend, the walrus, aka. Paul, had blown away, but that night he returned. The people who were there, for lack of a better way to put it, were out of their fucking minds, and made a shrine to the walrus using what was left around the stage area--trash, chairs, cups, bottles, streamers, and tiki torches. They spelled out "Walrus Party" in front of us on the ground. It was a beautiful and completely insane night... also it could be why The Inflatables are called The Inflatables.
Alex: Shockoe Bottom.
The Inflatables play 8/5 in Asheville (@Emerald Lounge), 8/9 in Charlottesville (@The Whiskey Jar), 8/18 in Staunton (@Byers Street) and come back to RVA 8/19 @Legend Brewing Co.
Enjoy these two tunes recorded at a recent show:
"Old Plank Road"
"Whistle of the Train"
By Sarah Moore Lindsey (soundsofrva.tumblr.com)