There’s been quite a bit of buzz surrounding Leftover Salmon’s latest studio album, Something Higher. Last year, the group took some time away from touring to work with Steve Berlin of Los Lobos at WaveLab Studios in Tucson, Arizona. This album, in particular, is a true band collaboration—each member played a key role creating the arrangements for these new tunes, not just the veterans of the band, which has been around for nearly three decades.
After involving Leftover Salmon frontman Vince Herman in a game of “interview tag” with Anders Beck, Billy Strings, and more at WinterWonderGrass, Live For Live Music contributor Tory Pittarelli was asked to curate another round of interview tag with the guys from Leftover, who she fondly refers to as the Merry Pranksters of Jamgrass. She began the “game” by asking a member of Leftover Salmon a couple questions, then they sent her on a mission to ask one of their bandmates a question of their choosing. Read on below for Leftover Salmon’s game of interview tag, and for more information about the band and their upcoming tour dates, head here.
Tory Pittarelli: People always say that being in a band is like being in a marriage. Leftover Salmon is coming up on its 30th anniversary as a band. How have 30 years of marriage treated you guys?
Drew Emmitt: Great! We’ve never had a knock-down drag-out. There are always going to be disagreements, but for the most part, we’ve gotten along pretty well. I think one thing that has helped is having different people come in and out of the band. It hasn’t been the same band the whole time. It has been Vince [Herman] and me the whole time, but I think it’s refreshing to have different people join the band—I think it helps. It helps break up the monotony of the marriage.
Tory: With the release of your 10th studio album coming up on May 4th, Something Higher…
Drew: Is it that many?! Did you count the album with Cracker? It’s 11 if you count that. [Editor’s note: Leftover Salmon did a studio album called O’ Cracker Where Art Thou? in 2003, featuring two members of Cracker—David Lowery and Johnny Hickman—with musical accompaniment by Leftover Salmon.]
Tory: With the release of your 11th album coming up on May 4th, Something Higher, you guys are no strangers to time in the studio. What have you learned about how to make the best use of the short amount of time you get to record in the studio together?
Drew: [laughs] Relax. Have fun. It’s no big deal, just enjoy it.
Tory: By now, you guys probably know everything there is to know about one another, and even things you don’t want to know. But you can send me to ask anyone in your band any question in the world. So what can I do for you?
Drew: Ask Vince if he knows where I can get a chocolate-bacon, sock-monkey thong.
Tory: Hello Vince. Drew would like to know where he can get a chocolate-bacon, sock-monkey thong.
Vince Herman: [without missing a beat] Chocolate-bacon, sock-monkey thongs are available at the Floyd Fest over there in the West Virginia section of the country. Scott and Nellie Coffman have a hillbilly gypsy kind of band over there. They’re the inventors of the chocolate-bacon, sock-monkey thong. As you can imagine, the chocolate-bacon, sock-monkey thong is kinda funky, you know? It’s rare for a funk eruption high on a Virginia mountaintop, but there you go!
Tory: Is there only one?
Vince: It’s like when a joke comes up about modern times, and it erupts spontaneously in a couple different places at the same time. It’s there in the gestalt of the mind of our culture. That’s where I think it comes from. What are we talking about again?
Tory: Oh, nothing… [laughs] Moving on! What was the process like for you guys when putting together this album? Was it more pulling songs together that have been written over time, or was it more about writing songs for the concept of the album?
Vince: Oh, it was definitely writing for the record, but not in a cohesive way or any strung-together concept or anything. But yeah, we don’t write a whole lot, or at least I don’t. The tunes were definitely written for the record. I’m going to start writing more though, dang it!
Tory: So the album is called Something Higher. Does weed help you write, or make it more difficult?
Vince: I forget.
Tory: By now, you know the drill since this is our second round of interview tag together. What would you like to know from a fellow band member?
Vince: I’d like to ask Alwyn Robinson who his main influences are when it comes to tennis-shoe choice. Well, not necessarily tennis shoes. Other shoes too. Just say shoe choices. As far as the band goes, footwear-wise, I think Alwyn is the most advanced player in the band. Sartorially, Erik Deutsch raises the level pretty high, but I think Alwyn wins it on the footwear.
Tory: I would love to investigate this for you.
Vince: These are important details.
Tory: Alwyn, who are your main influences when it comes to footwear?
Alwyn: I love, first and foremost, shoes. I’ve heard it’s a Pisces thing, or at least, I’m going to tell everyone that it’s a Pisces thing so that everyone starts using that as an excuse to love shoes as well if they’re Pisces. I’m going to have to go with my cousin Josh in New Orleans. He’s a very, very sharp dresser. He always, regardless of how rugged everything else is on his body, takes care of his shoes. He always says that your shoes are the things that carry you through the day. He says he’ll make sure that if everything else is fucked up, his shoes will be nice because that’s going to remind him that shoes are what keep it together—physically and mentally. So yeah, I’m going to go with Josh.
Tory: Hats off to you, Josh. Or shoes. Wherever you are. If you could have had any musician come into the studio and play on a track on Something Higher—let’s narrow it down and say they have to be alive and well—who would it be?
Alwyn: Derek Trucks. I didn’t get put on to Tedeschi Trucks Band until maybe two years ago. I had a buddy tell me about this live record that they have, Everybody’s Talking, and I’ve played that record at least every other day for the past couple years—it’s ridiculous. Derek Trucks’ soloing on that is insane. That guy makes you listen, I mean they’re all the same way, but I would choose Derek because I’m attached to the sound of his instrument. All the musicians in that band make you listen with the same intensity, but Derek Trucks, he is incredible. His vibe, everything about him, seems humble and modest. He’s obviously listening to everyone, just as much as we are listening to him, because he’s such a great musician.
Tory: Is there a particular track you think his playing would be the best fit for?
Alwyn: Drew [Emmitt’s] tune, “Astral Traveler”.
Tory: Oh right, the Colonel Bruce track. That would be perfect.
Alwyn: Actually, I’m gonna go with two choices. Also, Greg [Garrison’s] tune “Analog”. Slide would be killing on that. It would fit the vibe very well.
Tory: Let’s just get Derek to sit in with you guys in Telluride. Maybe we can make it happen.
Alwyn: That would be a dream come true. That’d be amazing to share the stage with him.
Tory: So you get to ask anybody anything. What’s it gonna be?
Alwyn: Ask Andy Thorn what his favorite geographical region to hike within the United States is and why.
Tory: Andy! Alwyn’s got a question for you.
Andy Thorn: Uh oh.
Tory: Yeah, it’s a rough one. What is your favorite geographical region to hike within the United States, and why?
Andy: Whoa. Now, this I’m interested in. I thought it was gonna be boring.
Tory: Not today.
Andy: I don’t know! I mean, I love Colorado. It could be anything. Maybe I’ll say the Tetons. The Tetons are sick. Cecilia and I did a backpacking trip there. One of my friends is a park ranger there, so we got to stay in a ranger cabin like five miles in, which the public can’t do, so that was pretty damn cool.
Tory: I’m visiting friends up there this summer, so I’m gonna have to ask you where to hike when I go.
Andy: If you can, visit Lake Solitude. It’s pretty deep in there, but it’s fucking amazing. We actually caught tons of fish unexpectedly, so bring a pole. If we caught fish, anyone can catch fish.
Tory: Gonna feel like a real pile if I don’t catch one. So playing Red Rocks probably never gets old. To make this one even more special, you got to play with Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band. Was this once one of your wildest dreams?
Andy: I thought that was the best Red Rocks that we’ve had. All our Red Rocks shows have been really fun. My first was with Greensky Bluegrass. We sold out, and that was really fun because those guys are just our friends, you know? I’ve known them almost since the beginning of their band—before they even had Anders [Beck]. So that was really cool, just to be there with all our buddies. But to do it with Phil Lesh was even cooler, because he’s one of the most legendary musicians in our genre. He almost created the scene, you know, so getting to open for those guys there was incredibly cool.
Tory: It was a big surprise for everybody I think when you guys started Phil Lesh’s set all together. I definitely expected you guys to come out together, but I imagined that happening at the end. It was really fucking cool for the Phil set to kick off with your entire band on stage with them.
Andy: Yeah, it was really cool that they did the reverse sit-in flow. I love it. Usually you sit in at the end of the show, but this time it was like, “Oh yeah, you guys are going to play at the beginning!” That was great for us because then we got to hang out and party the rest of the time. It was perfect.
Tory: So that Phil’s idea?
Andy: Yep, we did not request to do that, believe it or not. The setlist was like that when we got there, and we were stoked.
Tory: Let’s talk about Telluride! I’m already way excited about it. Do you have any favorite band memories from the festival?
Andy: A lot of favorite memories are from Telluride Bluegrass. One of the coolest watching-music-at-Telluride moments was the year Robert Plant played. It was snowing during his set, and it was so freaking awesome. Everyone was totally blown away by it. That was one of the best shows I’ve seen at Telluride. It’s always fun when our friends’ bands are there. Mandolin Orange has been there. The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky—we all just kind of came up together, so being there all together is pretty neat at this point… But the best part is the campsite jams of course.
Tory: It’ll be here before we know it. See you at Camp Howdy!
Leftover Salmon has plans for a huge 2018. In addition to the recent release of their new album, Something Higher, the beloved jamgrass ensemble has announced an extensive summer tour in support of their new studio album. Furthermore, the band has recently announced the second-annual return of their Fish Out Of Water Festival, which will take place in Taos, New Mexico, on August 10th and 11th with Dumpstaphunk, Cracker’s David Lowery and Johnny Hickman (formerly of Cracker), Trout Steak Revival, and more. For more information about Leftover Salmon’s summer plans and Something Higher, head to their website here.