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[About the Band.]
Broadside Electric • 321 Grayling Ave., Narberth, PA  19072
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About traditional music, and being traditional folk musicians:

Amy:Why do we do traditional music? What is that?
Joe:Yeah, what's your problem? Why couldn't you just be a Genesis cover band?
Tom:I don't write, and Jim doesn't write, and –
Helene:Well, Jim writes. But not songs.
Joe:[to Amy] That's a good question.
Jim:There's probably a lot of reasons but one reason is that it's a hook, pretty much. It's something that's already there.
Helene:And if you do covers than you're a cover band.
Tom:I guess my interest in traditional material has way exceeded my interest in trying to write my own songs. For me that's really the fundamental point.
Amy:But what is it that you like about the stuff?
Tom:Things like the Child ballads bring me back, because I was played those records at a very early age. I think it's partly childhood conditioning.
Helene:I like that there's such a blank slate. Some songs that are original, and modern songs, they go with their arrangements or they go with some sort of style or some person and some sort of person's voice. Well this is a blank slate. You can do it any way you want. All it is is a bunch of words and a melody.
Joe:Right. I don't consider these cover tunes.
Everyone:No, not at all.
Joe:We're still covering, in a sense, but in a different way and so it's not a cover band to me at all.
Helene:It was at the beginning. It was with Span and Fairport; we used to cover their songs.
Tom:We actually covered their arrangements.
Helene:And then after a while we would start deconstructing those arrangements and reconstructing our own. And then after a while we didn't even want to hear it. We just wanted to start with a "nothing."
Tom:Which is why we started getting stuff out of books. With a book like Bronson ["The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads"] there's a lot of stuff in there, different elements, different versions of the songs and you just sort of mix and match and try to produce something that really has an original stamp to it.
Jim:Yeah. That's one thing I really enjoy about what is traditional. It's like having a common pool, in terms of our relationship with other traditional bands. It's nice that we can produce our own "Tam Lin," say. It's really our own.
Tom:That one is our own.
Jim:A lot of famous acts do their "Tam Lin," but we have our "Tam Lin" and it's something we can say that we contributed. I imagine it's as if we're Renaissance painters and we're doing our depiction of the Crucifixion or something like that. The subjects are already there. It's up to us to offer our own interpretation and throw in our own bit of ourselves into it.
Tom:Is our next song "Crucifixion?"
Joe:It's a Renoir.
Jim:Yeah.
Amy:We should do a "Madonna and Child" [laughter]
Jim:Yeah! Or an "Annunciation" or something like that.
Amy:Right.
Tom:The other nice thing about that blank slate is it's kind of an invitation to try and bring in all different influences.
Joe:It's almost a dare. "I double dare ya to do something with this melody and this lyric."
Helene:Yeah.
Jim:Yup.
Helene:We can do whatever we want. And another thing is we can copy people too. We can be totally unoriginal. We can play something in the style of some modern cover, while if we were actually playing that song we'd be a total ripoff.
Tom:That's true.
Joe:Right. We'd play in the style of –
Amy:"Matty Groves" in the style of "Freebird!"
Helene:Right! While if we were just playing "Freebird" we'd be a worthless band.
Amy:Good thing we're not playing "Freebird."
Tom:When we used to play that Klezmer version of "Rawhide," it was like that. That's kind of an extreme example.
Joe:What makes it worth it to me, in the end, is being able to introduce people to stuff – I think somebody else had said this before, and I really identified with it, 'cause it's what happened to me – material they otherwise would not have had a chance to hear in a different context. It bridges the gap a bit.
Tom:That's true, although I think a lot of people we play to know to some extent the material that we do. And they'll be familiar with the songs from other contexts.
Amy:But I think they really appreciate that we're doing –
Joe:– the way that we're doing it.
Helene:You know, I don't really know anybody who heard us and loved it and had to go out and buy Fairport and Span albums. I know people who listen us because they know us or they like us or they're our relatives or people who already listen to that kind of music.
Joe:Right. But I don't think that our allure is that we embrace the whole genre, per se. Just that some people who hear our sound think it's a new genre unto itself.
Tom:Not only that, but we cover a lot of bases in terms of the traditions that we draw from. In addition to the Child Ballads there's the Celtic tunes, there's the Klezmer and the French music and this and that.
Jim:The traditional aspect of this is sort of a draw for people too. That is, people who are already into traditional music will be interested in us because they may hear that we do certain things, and they'll be interested right away, we'll have a common ground to talk about our music with people. Whereas the normal singer/songwriter writes his own songs and no-one says "Oh wow, you stand around and sing your own songs?" There's not necessarily that same kind of interest, it's sort of different. And it's cool that we can meet bands like "Einstein's Little Homunculus" –
Helene:And know a lot of the same tunes.
Amy:And immediately be able to jam with them.
Tom:Yeah, and coming at them from totally different directions.
Jim:Yeah, but it's great to have that to talk about, you know.
Joe:"James, James, Morrison, Morrison." [quoting Einstein's take on A.A. Milne's "Disobedience"]
Helene:That's total genius.
Joe:That's hysterical!
Jim:It's great to have that common source material to talk about and see the different ways we do things.
Joe:And, see, I thought that was cool and I never heard the piece before, and I was hooked.
Helene:I'd heard the tune and I'd heard the poem. The idea of putting them together I thought was pure genius.
Tom:Yeah, putting them together, that's brilliant.
Joe:And I got hooked on that the same way I imagine someone getting hooked on the type of stuff we're doing. The tables had turned, I was now in the audience thinking: "Wow!" I went nuts when I heard that.
Amy:We're probably the wave of the future just like those singer/songwriters – [laughter]
Jim:Of yesterday.
Tom:Traditional music from the Twenty-First Century.
Helene:The singer/songwriters that are from thirty years ago, that we still love now, are ones where someone else can actually repeat the song. And with so many of the singer/songwriters now it's as if you hear the song and you know "This song will not move. This is fixed."
Tom:And I think that some of the singer/songwriters who get beyond that are the ones who have that capability to provide songs that are more transferable.
Amy:Like Dar Williams.
Jim:And then they sell out and do a big rock album.
Amy:Although her stuff is very –
Joe:Like who?
Jim:Name names!
Joe:Name one!
Amy:It feels to me as if a lot of different people can be singing her songs. Even though it's a song about something that happened to her it still feels to me like something –
Helene:One thing is it has a melody. A lot of them are kind of "OK this one can't get out of this one guy's body because that's just the way it is."
 
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Forming the Band | Helene Joins | From 1991-1997 | Joe Meets B.E. | Amy Meets B.E. | Joe and Amy Join | The Philadelphia Folk Festival | It's New All Over Again | Adding Drums | Fun with Woodwinds | Arranging | Traditional Music | Complete Interview
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