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The full quintet made its debut at the Philadelphia Ceili Group Irish Festival in September, 1997. Many gigs later, the band is looking forward to their next year of recording and playing together.

Everyone talks about the new quintet:

Helene:[to Ashley] Actually, I'm really glad you played at the Folk Festival because I think all of us were getting kind of burned out with the trio lineup. We hadn't arranged anything new.
Tom:Yeah, our arrangement process had kind of ground to a halt. It was getting really difficult.
Jim:I think there was some interesting things happening, but it was like wading knee-deep in mud. Trying to get anywhere was really tough.
Tom:I sort of feel we got to this point with the trio lineup where every new song we were working on basically, musically, was something we had done before. There was one kind of new thing which was "Nonesuch" which is now surfacing again. So.
Helene:But we really needed something else injected in there.
Tom:Yeah, the new blood was definitely a good move. Absolutely the right thing to do.
Ashley:And it's nothing like what I expected. I get all kinds of ideas from hearing each of you play stuff. I try to echo that on the kit in spots and try be very musical with it. It's great. I never had four people coming at me at once with so many different things to play off of.
Tom:Yeah, but that's good, I think that's the kind of drumming that we need.
Jim:I'm thinking what a contrast this is from the previous trio lineup.
Ashley:Is it really?
Jim:The way I'm thinking of it right now is that, in the old trio lineup we used to have to be conscious of who was doing what all the time. If someone wasn't doing a certain job then we had to think about "Who is going to do this? This has to be done." I'm talking musically, rhythmically, harmonically –
Ashley:You mean there was space, you wanted to make sure space was filled?
Jim:It wasn't always so obvious. I feel, and maybe this is just my feeling but I feel we all have areas of responsibility musically now and we bring a certain skill or a certain, we each have a job to do.
Ashley:I really think it's more one of those whole's-greater-than-the-sum-of-it's-parts type of thing.
Jim:Yeah, me too.
Ashley:Everything someone's doing is crucial at that moment, it's integral, which I really respect in this group. Ray and I have a lot of fun, we improvise a lot but I've never been in a such a highly structured ensemble like this before.
Amy:I have to say that's the same for me. I've never been in a group that was so well arranged.
Tom:So arrangement oriented?
Amy:Right, that was so careful about who is doing what. The people that I played with before it was "OK we're going to do this song" and then we just sort of start playing the song and then somebody does some harmony and we say "Oh yeah, that's nice. Do that again!"
Helene:I think that was borne from, in the beginning, certain lacks that we had. In the beginning I couldn't improvise at all. I couldn't improvise my way out of a paper bag. And so all of my parts were written for me. And they couldn't deviate. And then later I would write my own parts, still unable to deviate. And then Melissa Demian joined the band and she couldn't read music. She could only play the dulcimer and sing. There were certain limitations that we had that caused other people to have to do certain things in certain ways. I think that we always did our arrangements so carefully first because we had to, and then because it was so good, that was one of the things we started to get known for, was really working things out. But I think that we started working things out because we had to.
Amy:And it ended up working so well.
Tom:I think it's partly because we had to, but I feel that was partly the way that I wanted it to be. I didn't necessarily want it to be that way all the time but there were definitely times when I had ideas that I wanted to have an arrangement go a certain way.
Jim:Right. It's only going to be as structured as we make it. It was never going to be more structured than it needed to be.
Ashley:It's good that you have a group that realizes sometimes it's good to have a structure, and sometimes not. It's not often that you find that balance.
Amy:Well because then you can use that structure to create things.
Helene:Now I feel that we use that structure as much to make things happen faster than to make things happen well. People bring things structured to rehearsal so we can get it done. It takes a long time to do a good arrangement from scratch in front of everyone.
Ashley:I wasn't sure how it was going to click when we started rehearsing in my basement. Tom, you were on the road and we were making "The Basement Tapes." And Amy and I were getting used to everything.
Amy:We do have tapes!
Ashley:"Minka" was the first glimmer of light, that's when I realized: "OK, now we're going in a strange direction."
Tom:I had no idea what "Minka" was going to be like. I thought I did. Then I came back and it was something totally different.
Ashley:And I still have ideas for example, to develop a bit more for the studio. There are still things in that that can be brought out.
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Forming the Band | Helene Joins | From 1991-1997 | Ashley Meets B.E. | Amy Meets B.E. | Ashley 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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