The Tumbleweed Wanderers deliver an original incarnation of soulful folk rock from the San Francisco Bay area. Their career started with busking and was accelerated by creative discipline; they soon found themselves a lauded stage presence at clubs and festivals.
Their soon-to-be-released album, Realize, is a rich, multilayered tapestry of the same kind of rootsy themes, masterful strings, and the beautifully blended vocal harmonies for which the band is known, with a delightful psychedelic dimension. Recently band members Jeremy Lyon and Rob Fidel (who both do guitar and vocals) took the time to answer Wanda Waterman’s questions about creative influences, musical experiences, and onstage flubs.
On Intense Musical Experiences
ROB: One of the best feelings is when Jer or I bring a song to the table and it just all comes together so quickly and effortlessly. Jer and I met in college in Santa Cruz and we’ve had so many great experiences writing and playing music in those forests.
Some of our most intense listening experiences were at Outside Lands 2012, lying in Golden Gate Park listening to Sigur Rós while the fog rolled in.
What do you think will make Realize stand out from the rest of this year’s recordings?
JEREMY: I don’t know. I haven’t heard them yet? haha! This year’s been great already for albums. Black Messiah, I Love You, Honey Bear, To Pimp a Butterfly, and the Alabama Shakes and My Morning Jacket singles have all blown my mind this year. We just made the best record we could.
Has anything weird or funny happened to you during recording, rehearsal, or performance?
ROB: I would say most times we’re together something weird and funny happens. There’ve been a handful of times I’ve fallen during a performance?and not just stumble, but completely eat shit mid-song.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked off stage and realized my zipper was down during the whole show.
A lot of times we get pretty goofy and loopy when we’re recording and it always keeps the mood light and fun. Pat (the keyboardist) is often the most entertaining member to record because the things that come out of that dude’s mouth are hilarious. Sometimes he’ll just start freestyling over our songs and it’ll get picked up by the mics.
Your vocal harmonies are really tight. Do either of you have perfect pitch?
JEREMY: Thank-you! No we don’t, nowhere close. We just practiced our harmonies a lot.
What conditions do you need in your life in order to go on being creative?
ROB: We recently recorded our new album, Realize, in Stinson Beach, CA and it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had playing music. This studio had so much natural light pouring into the space and such a beautiful view of the forest and ocean.
I’d say having a good amount of vitamin D is a big one for me. Most studios are cave-like, and it’s easy to lose track of time and the outside world. I’m also a clean freak so I prefer my space to be cleaned and organized before I can be productive musically.
Are there any books, albums, or films that have profoundly influenced you?
JEREMY: Dark Side of the Moon, Born To Run, Up From Below, Circuital, For Emma, Forever Ago, Fate, Déjà vu, Sea Change, In Rainbows, Sky Blue Sky, After The Gold Rush, High Fidelity, and East of Eden.
ROB: I’ve been listening to a lot of new music this year. Like Jer mentioned, so many great records have already come out like, I Love You, Honey Bear, and I’ve been really into the new Sufjan Stevens record. Dr Dog released a live album and it’s incredible! I almost like it more than any of their studio albums.
We are really looking forward to releasing this album and getting back on the road! It’s been a long year of recording, and we can’t wait to be back on tour and sharing our music with everyone!
Wanda also penned the poems for the artist book They Tell My Tale to Children Now to Help Them to be Good, a collection of meditations on fairy tales, illustrated by artist Susan Malmstrom.