In March of this year on a trip to the United States, I found myself lucky enough to see the legendary Levon Helm Band at the beautiful Tarrytown Music Hall. As the very sad news of Levon’s passing came out earlier this week, I found myself thinking more and more of the brilliance of the gig and how I would introduce this latest interview (which was completed prior to Levon passing). It goes without saying that Levon and band put on an exceptional evening, and there can be no doubt that playing just on their own everyone would have left with huge smiles on their faces. That, however, wouldn’t tell the full story of this particular evening because support act, Spirit Family Reunion added significantly to the overall success of the show. They brought a fantastic energy to the stage, a confidence that grew throughout the set and, perhaps most importantly, a host of excellent songs that the crowd reacted to in a very positive manner. It was an eye-catching performance.
I will write more about the Levon Helm Band show at a later date, but for today with all due respect, let me introduce you to the brilliant Spirit Family Reunion.
Spirit Family Reunion, are you well? Where are you and what’s going on?
We are very well, right now we are in Brooklyn, NY where most of us live, currently we are putting the finishing touches on our first full length record.
Your live show was bursting with energy – how have you gone about honing your live performance?
We have honed our live performance by playing out a lot. We busk out on the street several times a week, along with making money it also helps us develop songs and strengthen our performance.
The band seemed very tight – how did you get together?
Three of us (Maggie,Nick and Stephen) went to high school together, we never played music together then, but several years later we started up and met the rest of the guys along the way.
What’s it like for an up and coming band in New York City?
When first starting it can be very difficult here, but like anywhere in the world if you are creating music that people enjoy, then word spreads and it makes it a lot easier to go out and play shows and have a larger audience hear you.
Has social media such as Facebook helped up and coming bands such as yourselves? I notice you’re on Facebook but not Twitter?
I’m not sure if Facebook has helped us in getting new fans, but while on tour if someone sees us and then likes our Facebook page, they can check out the page and find out the next time we’ll be coming through their town. and we don’t know how to use twitter.
I see you are playing the Brighton Music Hall, Boston soon. Is there any chance we might get to see you in Brighton, UK?
In late August and early September of this year Spirit Family Reunion will be taking our first trip overseas to Ireland. Currently we don’t have any dates in England, but seeing as though we are already gonna be across the Atlantic it doesn’t make sense not to go south down to England. So if anyone has an awesome venue that wants to throw us a few pints of lager and a few pounds for gas money, we would be happy to come down.
How did the gig with the Levon Helm Band come about? Were you pleased with the crowd reaction?
We have a guardian angel who works over at a Woodstock, NY radio station and he put us in contact with someone over at Levon’s camp and they liked our sound and invited us to play The Midnight Ramble in his barn, and I guess it must’ve been a real barn burner ’cause they asked us to open those two dates for him in Tarrytown.
The reaction from the crowd at Tarrytown was different then what we are used to. We are not used to playing in 150 year old theaters. At first we would be playing a song and not getting much of a reaction and I thought they weren’t into us, but right when the song was over there was this massive applause. What we didn’t realize at first, is that Levon’s audience are respectful and though they are enjoying it, they are waiting for the song to be over before showing us love.
Your percussionist has definitely mastered the spoons – can we expect to see & hear any other kitchen utensils in future live shows?
The washboard player is actually playing with forks. First he tried using thimbles then moved onto spoons, but felt most comfortable using forks. If you wanna see a great spoons player, I suggest checking out Liam Krill who plays with Morgane O Kane and unless we find a particularly good sounding cheese grater, I doubt we will see anymore kitchen equipment in our live shows.
How do Spirit Family Reunion describe their sound?
What are your musical influences?
Our biggest musical influences are our peers. People often feel they have to be inspired by things from the past, which is fine but some of the people playing right now that we love are: Sam Doores and the Tumbleweeds, Hurray For the Riff Raff, Morgane O Kane and Twain. But we like the older stuff too: Hank Williams, King Cunningham and Ted Hawkins.
You’re playing an acoustic festival in Central Park and can choose 3 other bands to play on the bill. Who are they?
I guess our friends we mentioned above.
Are there specific themes that you find yourself coming back to in your lyrics?
Light, unity, lonesomeness, salvation.
Thanks again to Spirit Family Reunion for their time and support. Please check out the music because it really is worth a listen and if there are any promoters out there willing to put on a gig in the UK please let me or the band know!