The Question: It seems like a number of your songs have some hints of sounds from some legendary musicians. Some examples are “Ray” which has an Allman Brothers vibe, “A Frog Named Sam” which sounds like a Phish song, and “Spin” which sounds like the Grateful Dead’s “Not Fade Away” among many others. Who are some of the musicians that you feel have had the biggest influence on shaping BR&F’s music?
This question comes to us from John K. of Merion Station, PA.
Ben Answers: Thanks for the question and right you are John! There are definitely some big influences from the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead. Guilty! Joining those two bands in the “strongest influence” category would have to be the Beatles. I’d say those three are the first line influences. Of course their influences come shining through as well! Sitting in the studio and pondering a decision on what to do with a song, the question “What would the Beatles do?” has come up more than once.
I wouldn’t site Phish as much of an influence at all. I was to busy listening to the Dead and never fell into Phish’s orbit.
The influences go quite a bit deeper of course. A major influence caught me after college when I met John and he brought me into the bluegrass band he was starting up. The influence there is purely stylistic rather than a specific musician though I was always partial to Flatt and Scruggs.
Flatt & Scruggs - Foggy Mountain Breakdown - Grand Ole Opry Classics
Old and in the Way and their choice of songs (such as Wild Horses) opened up the bluegrass world view and has had an impact on many besides me.
Old & in the Way / Wild Horses
Bluegrass was an early cornerstone of BR&F. The first two discs included straight bluegrass style fiddle tunes. It was on our third disc, Blast Off, where you can start to hear the mutation in Martian Hoedown. Songs like “Sally Salamander” on Fun and Games, while not a traditional bluegrass song, does come out of that boom-chuck (bass note-strum) world. It’s the variation on the style - deeper groove, slightly more complicated song structure, but retention of the “chop” - which make it “ours.”
Other big influences for me are Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits, Bob Marley, Surf music in general, Dylan, “Americana” in general and the list goes on and on.
Mark Knopfler - Punish The Monkey (GMTV Today)
One of the more recent influences is Bob Wills and Texas Swing. We incorporated the Texas Swing style strongly on our Superpower disc featuring Kenny Kosek on fiddle for four tunes.
Bob Wills - Take me back to Tulsa
It’s impossible to not include the influences from the “and Friends.” While John and I share so many influences he’d have to respond to this question from his own point of view. Arnie comes from a much more hard rock world (hello Rush) than John and I but also spent time in a barbershop quartet and inhaling Beach Boy harmonies which comes out good and strong. Jared spends a lot of time thinking about jazz drummers and also took many ques from Jeff Bird’s use of percussion on our early discs.
Lastly… two major influences that aren’t as obvious but that I think have a lot to do with the BR&F “world view” are:
George Harrison & Paul Simon - Here Comes The Sun
Jerry Garcia - Probably way more obvious than George musically, and of course Jerry comes under the Grateful Dead umbrella, but it’s a little more than that. Jerry had the unique ability to inhabit and deliver a heartfelt song. I’ve really taken that lesson to heart and written my own heart out into the world. It’s what makes the “signature warmth” comment in the Parents’ Choice review mean so much to me. The expectation is that our discs have a warmth to them that goes beyond style of music. We traverse styles as often as Jerry did but I think it’s the distillation of intent that makes it all one long welcoming song. We play from the heart. While so many do I’d have to say I learned that lesson from Jerry.
All the best,