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Interview: South Rail

"Stars" album art, the band, and the band members' perfect sandwiches.
"Stars" album art, the band, and the band members' perfect sandwiches.
South Rail

South Rail recently released their EP "Stars", available for free streaming on BandCamp. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

How would you describe your sound?

Ben: There is a lot of variety. The songs are well crafted and interesting. Definitely not formulaic. It is very harmony driven between Lara and Jay.

Jay: Others can probably describe my sound better than me. Thinking about my various projects over the years, it's mostly been blues-rock and Singer/Songwriter Americana. Whatever that means. Speaking guitaristically, definitely more blues-based with some country influences.

Lara: The band is Americana or Roots Rock, but I’m the soul side of it. Jay is more country which makes us meet in the middle at Americana. I write all the sad, wailing stuff and Jay writes the rocking hit singles.

When did you know that you wanted to start sharing your music with others?

Lara: At my kindergarten concert I had applause for the first time and we caught it on tape. That’s a pretty definitive moment and you can see it in my eyes that I realize it’s a pretty cool thing to have people clap for you. *laughs*
For sharing my own music that I wrote, it took a whole lot longer. I developed enough confidence to start playing what I wrote to people around my junior year of college- I’m still not super confident that my songs are ones that people want to listen to!

Ben: For me part of the enjoyment of playing has been getting attention. I mean I love playing by itself, but I also love impressing people...haha.

Jay: After I felt confident enough on guitar and started writing and singing. Probably around 16.

What’s a song of your own that you feel a strong connection to?

Lara: Jealousy is probably the strongest connection I have to a song that I sing publicly right now. I have a song that I wrote for my godfather who is no longer with us that I normally can’t get through without crying so that’s probably the strongest of all, but I doubt many people are going to hear that one!

Jay: I wrote a song a while back called "Under A Sky." It was one of the first songs I wrote in that particular style and served as catalyst for other songs.

Ben: "Under A Sky” was what convinced me to start playing with our original group, pre-South Rail. So I guess that one because it was the beginning. And I like to think he's singing it to me…*laughs*
Song ruined.

What would you say is your spirit animal?

Lara: Well, I’ve had a few over the years. I’ve been told my spirit animal is a bear, but I’ve always felt connected to the fox. Sly, manipulative but also playful. I like that idea!

Ben: Lion

Jay: Owl.

What do you do outside of music?

Lara: I teach music privately…so I guess that’s kind of outside of music? I also write album reviews for a Philadelphia publication That Mag. So, my life is pretty much only music. Sometimes I play electronic bingo on my phone, and a group of friends and I like to go to trivia nights when we can!

Ben: I enjoy beer, whiskey, and a pipe full of good tobacco, preferably consumed outdoors with family and friends.

Jay: Read and pontificate.

Are you politically active?

Jay: Not particularly.
Lara: I used to be very politically active- I even worked as a paid staffer for the 2008 Obama campaign. Now, I have very active political beliefs but am working too hard on the band to step into the arena again. I am going to start organizing for Fair Trade Music DC soon, which is a local chapter of a national organization trying to bring transparency and fair wages to musicians across the US. That’s something I’m really passionate about!

Ben: In my own head. I believe everyone should be treated equally and given a fair shot from birth. Vote for me.

What’s something you look for when you’re looking at support staff (engineers, managers, labels, etc.)?

Lara: Passion. If they don’t like the music, and they don’t like the band, they’re not going to work. If they’re not interested in specifically boosting our sound and getting the word out to the masses with us, they’re not going to work. There’s so much that can be done by the bands themselves these days that we can be a bit choosier when it comes to signing with anyone!

Ben: This one is tricky. I used to be concerned only with a name and body. Like, "Oh this is great. Someone actually wants to be involved with us." But the truth is that there are a lot of people who are taking advantage of ambitious bands by talking the big talk and not delivering. We look for someone we know, and clearly has a mutually beneficial interest in mind. We don't pay out of pocket for any "services."

Jay: Someone who believes in the music first, does everything they can to promote it and doesn't rip me off.

What’s been the biggest challenge the band has faced?

Lara: I think it’s finding the time to get out of DC to tour. We play so much in and around the city that we know it’s time we branch out- we just have so much to do!

Ben: I think strategy. Building a fan base is very difficult, even if the music is great. Its hard to know what is the right way to go about playing and scheduling shows and working press and media to translate into new, dedicated fans. No one really has the answer.

Jay: Getting people out to gigs on a school night.

What’s an experience you've had because of music that would've otherwise not happened?

Lara: Freedom. Song writing has helped me express myself in a way I could never do with just words. Singing those songs night after night has been a catharsis that has helped me heal and understand a lot of the situations I write about. I wouldn't be anywhere close to who I am today without music.

Ben: I love having the opportunity to travel to play. Not sure if I would be traveling as much. If not for music, I would probably be alone, and in a cubicle...all the time.

Jay: I probably wouldn't be able to travel as much and meet as many like-minded people if I weren't a musician.