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Tumbleweed Wanderers on Outside Lands 2014, the new lineup, and the new album

Patrick Glynn, Jeremy Lyon, Greg Fleischut, Rob Fidel, and Daniel Blum of Tumbleweed Wanderers
Patrick Glynn, Jeremy Lyon, Greg Fleischut, Rob Fidel, and Daniel Blum of Tumbleweed WanderersCourtesy of 11e1even Group

It had been a little over six months since San Francisco had been treated to a performance by Tumbleweed Wanderers when they took to the Sutro Stage at Outside Lands. What we saw was outstanding. The band has gone through some changes recently, as their bassist and dear friend Zak Mandell-Romann, a founding member of Tumbleweed Wanderers, left to pursue other interests. Another longtime friend, Greg Fleischut, stepped in near the beginning of the year to lend his talents to the group, who have been hard at work on a new album over the past months. Many of those songs saw their debut on Sunday afternoon at Outside Lands and were a revelation, as they more fully illustrated Tumbleweed Wanderers' vast musical capabilities. While their shows are always a guaranteed great experience, the band unveiled a heavier side to their music that was seriously impressive and proved to be a fantastic addition to what TW fans already know and love. If these new songs are any indication, Tumbleweed Wanderers' forthcoming album (title and release date tba) will definitely be one to seek out. I spoke with Greg Fleischut, Rob Fidel, Patrick Glynn, and Jeremy Lyon after their set at Outside Lands.

You'd mentioned onstage that your last experience with Outside Lands was pretty different. How was it for you this time around?

Rob:

It's crazy; one of my first memories of this band was busking here every day, all day. To be playing onstage a block from where we busked is just.. and a lot of people that I saw in the crowd are ones that we'd met at [that] Outside Lands.

Jeremy:

It was so much fun. Growing up in the Bay Area too, you get to see all these people who don't know each other but I know all of them. It's crazy to have them all in the same place; a hometown show for me is such a trip.

You played a lot of songs from your new album, which is set to come out in the coming months.

Rob:

We would like to release it early this year [but] it's a tentative date. It was definitely a different approach; our first record we recorded and mixed in 13 days. We've been working on this thing for months.

Jeremy:

Four months. We started demoing six months ago.

Rob:

I also think that a lot of the songs on the first album were kind of brought into the band. We were just learning how to play with each other. We didn't know what we were doing recording a record; most bands don't when they're recording their first one. Since a lot of these songs were conceived within the band, when we have been learning so much about how we play with each other and how to complement each other's styles, they just collaboratively worked really well. Having so much time, we were able to exhaust every single idea we had for this album.

Jeremy:

It took us two years to write the record. Some of the songs that are on it we started playing in November, 2012, at The Fillmore - "Bag of Bones", and then we did "Realize" in January.

Patrick:

"Higher"

Jeremy:

"Higher" was in April. A couple of those tracks have undergone a lot of changes.

Rob:

And having Greg is [totally] new.

I definitely want to talk about that. Like you said, the record is a change for you and that has a lot to do with how you've grown as a band and also the fact that Greg has joined you. Obviously Zak had been in the band for a long time; you all started out together and are good friends. So please bring everybody up to date on what Zak is doing now, and what it's been like for you Greg, joining the band.

Jeremy:

Zak went back to school out in Santa Barbara, and he's studying in Chile for a year. He's singing in a band down there called Patiperrockers Rockabilly Callejero. I believe he - I'm not sure if he's working at a newspaper as well. Anyway, he's living in Chile for a year and he got a motorcycle. He's killin' it down there!!

Greg, you filled in for Zak when he broke his arm last year. How did you all meet?

Greg:

I've known most of these guys for a while. Jeremy was actually my first friend and [the] most lasting relationship I've had since the first day of high school. We started a band with Zak; I played guitar and sang; Jeremy played guitar and sang; Zak played bass, went through a few different drummers. Around the same time [I] met Pat through Zak; they lived in the same neighborhood growing up. We had another project that we all played in - me, Jeremy, and Zak, called The Audiophiles. It was a high school band and we were pretty good for a high school band. We played Bottom of the Hill, Blake's on Telegraph, Slim's a little bit - nothing as serious what Tumbleweed Wanderers is doing now, but still a good first experience with playing gigs and meeting other bands. We ended up all going to college [in] different places. I went to school for music to study guitar mainly. I just got really into jazz, and country music, and world music, like Balkan music and gypsy music, flamenco. Pat and Zak and Jeremy had this idea to start a band and hit the road. They asked me and I ended up staying 'cause I was happy with continuing to learn all the stuff I was learning about in school. I was living in LA and I was pretty happy there. They started Tumbleweed Wanderers and I would come see them whenever I was in town and still hang out. Definitely stayed close with everyone, Zak and Jeremy and Pat, and through their beginning Tumbleweed Wanderers I got to meet Dan and Rob. We started this whole circle of friends that we all met through each other, and it became a bigger thing; it was such a fun energy that would happen with these people that were all related. When Zak broke his arm last August they were like, "Let's see if Greg wants to do a little run with us", and I said yeah. I had some bands I was working with, mainly jazz bands, playing guitar. I [said], "Sure, I'll try playing bass, bass is cool." I didn't realize hard bass is! Zak decided he wanted to pursue other things and we had a fun time while I was sitting in on bass, so they asked me to join permanently.

What has your approach been in terms of coming into the band since some of the bass lines are already established?

Greg:

I took an approach of partly learning what Zak did, not to make it totally different, to keep some consistency between sounds, but especially with the new album, I also put a lot of time into making up my own parts and tried not to think about the past, and go with what needed to be made at the moment. The new stuff is pretty different but it's still got a folk, rock, disco (laughter) heart. We drive a lot so it feels like good driving music to me. That's what we spend most of our time doing and the soundtrack that you listen to while you're driving is always really important, to me at least.

Would the rest of you guys corroborate with that? Do you think it sounds like driving music?

Rob:

It is pretty cinematic; it's thick. It's much more intentional.

Jeremy:

Yeah, the parts are a lot more intricate; it's denser. The thing with our band is we always want our songs to "get there", to reach a climax, and I think these songs totally do that, the way the first record did; these are just more epic climaxes. There[are] five part harmonies, and backing vocalists...

Greg:

We don't have 10 guitar players, like [the way] some of the tracks are recorded, but it translates the feeling you get from a live show, the intensity.

Tell me about the recording of it; you recorded at The Hangar?

Patrick:

It used to be The Hangar; they moved to Stinson Beach, so now it's just called Stinson Beach. We did a lot of the basic tracking there and we worked with the same engineer that we worked on Worn Out Welcome with, Robert Cheek. We also did a lot of the overdubs at a house in San Francisco that our good friends Dina and David let us record [in]. So we split our time between the two; we'd go back to Stinson when we needed to redo a song or record more songs.

And The Hangar used to be in Sacramento?

Rob:

Yeah, that's where it was. My Morning Jacket recorded there right before us, and Horses recorded right after us. It's a magic place.

Jeremy:

Look for a single (title tba) this fall hopefully.

Rob:

The single's gonna be the next James Bond theme song.

It sure could be! Any more festivals for you guys this summer?

Yarmony is next weekend. YarmonyGrass is a festival in Colorado; I think that was our first festival.

Jeremy:

Yeah, two years ago.

Rob:

We got complimentary white water rafting; that was really cool. The water wasn't that white; it was very chill; you just float. It was good vibes. Then we're playing Bristol Rhythm and Roots [Reunion] in Tennessee which is gonna be sweet 'cause a lot of our friends are playing that, and also who I realized is playing there is Sturgill Simpson, and Jeff Tweedy's playing there. We're actually getting more and more stoked about this festival. Then we're gonna do a tour on the way back with a band called Moon Taxi, from there back and then West Coast.