Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Q&A: The Howlin’ Brothers

| May 24, 2013

Illinois Entertainer: It was just crushing to find out that you, Ian Craft, and Ben Plasse aren’t actually brothers.
Jared Green:
That’s O.K. We live together and have known each other so long, it is like we’re brothers. We all met in college.

IE: Once you all left New York’s Ithaca College, why did you decide to continue to be roomies?
The bass player Ian and I moved to Nashville together in fall of 2005, so we’ve been roommates since 2005 ’till a couple months ago. I got married and moved in with my wife.

Appearing: 5/24 at Tonic Room (2447 N. Halsted) Chicago.

IE: Congrats! A review of one of your live shows characterized the way the three of you play together as “musical telepathy.” Is that how it feels when you step onstage, like you can read each others’ minds?
Sometimes. Sometimes it feels like we know what song should fall next or I feel like we’re pretty in tune with where to take the song sometimes. Yeah, it feels natural.

IE: How does a Wisconsin boy, such as yourself, get tied up with foot-stomping bluegrass music?
Easily. I heard it growing it up. There was a string band in my hometown called the Lost Nation String Band and I always loved hearing the shows. I didn’t really try to play that kind of music growing up, but I always enjoyed it and when I went to college, I studied different kinds of music and towards the end of school, after meeting Ian and a couple other people and mostly playing music with Ian, singing folk songs and some of the traditional bluegrass songs, I was like, “Well, this is fun! This is good music, easy to dance to.” I enjoyed it. It was easy to fall back in love with again.

IE:  Howl is doing all of the work of a debut, but the band has other records that were only sold after shows. Does it feel like your ship is finally coming in?
I feel like we’ve got people helping us now. I feel like it’s picking up steam.

IE: Speaking of people helping you, Howl was produced by Brendan Benson and released on his Readymade label. How did you connect with him?
We met Brendan through a friend of ours, Buddy Jackson. [Benson] hired a couple of us to record on a record he was working on for Cory Chisel in November of 2011. We hung out for almost a month with Brendan off and on in the studio and created a good friendship. He liked the way we worked in the studio. I think he liked our music. And he had heard old-time music from [picking] parties at Buddy Jackson’s place. And I think him not playing that kind of music . . . gave a new prospective to what you can add to a string band like percussion or electric guitars, even. Since he hadn’t heard our band for very long, he brought new ears to the project and it was great getting to work with him because he tried to get really good sounds for each track. Every song we did was a different kind of setup, which was good and kind of a pain in the ass, but it was good.

IE: Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule) appears on Howl and you had a chance to write “Big Time” with him.
He’s a very laid-back guy. It was just cool getting to be around him. It was a cool day.

IE: What is the band’s writing process?
We all try to come up with ideas ourselves and then collaborate – share them, get good feedback. It’s usually kind of an individual thing, but  . . . our ideas are always open to discussion.

IE: The album isn’t just originals. How did you choose which traditional tunes to include?
I just think at the time we recorded the originals and we recorded the other ones that we just liked to do and out of the 20 songs we recorded, we just narrowed it down to maybe the 12 better ones. That’s how it works. We just chose songs that we thought were good energy, would be a good match for the other stuff on the album.

IE: The speed at which you play is amazing to watch. Backstage must be like a football locker room where everyone is icing sore hands.
I think we’ve been doing it for so long it comes naturally. If you do have to play long gigs and you’re playing a lot of fast songs you’ll feel it in your arms, even in your back and feet.

IE: So you really are a music athlete?
Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.

IE: What is your outlook for the summer?
I get to go places we’ve never been. I’m gonna be all over this summer. Then I’m having a baby in December, which is exciting. It’s been a big year. We’re gonna work on a second album with Brendan, probably in September. So, yeah, this summer we’re gonna be doing a lot of traveling and playing a lot of shows. It will be a memorable year for sure.

— Janine Schaults

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