By William McCray Sutherlin
Yonder Mountain String band blends Bluegrass and Rock with unique instrumental improvisations, pioneering their own unique sound in the process.
The Colorado based group is made up of Jeff Austin (mandolin/vocals), Ben Kauffmann (bass/vocals), Dave Johnston (banjo/vocals), and Adam Aijala (guitar/vocals).
They are influenced by bluegrass artists such as Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin, as well as punk groups like the Dead Kennedy’s and Black Flag, but cannot be strictly classified as bluegrass, instead defining their own original sounds.
“What could be more pure than making your own music?” Johnston says on the band’s website.
For the past 13 years, they have been touring back and forth across the country. These concerts have been in a variety of venues and festivals and include performances at the Democratic National Convention opening up for President Obama, a success that’s surprised even the band itself.
“Somewhere down there we all kind of recognized that we had something unique,” Johnston says. “But there is no way I could have imagined the amount of success that the band has had.”
The band has developed a loyal fan-base from all over the United States and garnered recognition as one of the premier jam acts of today.
“We love that people come to see us,” Johnston says. “Everyone appreciates good music. Some people want to go to a recital and some people want to party.”
In lieu of their upcoming show at the Varsity Theatre, we had the chance to throw three quick questions at Johnston.
DIG: Can we look forward to any new studio material in the near future?
Johnston: I feel like some studio stuff is long overdue on our part, so we are trying to figure out how to get the material together and get our noses down on the grindstone.
DIG: Is there a memorable story you can think of from performing here in the past?
Johnston: Our first experience with king cake was something I’ll remember fondly. You’re not supposed to eat the baby, right?
DIG: If you could bring any artist(s) back from the dead. Who would it be and why?
Johnston: I’d bring back Jim Hall. He just makes everything smoother.