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Friday, May 17, 2024

Madison to taste music from 'Yonder'

The Daily Cardinal recently spoke with Yonder Mountain String Band’s guitarist and vocalist, Adam Aijala, amid the band’s 2013 winter tour.

In 1998, Jeff Austin, Dave Johnston, Ben Kaufmann and Aijala formed the Yonder Mountain String Band in Boulder, Colo. While the four have roots in the jam band scene, at heart the group is still a bluegrass band. 

“We’re still a bluegrass band,” Aijala said. “Bluegrass is a tree and we are a branch of it.  But you know, we are not traditional sounding at all.”

One aspect of the band that gets them clumped into the jam band scene is their ability to consistently tour. Their road-tested act has paid off big time. 

“The Tabernacle is really cool,” Aijala said, discussing venues. “The Tennessee Theater is another great one.” 

At the end of the day, their Feb. 2 tour-closing performance at the Orpheum Theater in Madison is something Aijala is looking forward to. 

“Love [Madison].  One of our favorite towns to play in for sure, and I’m not just saying that,” said Aijala. “For years, it has been one of those places.”

A unique aspect of their live performances is their incorporation of cover songs into their sets. 

“Generally, if we are playing something that is well-known, it’s almost like a joke where we know we are being cliché,” Aijala said. “We try to pick covers that are a little more obscure and a little less well-known.”

The band has also hosted their own festival of sorts, Strings & Sol, performing alongside other “jamgrass” stalwarts such as Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon and The Infamous Stringdusters in Tulum, Mexico. 

“I think it was my favorite weekend of the whole year,” said Aijala. “Probably because we were in the middle of a little break, you could relax already. And going down to the tropics and just playing tunes on the beach, it was awesome.”

While the band’s innovative brand of music and outstanding chops have helped them ascend to their current level of popularity, they were initially aided by harnessing the increasing influence of the Internet. 

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“We had a website before ’99 even, and our first show was September ’98,” Aijala said. “And I think that created awareness.” 

While the band made their best efforts online, it was also with the help of their fans on the Internet that they gained popularity. 

“One of our fans set up a chat room, a Yahoo chat group kind of deal, and it was through that, that the whole B&P (blanks and postage) kind of thing happened,” Aijala said. “It really helped our career, where early on we would go to a town that we had never played in and there would be 100 people there, and we asked ourselves ‘How the hell do they know who we are?’”

A new album is something Yonder fans have been desperately waiting for, and it looks like new studio material is finally on the horizon.  The Show, the group’s last album, came out in August of 2009, but a full-length LP follow-up may not be forthcoming. 

“Hopefully like an EP is what it’s looking like,” Aijala said. “We have four tracks that we have already started working on, but the hardest part is making the time, because there are babies…downtime was generally the time we would use to record but now its more important for it to stay as downtime.”

Yonder Mountain String Band will take the stage at The Orpheum Theater at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 2.

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