DOPE Interviews | Andy Coe Band

The PNW’s Mystical, Psychedelic Jam Band

Rundown

  • Andy Coe: Guitar & Vocals
  • Gary Palmer: Keys & Vocals
  • Chris Jones: Bass & Vocals
  • Scott Goodwin: Drums & Vocals
  • Facebook: @AndyCoeBand
  • Instagram: @andycoeband
  • Website: andycoeband.com

DOPE Magazine will attend this year’s Summer Meltdown Festival in Darrington, Washington — our second excursion to the fabulous festival — and we want to get all our readers hyped about this incredible event! The Andy Coe Band is one of many reasons to get your weekend passes for the 2018 Summer Meltdown Festival, starting August 2! Let’s meltdown, y’all!

The Andy Coe Band does not try and recreate the Grateful Dead, but rather keep the spirit of the band alive. What elements of your music and performance do you think best resemble the spirit of the Grateful Dead?

We strive to be in the spirit of the moment, so that the songs can be alive and unique each time they are played. When everyone is in touch with and open to the moment that we are all sharing together, that can facilitate magical discoveries.

You guys regularly perform at the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle. The tavern has quite the history, from being one of the only bars to serve African American servicemen during World War II to having served famous authors and poets. As an unofficial Seattle cultural landmark, what does the tavern mean to you as artists?

It is a one-of-a-kind tavern, for sure. Artistically, I feel a certain freedom when making music there, as well as a strong historical vibe. Before our Blue Moon residency, we only performed one, maybe two weekends out of the year. Once we started Mondays at the Moon, we were performing at least once a week consistently. It has since become a great community of friends and enabled us to forge our sound and concept.

The lineup at this year’s Summer Meltdown is quite eclectic. How does it feel to share a stage with artists like Chong the Nomad, Bassnectar and Smokey Brights? Any group or artist in particular you’re most excited to see perform?

It feels good to share the stage with a diverse lineup — the more eclectic the better, in my mind. I’m excited to hear some new sounds and also to hear and see friends. I think I’m most excited to perform, though, and I get to do that a lot this year, as I’ll be playing with Andy Coe Band, Flowmotion and Clinton Fearon.

Improvisation and composition play a large role in your performances. How do you continually keep your sets fresh? 

Having a good-sized repertoire and constantly adding new songs into the mix is a good way to challenge ourselves, as well as keep the music fresh.

Outside of the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, The Band and Pink Floyd, who else do you look to for inspiration? 

This is a bit of an infinite question for me, so I’ll just go with a few early inspirations: John Coltrane, Igor Stravinsky, Bob Marley, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Béla Bartók, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and Duke Ellington.

The Andy Coe Band regularly performs with special guests. How do these collaborations come to be? Is there a method in the madness, so to speak, or do you decide on these collabs on a whim?

Our guests come about in different ways, but generally they are either friends of ours or musicians that we like. Occasionally, while on tour, we make lists of musicians that we’d love to play with. Some are more realistic than others, but it can help us focus in on the right people.

I recently saw one of Stanton Moore’s trios when I was in New Orleans. How do you prepare mentally and physically for performances that are outside the Andy Coe Band norm?

I’ve always been drawn to many different styles of music, and I’ve been learning and attempting to play many different styles for a long time now. Right now I play in upwards of 15 bands, and in any given week I’ll be playing multiple gigs that are multiple genres. So, after doing this for many years, the only real preparation is making sure I know all of the music.

I read that you improvise piano for ballet and modern dance. What’s challenging about this type of work and improvisation?

GARY PALMER: The challenge of creating music for ballet and modern dance is to begin and end with movement. Sonic movement parallels physical movement. I look at the quality of motion and try to convey that essential quality in the notes that I play. In that way, the dancers are given not just a pulse but also a guide and an inspiration. I try to make sounds that inspire a dancer to jump higher or reach further or discover the hidden grace within themselves. In the best moments, the music and dance become a co-creation, each inspired and guided by the other, and thus two parts of a whole. Because I improvise everything, no two classes are ever exactly alike. It’s really not so much different than playing in the ACB, where discovery is shared by musicians and audience alike, and bodies move together with sounds in their own unique ways. A symbiotic dancecomes to life, pure in its spontaneous aliveness, never to be repeated in exactly the same way.

I read that ELP’s “Tarkus” changed your life at an early age, and that playing with the ACB keeps that memory alive. Can you speak to that a bit?

CHRIS JONES: I first listened to “Tarkus” when I was six, because it had a cool picture on the front of it. You have many new experiences at that age, but this one is special to me because not only did I already love music, but I heard something that pushed the boundaries of my emotions. I was excited, intellectually stimulated, scared, and could virtually see the music as colors.

Playing with the Andy Coe band is like this for me — when we are lucky enough to scratch the surface of whatever is out there. Every once in a while, when we are in an improvised section, we let go of all the rules and let the music take us where it may. If we are all in a cohesive mental state, you can feel like you’re floating and just watching the clouds go by. It can be exciting and scary, but most of all captivating — to both us and the listener. No one in the room knows where we are headed, but we will go there together … and hopefully land safely.

With the Andy Coe Band, you are able to do more singing than what you have traditionally done. Have you been able to take your love for improvisation into the vocal arena? Are there any vocalists and/or lyricists who are blowing your mind these days?

SCOTT GOODWIN: We play tunes from the Dead catalog that lend themselves well to ‘vocalizing’ or improvising, like the ends of “Hell in a Bucket,” “Looks Like Rain” and “Good Lovin,’” for example. Tunes like those give me a chance to try out different bluesy or melodic approaches and see what I can come up with. The ACB guys are awesome to humor me with as much space as I need to explore vocally.

I’ve always written a speckle of songs over the years, including tunes with Flowmotion, The True Spokes and the RL Heyer Trio. I am currently writing with my trio, Welcome Strangers, and stirring up original ideas for ACB to try as well. Some of my vocal and lyrical favorites of late are Paul Meany of Mutemath and Beck, especially on the “Morning Phase” album. Judee Sill and Sandy Denny are also in heavy rotation for me.

 

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Andrea Larson

Andrea is a Seattle native with a passion for the storytelling process. When she isn't curating content for DOPE she can be found binge listening to podcasts, skiing at a local PNW mountain or catching a drag show at Le Faux on Capitol Hill.

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