This month, local roots trio Stillhouse Junkies will be hitting the opposite side of the road.
Since forming in 2017 and playing regular Friday afternoon gigs at the distillery in downtown Durango, the band has been slowly exploring the country with instruments in hand and stages underfoot, putting miles on the tour van as it takes them around the Midwest to the major cities of the Northeast, to sold-out venues in the South.
Come late March, the band will share its revved-up brand of acoustic-roots music with audiences in England and Ireland on a 15-show tour that will kick off in Scarborough, England, and wrap up in Miltown Malbay, Ireland.
Before its overseas sendoff, the band will celebrate the release of its latest effort, “Calamity,” with a show Saturday at Durango Arts Center. Opening the show will be High Country Hustle.
A handful of current string bands on the scene have picked up a trend that gives critics of string band music plenty of fodder – the music has no teeth. Despite a wealth of talent, it’s become the elevator music of the Americana world. “Calamity” finds Stillhouse Junkies bucking that trend, favoring darker chords and powerful playing over fluff and overproduction. It does, in fact, have plenty of teeth.
“I think Berklee (School of Music) has a lot to do with that, kind of a polished, clean sound. There are a lot of really great bands that have that sound, but we don’t ourselves really go for that,” said Fred Kosak, the band’s guitar player and vocalist. “I like buzzing strings and breathing sounds. We wanted this to sound like we were standing there playing it, which we were with relatively few overdubs. We wanted it to sound live because we have an energy when we play live we are proud of, and we want to convey that, rather than dropping in parts or adding overdubs that we couldn’t reproduce live. We wanted to show that we can sound big for a trio.”
The band is also celebrating the idea of “the album” being more than just something that houses a bunch of songs. It instead is considered one big piece of music with a dozen parts; like a book with chapters, it flows while weaving together musical ideas from song to song.
“We are behind the album as an idea, and we wanted to make this to feel cohesive and immersive and be something you can sit down and listen to and get into, and that’s a different approach than just a collection of singles,” Kosak said. “We have some of those on there that are shorter songs, but we also have three songs that run together in one spot. We have a trilogy of songs that run together as a 12-minute piece of music. That kind of stuff, that ‘prog’ thing is cool, and that’s alive and well in newgrass. As much as bluegrassers have issues with Colorado bluegrass, Colorado bluegrass has opened up new avenues for improvisation and a longer form of music that’s cool.”
As the band grows and turns into a business along with being people creating art, there is a fear the business aspect takes away from the reason they started making music in the first place – because it’s fun. The business part has ruined plenty of bands. As it expands, the band keeps that in mind, where the joy of making music with each other remains in the forefront.
“Once we get on stage, there’s no drama or conflict with us since we’re all happy to be there,” Kosak said. “That helps when that’s the thing you’re out there to do.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.