Since forming in April of 2011, Tumbleweed Wanderers have been bringing their electric shows to an increasingly wider audience, from their early performances at small bars and cafes, to becoming a major local headliner, selling out shows at the Bay Area’s best venues such as Great American Music Hall and Bottom of the Hill. Since recording their debut full-length album, they have entered a period of near constant touring, starting on the West Coast, but now including all of North America, most recently opening for artists such as Angus Stone and Jackie Greene at renowned venues in the US and Canada.
We caught up with the band before they hit the stage this Saturday, May 4 at the Shaky Knees Music Festival! Check out what they had to say!
How did Tumbleweed Wanderers come to be?
The band began with Jeremy and Zak busking on the streets of San Francisco and Oakland. The two left college to pursue the life of touring musicians. The band was assembled from all over. Jeremy and Rob met at an open mic their first day at UC Santa Cruz, and spent the next year and a half playing each other’s songs at open mics several times a week. Zak and Pat were neighbors growing up, playing in band camps and high school groups together. Daniel was the Music Theory teacher at a recording studio in San Francisco, whom Jeremy met when he interned there one summer. Jeremy held on to that business card, and when the band started a year later, called Daniel out of the blue. Daniel charted out all the demos sent to him, and knew the songs better than anyone else by the first rehearsal. Tumbleweed Wanderers has been able to grow at such a quick pace because of everyone’s intense commitment to the band. All the band members quit their day jobs, left college, and gave up their apartments so we could become a touring band. It’s a gift to be able to see the country through our music.
How did you come up with the name, Tumbleweed Wanderers?
The name came more from a desire of the wandering lifestyle than any real prior experience traveling. The two wanted the band to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and jumped into playing music full time from day one.
What would be your dream lineup?
If we constrain it to artists touring today, (if we don’t it gets way out of hand) the ultimate festival would have the Rolling Stones, My Morning Jacket, Delta Spirit, Dr. Dog, Paul Simon, California Honeydrops, Givers, D’Angelo, Bob Dylan, Wilco, Brad Mehldau, Grizzly Bear, Feist, Punch Brothers, Alabama Shakes, Jack White, the Bad Plus, Blake Mills, Middle Brother, Dawes…
What artists/bands have you been listening to lately?
Jim James, Blake Mills, Alt-J, We the Common by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Victim of Love by Charles Bradley, Gram Parsons’ Grievous Angel, Donny Hathaway Live, Sam Cooke Live at Harlem Square, Devendra Banhart’s Mala to name a few.
How do you connect with a crowd?
It seems that the more we can connect with our own music, the more we connect with the audience, so primarily we try to dive into the feeling of our music. We think of our live sets and our recordings as a kind of musical journey, and our goal is to take the audience with us through our music to a variety of different settings and emotions, and ultimately to the world we would like to live in. The easiest place to connect with a crowd is while busking. In that setting, the distance between the performer and the audience is essentially completely eliminated. When we’re home, we play outside the Greek Theater, the Fox Theater, and the Fillmore as shows get out, and draw a crowd of people dancing and singing along with us. As long as there’s people staying and listening we play, unless the cops kick us out. We’re working on bringing that intimate direct connection to our show.
What are some of your most memorable band moments?
One highlight was playing “Bring It on Home to Me” when we were busking outside the Warfield, and this homeless man was crying and singing along with us. When we finished the song, he asked us to play it again, and we were happy to oblige.
Once we played at a place called Isis Oasis, created by a lady who believed she was the reincarnation of the Egyptian God. There were pyramids, talking birds, lounging ocelots, silver jumpsuits, masks and wings. We played for hours in full costume garb and had a campfire sing along.
We’ve played this tiny room in Santa Cruz a dozen times called the Crepe Place. It holds 50 people and they manage to pack 110 every time. It gets so hot from all the dancing between bands, the room clears out so everyone can cool off outside. We have an after show tradition of inviting whoever wants to join us to go skinny dipping in the ocean. It’s the easiest way to feel alive and is something we never regret.
The most memorable moments are small spontaneous moments. Playing in costumes at the Hangtown Halloweeen Ball as the power cut out, Jeremy fell on his ass and bled profusely from his lip, Rob patched him up while picking the banjo.
What are your plans for the remainder of the year?
We’re hitting the festival circuit this summer including Live 105 BFD, Summer Camp, Electric Forest, High Sierra, and a festival at the Gorge. We’re doing two festivals with Robert Plant 4th of July weekend. Our goal for 2013 is to get a ride on his tour bus. We’ve been writing a bunch of new material and hope to record an album at the end of the year.
Make sure to catch Tumbleweed Wanderers playing the Shaky Knees Festival at the Masquerade Music Park Saturday May 4 at 12:30pm on the North Ave Stage!