The Farewell Drifters formed when lead singer Zach Bevill and mandolinist Joshua Britt discovered a mutual love of 60’s pop and began writing and performing together. They return to Atlanta this Friday to perform once again at Eddie’s Attic and to promote their latest album, Tomorrow Forever, released under Compass Records and collaborated with producer Neilson Hubbard. We got to talk with Zach about the band’s musical influences and the importance of chemistry within a band. Read on and be sure to catch them live this Friday night!
Where did the name “The Farewell Drifters” come from?
Our mandolin player Josh actually came up with that. He sort of came up with the idea after listening to this Bob Dylan song, “Drifter’s Escape,” and in the song they say “Farewell to the drifters” and he just thought those two words really went well together. So yeah, Farewell Drifters.
What artists inspire your music collectively?
It’s hard to say collectively because a lot of us have varying tastes. We take a lot of influence from 60’s pop era, like sort of more of like the psychedelic pop, The Beach Boys or The Beatles, but then also we like folk rock like The Byrds and all that kind of stuff. That’s definitely a huge influence on us. The Beach Boys is definitely a big one for me personally but we all grew up listening to like 90’s alternative, and so I feel like that sort of seeps into it as well.
What bands would you want to play with in your dream gig?
I want to say something like Paul McCartney, but then I know that if I’m opening for Paul McCartney nobody’s going to listen to me (laughs). But yeah I think McCartney would be awesome. I think there’s a lot of really cool bands out there doing a lot of cool stuff right now; I’d love to play with The Decembrists or something like that too.
It’s said that you aim to find the sweet spot between bluegrass and the Beach Boys’ 60’s studio-pop sound. What is it about that sound that you like combining so much?
I think what works is that in blue grass there’s the harmonies that are a really big deal. In blue grass music it places the harmonies front and center and so then to take the 60’s sensibility in terms of the structure of that 60’s harmony sound and then put it into more of an Americana blue grass setting, really serves it well because it puts it in the forefront. And most styles of music, they’re some sort of a form that is established so it’s cool to take both tributes. It’s weird to think of 60’s pop as traditional but it’s certainly an established form with verse, chorus, verse chorus, that kind of thing. And so to take that tradition and combine it with traditional folk, Americana, and bluegrass music was a cool experiment.
When you guys perform live, do you do the bluegrass thing where you stand all together?
No we do not, we’re all plugged in and everything. Our sound is in a constant evolution as we add things in and come up with new ideas. A lot of what we’re talking about is certainly applicable to the way we sound but it’s certainly not traditional bluegrass or anything at all like that. It’s plugged in, but we’re looking forward to this show in Atlanta because we we’re doing two shows reunited with our old fiddle player, Christian Sedelmyer. He’s part of a new duo called 10 String Symphony, and they’re opening the show and then Christian is going to sit in with us for a portion of our set. So we’re going to revisit some of our songs that really featured him when he was a member of thee band years ago. So that’s going to be something special for us.
What’s your favorite part about performing live in front of an audience?
Just the back and fourth. The energy and the conversation. Every crowd has a personality of its own, so it’s exciting to see what it’s going to be like. And in towns that we’ve been playing for a while it’s almost like going back and hanging out with an old friend, like getting coffee with an old friend and talking about what you’ve been up to now. Revisiting some great old memories and it’s just that comfortable feeling. And Eddie’s Attic is one of the venues we’ve been playing for a long time, so a lot of folks come there and we have that feeling with them. We’re all sort of hanging out and old friends at this point.
Do you think there’s a certain vibe you have to have with your fellow bandmates in order to play well together? How would you describe it?
I think every band has its own chemistry and chemistry is definitely important. Especially on a creative side, and the way you play off each other. Some drummers like to really lay it back, and that’s not going to work if you have a bass player who likes to slam the front beat. They’ve got to be locked in. one of them has to give in. It’s just one small example, but I think it’s more of a nuts and bolts example. But then on the creative side there is a whole chemistry that everything has on a creative level when you’re working on songs together. It’s sort of the results of the influences and personalities of the band. And I think that is really important, that’s really more what makes a band, a band. That’s what defines the direction, when you get all those heads in a room together and see what you come up with when everybody has a voice.
Is that how you guys craft your songs, collaboratively?
Yeah, definitely. It’s an interesting process because Josh and I are the main songwriters of the band. So we do the majority of the writing ourselves, both separately and together. Then we bring the songs to the band and work them up together. And that’s really when the songs take on a life of their own. Everybody has a voice. Sometimes it’s a process of exploration and venting of an idea.
Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Doors open at 6pm.