My latest edition of Call and Response features a discussion with Texas based folk outfit Old Banners. Old Banners have a full-length debut of the same name that features honest, straightforward and emotional songs in the vein of classic folk musicians such as Merle Haggard and Tom Waits. Singer Andrew Beilman took some time out of his day to answer questions about his album, his songwriting, his influences, and why he loves making music.
Tell me about your first full length album – what did you find successful about creating and recording this group of songs and what was challenging about the process?
Our first album was a great learning experience. I would do things a lot different the next go around, but for a first record I think it’s pretty solid. I think the challenging part of the record was trying to make it while half the band was in school, and also we had planned on recording 11 songs but I probably only had 4 or 5, so I had to write the other half of the record while we were in the process of recording which slowed us down a little but not much. Actually some of our better songs were the ones we wrote while recording the record.
Your sound skews heavily towards folk with some country influence. What are some of your influences, musically and otherwise? Similarly, how has growing up in Texas affected your sound?
Well my parents listened to a lot of country and western while I was growing up, so I think that stems from my younger days, but I also just found folk music to be very organic and emotional and real. I think it’s a lot easier to write folk songs because it’s so raw, like you and an acoustic guitar and your feelings, life experiences, poor life choices, hard times, great times, sad times, happy times, these are all great motives for some awesome songs, and all you need is an acoustic guitar.
There’s so many great artists out there, too many to name or not name. But just to name a few- Simon and Garfunkel, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash.
And yes being in Texas I would say has influenced my style, whether I like that or not haha I think you can’t escape stuff like that, but I personally wouldn’t want to, I think it adds some uniqueness to our style.
You have played primarily local shows, how did you end up signing with a publicist out of New York?
Olivia found us on Reverbnation I believe or Pure Volume….
How has this relationship helped you as a band?
It’s put on us the map in areas that I would have not been able to do alone, it’s been nice, I mean I’m doing this interview now because of the PR company so that right there is an example.
Back to your music, I really admire your songwriting. It is very honest, really classic in a way. Can you explain your general songwriting process? Is it driven by one member or do you work collaboratively?
I did all the songwriting on the record, it all stems from things I have experienced in my life. I was at a real dark point in my life during my late teens and I almost lost my life, so a lot of the songs are about those times and experiences. Oh and thank you for that I appreciate the compliment. That’s what I’m going for, music is a way to express yourself, tell your story, so I try to tell mine as honestly and as real as I can so maybe someone out there can identify with these songs and hopefully maybe help them in some way. That’s what I’m going for. There were lots of songs and music I listened to during those dark times, and that’s one of the reasons I got through it, so maybe I can help someone get through something in their lives.
Your sound fits with the folk revival that is happening right now, spurred by groups such as the Avett Brothers, Deer Tick, and Old Crow Medicine Show. Has this current trend shaped your sound in any way?
In some ways I’m sure it does, although I feel this music comes out very naturally, I didn’t sit down and decide to write folk tunes they just kinda came out that way.
Do you see a national market for your music now that groups like these have paved the way?
Absolutely, I think these artist have helped put the music on the map, which is awesome because there’s so much great undiscovered music out there, so it’s awesome to see these bands getting the attention they’re getting. I think it opens people’s minds, keeps things fresh. And it helps us out too!
You have the vibe of a group that just really loves to make music together, which comes through on your album and in your videos. Tell me about the group dynamic, what is the environment like?
It’s really awesome we all are real good friends, we love showing new music to one another, and when we practice or even just jam around the pad, it’s magical. It’s just us all having musical conversations and just enjoying one another doing what we all love to do, playing music. We all connect on a deeper level, we can say things through music a lot easier than with words, there is always music playing.
What is your favorite aspect of playing music together?
Working together to create something bigger than ourselves, if I write a song then bring it to the guys, they take the song and make it even bigger and seeing how the other guys change it, that’s my favorite part.
What is the next step for Old Banners?
Eventually we are gonna put together an EP, we got a bunch of new material and we need to get recorded. Oh and we are also working on putting together a tour!
Looking even further ahead, what is your ultimate goal with this band? Where do you see yourselves in five years?
Hopefully making music that will pay for itself, and making it to where we can make music for the rest of our lives. We wanna share our stories, and music with the world.
Old Banners can be found here – http://www.facebook.com/oldbanners?sk=app_2405167945