Josh Clark, guitarist and vocalist for the band Tea Leaf Green, was somewhere in Missouri Jan. 20.
He was riding in the equipment truck with his tour manager since vehicle trouble left them stranded in Nebraska the night before.
The other band members - Trevor Garrod, Reed Mathis and Scott Rager - were already in Bloomington, Ind., for their tour kickoff that evening.
Clark had to travel roughly 1,000 miles in a day to meet them.
"I'm probably only going to be there for the second set," Clark said. "I'll probably get there at 12:30 (a.m.) and just jump on stage."
Tea Leaf Green has toured relentlessly for the better part of a decade, but Clark said this was one of the longest drives he's ever done.
As his van rolled along a Midwest highway, he took some time to answer a few questions.
How do you keep your sanity when you're out on the road? Thank God for computers and technology. I watch movies. Before, it was, you know, books. Now, screw reading. I have a computer. (Laughs) I'm about to watch . . . "The Social Network." I watched "Stone" . . . with Robert De Niro and Edward Norton. (Norton) is really good in it, though. I'd recommend it for his performance.
How has social networking affected the band? First of all, I'm friends with everybody. I don't deny anybody their friendship unless they're some sort of stripper or porn advertisement. (Laughs) For us, the Internet has been essential to any success we've had from the beginning. We sort of decided to skirt around the whole traditional record label model and all that. (We) just sort of hit the road and play our music to whoever will show up. The one or two people (who) would show up for the first few years heard of us through JamBase.com or some other . . . live downloading site. We've built it really slowly - literally person by person - for the last 10 years on the road and using the Internet and word-of-mouth.
You guys started out in San Francisco. How has that place affected your music? Obviously, people think about San Francisco and they think about the psychedelic movement (including) the (Grateful) Dead, Jefferson Airplane . . . and all those bands. That (music) still kind of permeates, you know. San Francisco has lesser publicized (music including) great punk-rock and tons of . . . Latin music (and) Afro-Cuban stuff. There (was) also, like, a big acid jazz scene in the '90s. There is constantly an influx of musicians and artists in and out. It's a really open environment. I moved there (from Los Angeles) basically to go to art school and to be in a band. I wasn't trying to tap into the Grateful Dead scene. It's just there. We've had lots of characters from the Grateful Dead organization (become) involved with us.
It seems that the jam band scene is a big family. Absolutely. Everybody feels like they're really in it together. Everybody who is in it has jumped on the road and has really fought it out in just really miserable conditions for a lot of years for the love of the music . . . and the freedom to create the music they want to. We also have places to go and meet up every summer (at) all the festivals and everything. Everybody's really friendly and plays in each other's bands and shares with each other. The first year of the High Sierra Music Festival, I felt like I had found my music school. I've learned pretty much everything I know from my friends.
Your 2010 album "Looking West" was a compilation of previously unrecorded tracks. Was it special to finally get them on a record? Maybe this is a bad choice of words, but it was nice to get them out of the way (so) we could start focusing on new stuff and what we're doing now. We thought they were all really good songs, and they needed to be given the studio treatment. We had been on a schedule of releasing an album, like, every two or three years, and just kind of woke up from that. We have hundreds of songs that are sort of on the back burner. We can't record them fast enough. We just finished recording our next album that we're going to try to release this April. Hopefully, we'll get on a schedule of releasing an album a year.
It sounds like your creative juices keep flowing. I live with Trevor, and he's got a piano downstairs in his room and that thing is going pretty much 24/7 when we're home. I try to write as much music as I can, but I'm not as prolific as Trevor is. We're constantly writing and constantly trying to move forward. We've been focusing on our songwriting for the last six or seven years. (We want) that to be the most (prominent) thing you'd notice about the band. The jamming is just details. George Porter always said the most important thing is to . . . listen to each other and to listen more than you play. That's how improv and working within a group can be magical.
You guys have been together for a while. What's your secret to longevity as a band? About halfway through a tour, we all sort of stand in a field and we each get to stab each other with a pocket knife once, but not in the face. That seems to work things out pretty good. It has to be a small pocket knife so you can't get into any actual organs, just flesh wounds. (Laughs) Then, we all have a beer afterward and hug.
- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF
If you go
Tea Leaf Green will perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Capitol Theatre, 50 N. George St., York. The Bridge will open the show.
Tickets cost $15. For details and tickets, call 846-1111 or visit www.strandcapitol.org.
For details about Tea Leaf Green, visit tealeafgreen.com.
Listen to the interview at www.flipsidepa.com.
Read more meet-the-artist interviews at www.flipsidepa.com/musicdirectory.