Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interview: Doc Feldman of Good Saints

I recently got to "sit down" via email with Derek "Doc" Feldman of KY AltRootsiCountriCana act.

How did the members of Good Saints meet/start playing together?

Good Saints essentially started with a friendship and collaboration between myself and James, and then truly formed into a band with a bit of "divine intervention" in finding Jake "Newt" (dobro, guitar, and vocals), Mark (bass), and Dave (drums) all at the same time. James and I had tried a few different permutations with other local musicians, but nothing really clicked until we found these guys.

How and where was your new EP, Driftwood on the Fire, recorded?

We are extremely lucky that Mark, our bassist, has a big 150 year old house just South of Lexington in a town called Lancaster. He's got two rooms and a hallway set up with some great recording equipment. His studio is lovingly referred to as "Shaker Steps" and gets its name from the authentic Shaker spirit drawings on the steps in his house leading up to the studio. The band meets there almost every Sunday and either practices if we have an upcoming gig or records. Now that we're becoming more comfortable playing gigs, and more comfortable with our own catalog of 20 some odd (and ever increasing) original songs, we're transitioning into primarily focusing on creating new songs and recording. We're recording about two full new songs every Sunday we meet there and we don't seem to be slowing down. We work pretty fast because we record everything live with just one or two takes.

With three distinct songwriters, how does the band writing process work?

Our songwriting process is probably the best part about this band. It's the primary reason why this band excites me so much. While we definitely have three distinct singers, we really aren't three distinct songwriters. We're a band--in the truest sense of the term I think. Each member brings their own unique strengths to the table. I know it's a cliche, but we really are a band that's greater than the sum of its parts. Something special is happening here, and I don't think any of us take this small "miracle" for granted. Not only do we do what we do because we find meaning and connection in it, but we also have a ton of fun and for a bunch of slightly "melancholy" type guys, it's just good for us. If you happened to be watching one of our practice or recording sessions, you'd see laughing and lots of it. Our live shows have that same energy to them I think.

Like I said, each member contributes in their own way to our songs. Clearly, one of the biggest strengths James brings to the band is his songwriting. Each Good Saints song has its own story and songwriting process. Sometimes James has a nearly fully formed song, and all that's really required of everyone else is to just "Good Saintsify" it a bit. Just fill it in with what feels right to create that sound that works for us. Other songs come fairly raw. He may have a few verses, but doesn't quite know what to do with them. He'll throw them out and ask for help with ideas for a chorus or a refrain or some sort of addition to the musical structure of the song. James is also really good at filling in ideas or adding lines or verses on other people's song ideas too. A few of our songs were created out of old songs James essentially threw away. Upon my rather pushy insistence, he actually graciously allowed me to listen to and even dissect, rearrange, and salvage for scraps a bunch of his older throwaway songs he referred to as "Castaways." There are a couple of Good Saints standards that came out of that process actually. I think those helped solidify James' trust in me as a songwriting collaborator.

That kind of stuff is really my specialty probably. I bring different parts together and make them work in harmony. For example, one of our songs was based on a chord progression I created with one verse of lyrics. James added a verse of lyrics and so did Dave (our drummer). Then I went back and smoothed out the three verses to make them all work together. Other songs have been created by me adding lyrics and melody to a guitar riff Jake (aka Newt) was playing or Mark will send me a bass line and I'll rearrange it a bit with some chord changes, a melody, and some lyrics. James will fill out some additional lyrics if needed. I guess I'm giving away trade secrets or showing you how a magician does his tricks, but I'm just so proud of our process. It's a free and open environment. The writing process seems completely limitless the way we do it. We foster that atmosphere of creativity and everyone contributes. I guess I'm the defacto "band leader" though Good Saints honestly doesn't really need a "leader" per se. We are all motivated, and we're all always willing to do our part. If a decision has to be made, we prefer to go with whoever feels the strongest about it. If all else fails, I can choose a fair compromise, and we just go with that.

Jake is clearly the best musician in the group. He may also have the best voice, which is why we're all pushing to give him more songs. Look for that to be the biggest area of growth for our newest songs. More "Newt." His talent is really unmistakable. He's an incredibly humble guy--almost to a fault. If you come to one of our shows, you'll see it. People can't help but pay attention when he's playing.

Mark is the band's center in a lot of ways, and like any good bass player, he's a real work horse. His musical ideas and bass lines have helped spur the creative process of a number of our songs. And there are two songs in particular that just wouldn't be the same at all without the bass lines Mark came up with--"Go Easy" and "Mississippi Slowdown." I also think to a great extent Mark is the one pushing us when really jam out a song. When we're improvising, Jake is usually leading us, but Mark really helps the band hit those peaks. He also acts as engineer, co-producer, and live sound man for the band. And he books our gigs. Did I mention he created our band logo, as well? He's definitely a Renaissance man.

What can I say about Dave our drummer? I mentioned before that Jake was probably our best musician, but that's only because Dave is a drummer. *smiles and gives Dave a nudge.* Dave is definitely one of the most tasteful drummers I've ever played with. He really serves the song, and he plays with great intuition. He's willing to hold back, which is always great for building tension in our songs and then really pushes us when we stretch out to jam. I know for a fact we haven't even really begun to utilize Dave to the full extent of his abilities. Look for us give him more and more freedom to create songs based on his rhythms and percussive elements he can bring. And how many drummers do you know that can throw out lyrics as well?

Do you have any upcoming releases?

Yes, we have a split 7" with Kill County that is being sent off to press as we speak actually. We're hoping to release it before the end of the year. Maybe a nice Chrismahanaquansikah present for that music lover?

We also plan on doing a split 7" with Langhorne Slim that should be out by Spring. We're considering using for this project, so keep an eye out.

Then we expect to release our first LP sometime after that.

In the meantime, check out the Good Saints at Reverbnation or Bandcamp.

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