The Freio Music Podcast
Episode 03 - Gipsy Moon
Listen in to this intimate back stage interview with Gipsy Moon. You will hear from the band gems and jokes along the way. This extremely talented band is led by mandolin player Silas Herman on mandolin and Makenzie Page on guitar and vocals with Matt Cantor on the bass and Andrew Connley on the cello for extra flavor. In this episode, you will learn about life on the road as a touring musician and what it takes to step on stage night after night.
Listen in to this intimate backstage interview with Gipsy Moon. You will hear from the band gems and jokes along the way. This extremely talented band is led by mandolin player Silas Herman on mandolin and Makenzie Page on guitar and vocals with Matt Cantor on the bass and Andrew Connley on the cello for extra flavor. Some band members have been on stage since they were children, even before they could play an instrument while others didn't take the stage until becoming an adult. During this episode, you will hear a hilarious first concert story that is just epic! This band and its members are young and their talent will shine for years to come. Enjoy this episode of the Freio Music Podcast with Gipsy Moon!
Gipsy Moon Links:
Hello, my name is Silas Herman and I play the mandolin for Gipsy Moon. My name is Matt [Cantor] and I play the bass. My name is Makenzie Page I sing, play the guitar and tenor banjo. I am Andrew Connley.
Where did you guys meet and how did you decide what instruments were going to be in the band?
Silas - Well we have been through a lot. The arrangement of the band now is a little different than it first began. We started a band about two years ago, and we started with a different band member then. We have been through a couple of things But this current arrangement is what has felt the most natural and right. As far as choosing the instruments we all have our own musical background, so we have brought them together to turn it into something
Matt - I think the most interesting thing… well, it's all fairly standard. Except for the tenor banjo, it is a little different. I think the cello is probably the [instrument] that catches people’s attention the most, as being kind of different. So I guess we could have Andrew answer why he decided to play the cello.
Andrew - Alright. Before that though I met these guys at RockyGrass, the best festival in the world man, that festival changed my life. I met Silas, and Makenzie up there and then Matt later. I used to play mandolin, and the mandolin is just a fuckin awesome instrument. There are a lot of incredible Mandolin players out there, like Silas, he is fuckin incredible dude. It takes a lot of dedication to push yourself outside that pack. Crooked Still I was influenced by them in a way. Someone introduced me to them. That pretty much changed the game. I was like oh, wow… You can actually do that with that instrument, that’s a cool possibility. It is basically a big fiddle. For violins or fiddles, the opposite equivalent for that, the more for informal variation. For cello, there really isn’t a word for that. There is no reason why that is. I saw a lot of mandolin players. There were not a lot of cello players that were pushing outside of that box. So it seemed like a really good play for life to focus on that.
So were you guys exposed to music from a young age? Or what inspired you to pursue being a musician.
Silas - I definitely grew up around a lot of music. My dad actually played in a band, Leftover Salmon, for over 25 years now. So he was on the road a lot of the time when I was growing up. So I was always surrounded by acoustic sort of bluegrass music of that influence. So I really just got into it and got a lot of it in my head. When I was around 12 or 13 years old I started taking it seriously. I started with the guitar and transferred over to the mandolin, which I am mostly playing now.
Did your dad teach you to play the guitar?
He taught me a fair bit to begin with, definitely. But then I tried to go outside of that musical genre to get my own sort of sound.
Makenzie - I did not grow up playing music. I found music when I was older. Ya, I just started with a friend who played. I would borrow his guitar and sing and play with him. I just surrounded myself with people who were really awesome at it [music] and learned.
Andrew - Um, I played a little drums and a little guitar growing up. It wasn’t until, you know, early teen years so that actually happened with the Mandolin when I was 16. My family wasn't really into it but now they are. Rocky Grass, that festival, got everyone in my family playing music in some way. My dad was a big record collector though. He had like 15,000 records when he died. He would be really happy to know that that is being carried on a little bit. He was a big fan.
Andrew - Ya, I played in the school orchestra on the bass for a long time. It was fun but I was never really serious about it until I graduated from high school. Then one day my friend was like “hey do you want to play bass for us at the mall?” I took my grandfather’s bass which I had had for a while but I had never ever played it because I would never practice. I would basically just go to school and play and have fun but I never took it seriously at all. I ended up getting blood blisters from playing at the mall for an hour. It was just an interesting experience because I never realized that people could pay you for playing music. We played at the mall and we each got $20 bucks and was like “woh, this is crazy!”. I just had so much fun and made money! So I basically started, and just did that a bunch like every day, and started making money. That is how I started doing it.
Was your grandfather's bass a stand-up?
Andrew - Ya it is the one I play. My grandfather played music in new york. He played Jazz for like 80 years so it has some history there.
You guys have a unique sound. You have come together with different backgrounds. Are there any genres or artists in particular that have inspired you to pursue the music you create today.
Silas - I feel like just being in Colorado, in general, you are sort of in a Mecca of a lot of amazing musicians and a lot of inspiration. A lot of young bands and bands that are more progressed. We have a lot of friends that have been through a lot of the same cycle of growing as a band. So we have seen that there is hope in the future and have just had a lot of inspiration from a lot of different people in that way, definitely.
Andrew- I am mostly inspired by older music. Old 50’s is what I primarily listen to at my house. That and funk, which is kind of interesting. That was kinda my parents' music. So I grew up with things, not necessarily a lot of disco funk, 80’s and late 70’s funk. Like Rick James and stuff. It is kinda a weird combination. I just ended getting really into Django Reinhardt. From that I have been listening to only really old music and funk. I like traditional Gypsy music too.
Makenzie - Ya I like old music too. My favorite right now is Edith Piaf. I can't stop listening to her.
Andrew - For me, musically, a lot of fiddle players. Though when I listen, it is kinda whatever my mood is into. It could be anywhere… From Bach, to Naughty by Nature to NOFX. Or bluegrass. Or old-time music. A lot of old-time music. So it is across the board it is more about what I am feeling at the time. They just help keep you going and influence you.
How are you able to highlight the individuality of a particular instrument, while at the same time maintaining a cohesive sound.
Makenzie - I think something that has really helped us is that we are really open-minded, as a band. Someone will bring a song and maybe it is totally... an entirely a different direction than we are trying to go. We just do it anyways. We are not trying to put ourselves in this whole genre, where we play this one specific music so we must stick to it. It is like hey let’s try that, now let's go this way. Lately, we have been trying to combine songs. Where one genre and a totally different genre that are just smashed next to each other. It’s really fun. If we do this dark eyes song, which is really gypsy, into this other song which is Calypso. We take traditional songs and totally do spins on them. We go from a Latin vibe into a Celtic tune. So I think that is something that we have been really digging lately.
Andrew - So were you referring to separation and how we set each other up for solos?
Trying to be aware of your ranges and try to not step on each other's parts as much as possible. Actually going from a five-piece band to a four-piece band has made that way easier in a way. I mean we had some good people we played with. Especially with cello, it is always trying to figure out where my part fits, like in a puzzle. Try to not muddy up the bass or the guitar, or tenor, or vocals. It is a delicate range. It is always really case by case. It is not really one formula but there are definitely patterns.
Silas - We recorded our last album at silo sound (in Denver) and had Tim Carbone, of RailRoad Earth, produce it. We have made a couple of other recordings with some friends in the mountains. Our first record we did with Dave and Enion Tiller from the band Taarka, at their house in Lyons, which unfortunately got destroyed in the flood.
How do you go about creating a song?
Makenzie - Every song is definitely different. Like it is its own little being. Lately what we have been doing is someone will come up with a basis of it and bring it to someone else. Like hey here is this. Usually, two people will come together. We have been doing a lot of collaborating like Matt, or Andrew or Silas will bring me something and be like I have this idea and it is these certain parts, write some words for it. It's really fun, it’s freeing. It is really helpful to widen your personal perspective on music, because you are working off of something that someone else wrote. So it is a nice broadening of your own ideas.
Andrew - I think it is case by case when it comes to where ideas come from. A lot of times I will have a bass melody and have some chords. Just trying to pass it on. Here try this out. Can you improve it? A lot of tunes have happened that way. Sometimes it is more specific. A lot of times I will want to hear tunes… Well, there are definitely arranged parts in them. It takes some working through to figure out what works for instrumentation. And to figure out if it is a good idea or bad idea. It is a lot of trial and error of just testing out stuff between us.
Do you have any future songs or albums in the works that are going to be released?
Makenzie - Ya we are going to be releasing an album this spring, so ya. In March. We recorded Silo Sound Studio with Tim Carbone. It was Kickstarter funded so we appreciate to all of those people who helped out. It has been a really fun album. A Lot of in-studio kinda stuff. We just got the masters yesterday so we were listening to them. It is definitely a more produced album. It has been really fun to be like “Let’s add this here” and “let's do these crazy harmonies there”. Usually, we are a one take and that's what you get. Last week we went up to this studio, called Mountain Star Studio, it is up in Rollinsville, kinda close to our house. They record straight to tape. So it was fun to do the exact opposite because they record to tape. So literally only one take and that's what you get. So that was really fun. So we did two tracks there that we will probably release at some point. It was an 8 track tape. It was literally straight to tape and then they turn it into digital after. Ya so in the Spring look out for that. It is called Sticks and Stones
So you guys have a management company and a manager. How is it working with a manager and what are the benefits? Are they enabling you to focus on your music while they worry about the scheduling and booking?
Makenzie - It is awesome. We don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff. Because that is half of the battle, when you are becoming a musician, is the business side of it. When you are an artist you don't want to have to think about that stuff.
Silas - It is also hard to promote yourself self righteously. Like saying “hey this is my band and we are so great, you should hire us.” Having a separate party to do that for you is very helpful.
These [next] questions are more individual.
Were there any particular artists that inspired you to pursue the mandolin?
Silas - I started out by playing the guitar. I had a musical upbringing. Then I really drove away from bluegrass I was brought up around. I got into electric guitar. It sort of started out there. Then transitioned back over to acoustic guitar and now mandolin which I am playing now. Some of my bigger influences have been Adam Steffey and Chris Keely. Some of those guys who are just great bluegrass players. I would like to sort of expand past that genre with my own playing too. So take influences from all sorts of things like Jazz.
How do you push yourself to that next level?
Silas - Oh man, just practice. It’s constantly a battle. It's constantly a cycle of getting beat down and then being re-inspired to do even better.
Matt, your bass playing adds a lively bounce and rhythm to the music. You guys don't have percussion and it seems like in a way you fill that rhythmic section. How do you as a bass player elevate yourself to that next level, how do you improve? Was there anyone who guided you along the way? Maybe your grandpa?
Matt - Well, unfortunately, my dad is really old and my grandfather was very old. I honestly started playing music right as my grandfather died. Which sucks because I play a lot of swing which is the stuff that he played. I would say the biggest influences on bass have been Chris Wood, Jimmy Blanton, Gareth Sayers.
Matt - What did you ask again?
(Other band members’ laughter)
Matt - Ok, Ok, I am really hungry. I can't think. I like the first part of the question that you asked. Because I had a realization last week when we were playing. There was this band before us that was really good. Their rhythm was really tight actually but they didn't have a bass player. And they are a string band. It made me realize how much rhythm the bass adds in this certain sense. It was really all there. Their rhythm was really good but because they never have that bass to be like “this is where the beat is”. It just kinda never really moved people, I noticed. I think it moved them, but didn't push them to move. Where it really hits them…
I like watching interviews with really old bass players because they always have really amazing things to say and it is really funny. I was watching this interview with Milt Hinton, who is the most recorded Jazz musician ever. He is on like 9,000 recordings. Now, he is this like 90-year-old guy. He is playing some bass line. I like to play it like this. I like to people to know, this is where the beat is. And that is what I am trying to do lately. Like this is where it is. Be more definite on the rhythm.
Well, Makenzie, I don't know how long ago you started playing vocals, so I would be interested to know that first of all. Your vocals seem to drive some of the songs and lead the direction for everyone else. You all make great space for each other but how did you become such a strong vocalist and so quickly and was there anyone who guided you along your path?
Makenzie - Oh man, you never really think about this kinda stuff with yourself because you are always looking forward. Well, I loved singing Disney songs as a kid. Well, I still do. Ha! I still sing Disney songs. Singing has always been in my life but I didn't play an instrument until I was 18. So I was a little older when I picked up an instrument and had any form training. So singing has always been in my life but I just wasn't really out there with it. It was a hidden, very personal thing to me. So that was something. Coming out of that shell and connecting with the people in the audience. The voice is such a connection that we have to other people. That is something I really love about singing. That is something I really aim for. Trying to have that conversation with the crowd, as if you are in the room with one other person. You kind of take them than somewhere else with that. It is really this very personal thing that you kind of have to give your all to. It is really hard to do that. I think that's why I didn't start playing music until I was older because to me it was such a personal thing. So I guess that is what I aim for and what I look for in my own vocals when I am listening back. Could you understand what I was saying? Did it sound like I am speaking or connecting? It is really just about connection to me. You get a lot of that from old folk singers like Joan Baez. The ones who really sat down and told you a story. I just love that old stuff. I am really into Edith Piaf. Even though it is in French, she has a lot of English stuff too, but she has this old sound to her voice. I think it is so timeless. I am just really digging that right now.
[Andrew] you told me that you recently got a strap. Does that change the way you are playing? Does it enable you to run around onstage as opposed to being locked into one corner? [Also]
It just seems that your cello adds a depth to the music. The melodies that you choose to play seem to create a different direction or depth. Can you speak to the way you play and anyone who has influenced you along the way?
Andrew - So ya. First, the strap is kinda new. It’s way fun. It is called a ‘Block Strap’. So shout out to Mike Block. He is an inspirational cello player to me. He invented the strap system. It lines up really nice. It feels natural. You get it in this spot and it is just like you are sitting down but it follows you around like a baby strapped to your chest. It [takes] a little bit of adjusting. If it is not set up just perfect some stretches are a bit hard to get but if you get it set up right, no problem at all. So maybe it adds a little difficulty but it is twice the fun. So it is a good tradeoff, I think.
Andrew - As far as cello adding depth, it definitely does. It is kinda that midrange that you don't really hear in sting band setups very often. Which makes it kinda difficult to find the part sometimes, because you don't want to step on someone else. Ya, it is like an extra dimension. Now that I am so used to it. When I go back and listen to a bunch of string bands now I feel like it is lacking something. But that is just me personally.
Andrew - But as far as influences… Crooked Still, a great band. They are still playing a little bit. Rushad Eggleston, is one of the players Tristan Clarridge are both fantastic players. Natalie Haas. It is really a small club of non-traditional cello players but I really appreciate what they are doing.
Can you talk about your first live performance, any fears that you experienced and how you overcame that?
Silas - Ya I fall into a pretty unique realm, with my dad being a musician. He would bring me up on stage when I was extremely young before I could even play an instrument. He would just leave it up there plugged in. So I could just go up there and stand there with the instrument. Not making any sound out anything. I think it helped me feel natural on stage and get past that whole thing before I even got into music. So once I did, there wasn't a whole lot to overcome. I will say that whole fear factor thing definitely, in some ways makes you play better though. Knowing that really amazing musicians are there and you look up to a lot will definitely make you play better and push you.
Matt - I had a funny first… Besides playing in school concerts and stuff, I am not going to count that. My first personal music concert. I remember I was playing electric guitar. I was super excited. I think it was a talent contest at my school. I was so excited to play. I was so pumped. We were playing one song. It was the classic thing where the curtain comes up. I think there were three electric guitars and a bass. It was probably really shitty. My amp, it just didn't work! It just didn't work! Honestly… Seriously, as the curtain went down and we finished the song, my amp… Baaa the amp turned on. I just remember I was so furious! I could not even talk to anyone. I just remember my mom saying “don’t worry, you will always remember that your first concert was… the worst. It will be a good story”. I am finally getting to tell it, I am glad.
Makenzie - Oh, man I don't think I have a good first concert story. Mine was at one of those farmer markets, down in my town. It was just me and this girl playing music together.
Were you nervous?
Oh, god. I get nervous now. Even still.
How do you overcome it?
Makenzie - Well… (Alcohol, muttered from the background). Haha, you cant tell the children that! But really that is one way. I do have a drink before I go on stage. I don't know, I guess I just try to forget about it. Practicing! We practice before we play and every time we do that we are tighter and feel better. That is something especially with acoustic instruments, when you plug them in, the whole world is different. If you can play a few songs, acoustic, and remember that that's how it sounds, and it sounds great! When you get up there it can sound all crazy. You hear something different than the crowd is hearing. And then you just reassure yourself that it's all good. Warming up for sure. That's half the battle is getting up there and doing it! It's awesome when you do, and when you let loose!
Andrew - Wow, Devotchka is awesome. Just for the listeners, we are listening to them soundcheck right now and they are amazing. Ya, my first time on stage… The first band I played with was a traditional bluegrass string band. I played Mandolin. The first time I met them, it was a Jam at a festival and they pulled me on stage that night too. It was cool because it was just a bunch of hippies. A bunch of young hippies. I was like ooh, wow. I can play bluegrass to young hippies and they are going to love it.
This is along the same lines as the previous question, and you may have already answered this. Do you have any interesting, strange, or odd pre-performance rituals?
Makenzie - I like to stretch sometimes. That helps me feel better. Definitely, as a girl, I just like getting ready. It makes me feel better when I leave the house and I have done something slightly with my hair and it is not like I just rolled out of the bed. Although on tour it gets hard because eventually, I do just roll out of the bus to go play a show. Just having a moment to myself is one thing I like. I really like to collect myself, no matter what has happened that day. Then when you go in front of the audience, you really have the responsibility to them to give them your energy. If your energy is all crazy and out there it is nice to do some breathing exercises before going on.
Matt - Probably the one weird thing I like… I don't always do it but sometimes I do. it is a little trick I learned from Jaco Pastorius. Supposedly every show he would have a bucket of fried chicken backstage. You just eat some before you play and it gets all over your fingers. It feels really nice on the bass… I don’t think it would work for a mandolin because you are holding a pick. But because you are just using your fingers it gets on the bass strings. It is almost like a lubrication. A bass lubrication system. A B.L.S., that is what a bucket of chicken is.
Silas - I mostly have a bunch of certain picking exercises I do to warm up, just to get the fingers moving and wrists lose. That's about it. Smoke a lot of pot. Ya, scales. Also a lot of picking technique, just the right hand, to loosen up.
Do you have any advice for a band starting out today? Would you encourage a band starting today to get a manager? Or is it practice, again and again? What advice would you give?
Silas - I feel that in the end, it is the music that prevails. There are a lot of bands that do make it through social media but the best ones that have a sustaining audience I feel like have solid music and a unique thing. So I would say just finding yourself and your own sound and exploring that as much as possible before you even get into the business side. Becoming as passionate about music for your own reasons.
Matt- I would say I have two pieces of advice. First play as much as you can. Find some buddies and just get weird with it. I mean that is how I started. Jamming for hours with our eyes closed. That is how I found myself. But I think this band is a little more refined, which is good. I think you need to go through that first stage though. Secondly, if you want to be a touring musician, make sure that you don't really hate being in cars. Honestly, that's one of the things I didn't realize that like 60% driving. Everything is work but if you are not the type of person that doesn't want to be in the car a lot it is probably not going to work out. At least a touring musician. You could be a studio musician I suppose.
Makenzie - It is so interesting to be asked that because I still feel like we are such a beginner band too. But you always feel that way with your own growth. You always kinda feel like you are only just getting it now. My advice is to not worry about it and just play. Play out as much as you can and the management thing is nice. We call him “Mom” because he takes care of everything. So it allows you to just focus on the music and not have to worry. I mean the times we have to worry about getting people to a show and all this. It gives you so much weird anxiety. To not have to worry about that stuff is awesome. Ya, about the car thing… You spend… That's the thing with finding people to play with too. I mean you spend a lot of time with each other in a very small space. I have definitely learned more than I have ever learned, just being in a band, and not just about music. It's been awesome. I recommend it.
Andrew - ya, music is fun. I would tell you that the first thing is work on your music. Try not to suck as much as possible. Try to be unique too though. A lot of bands will get in the cycle of trying to imitate their heroes. Which is nice for learning. But if you are making an act you can't really do that. Well, you can but it is hard to say how far that will go. Sometimes it does, you never know. Having a good singer too. Tim Carbone said to us… a few steps to success is to have good songs, a good singer, and there was something else too. But that was probably the most important thing. Oh ya, and be really fuckin lucky. Ya having a manager too. We got lucky that we had management and representation early on. Well, we first started with our buddy Kiam. It was his first time managing a band and then we got Ryan in there and it was his first time doing it too. So I recommend...
Makenzie - Find a friend who really gets along and who is business oriented and minded.
Andrew - Ya, If you have a friend who is really O.C.D., can write lists, and type emails, and wants to party a lot, he is the man. Just be like hey dude, do you have much going on? Do you want a side hobby for a little while? Make a few bucks and then eventually you will make a lot more. So ya, if you have a friend, get him involved. Get him to manage for you. I love our manager!
Where can our listeners keep up with your tour schedule and your latest releases and learn more about Gipsy Moon.
Makenzie - Facebook is honestly the best. Facebook and Instagram. Facebook.com/GipsyMoonBand Instagram.com/GipsyMoonBand on each of those. Also our website. We keep that updated. GipsyMoonBand.com So, ya those are the best places. Facebook you will kinda get a more personal view of us whereas the website is a little bit more formal.
Well, thank you Gipsy Moon, for sharing your knowledge and sharing your time. I am really excited to publish this and thank you again for your time.
Thank you, we really appreciate it.