Sled Island seems to have an interesting, counter-cultural relationship to Stampede. This year, it includes a band whose energetic alt-country has been known for turning the heads of people that usually prefer things alternative to mainstream cowboy culture.
Larry and His Flask have often found themselves working outside the common settings of a country sound, but this is a group with a history of creativity, ranging musical influences and great aesthetic evolution. When they began in 2003, founders and brothers Jesse Marshall (upright bass) and Jamin Marshall (drums) had much more of an infatuation with punk music, and have described their first five years as having been focused on “a blood, sweat and beers live show” with the party taking priority over technical precision. Eventually, lead vocalist Jamin moved onto drums and guitarist Ian Cook took the microphone over, just as three talented pickers/vocalists, Dallin Bulkley (guitar), Kirk Skatvold (mandolin) and Andrew Carew (banjo – also of Zombie Co-Pilot) joined the band and changed their sound forever.
Although their punk origins are still evident, Jesse Marshall makes a distinction that, “American roots music always has been an influence in all of our lives.” Their transition away from electric guitars and blaring amps also had some non-aesthetic reasoning, as he adds, “We wanted to be able to keep the party going with or without electricity and be able to play music that can be performed on the street or around the fire anytime, anywhere. It also has a lot to do with the community of folk music and musicians that influenced our music… What attracts me to folk music [is] the realness and the truth within it.”
That said, listening to their music doesn’t simply reflect folk, country or punk influences. There is a strong element of gypsy-punk/Roma, gospel, blues, bluegrass and ska all at once and, with an ability to resist classification, their music appeals to a very wide audience. As Marshall observes, “The energy is something most people can understand and enjoy no matter what style of music they are into.” While on tour, Larry and His Flask have been known for experimenting with this public receptivity in somewhat impromptu performances at coffee shops (imagine Tubby Dog shows at Oolong) and street corners that help them fundraise to move on to their next destination in true rambling spirit. Without a doubt, they seem like a band that would be equally at home busking in a bustling Portland, Oregon marketplace, as they will be confident rocking at the Ship & Anchor on June 22.
by Cait Lepla
Photo: Joseph EastburnAB, Alberta