Alder Street Band has come a long way since the group's inception at the Campbell Club, a student co-op near the University of Oregon in Eugene. Beginning as a like-minded gathering of musicians, the band has evolved, while still holding onto the founding philosophy of having fun playing music with friends.
"We all have jobs. There are two high school teachers in the band and a full-time daddy who's also in school," guitarist Ian Royer says. "We don't have that much pressure on us. I feel like lots of times you can get a lot of pressure on you if it's your full-time gig. It's so hard to be a musician because musicians are commonly underpaid. That type of pressure wears on some bands. When we book shows, we book them for fun, primarily."
Fun comes off in the music instantly. The band has a decisively bluegrass bent, but has garnered the "alterna-grass" description on more than one occasion for the jams that incorporate folk rock and punk sounds.
"Different members write different songs that the band ends up playing," Royer confesses. "You know, Jeff, our mandolin player, may be drawing more from classic rock, and Chris on the banjo might be drawing more from bluegrass, and I have no clue where I get my songs from. We like to rock out and it's fun to do that live."
The band's latest album, "Monarch Before the Storm," crosses more genre lines than its last release, "Americannibal," a faster-paced album that featured drummer Emily West more prominently and was more straightforward bluegrass. On "Monarch," "Ain't Got Jack" comes across with a distinct tango style. "Bar by the River" features a trumpet and gets more funky. "Party at the End of the World" is fast-paced, too, reminiscent of the straight-forward jams on "Americannibal."
The band wants to play songs that stick out. Before recording an album, the members go over the songs and play them live to see how audiences respond to different parts, making changes as they see necessary.
"The studio is a lot like your movie and your shows are like your plays, in a way," Royer says. "For your movie, you get to do cuts, you get to bring in friends, you get to really have fun with it."
Of their albums, Royer and Alder Street feel strongest about "Americannibal" and "Monarch Before the Storm." He feels there was a shift with these two albums and with the band itself. The band continues to have fun, just as their humble Campbell Club roots suggest, while evolving and growing as a band.
"As long as we're having fun, we're going to keep doing it," Royer says. "We haven't gotten bored yet. Every year is more fun and I feel like we're putting out a better product, better music every year too. As long as it's getting exponentially better, we're going to keep going."
Alder Street Band at Beer, Bands & Public Lands
Sat., June 10, 11am-7pm
777 NW Riverside Blvd., Bend