Andrew Carew walked into Parrilla last Wednesday afternoon and was immediately greeted by damn near everyone in the Westide Bend burrito joint.
Carew is a dishwasher at Parrilla. He's also one of the six members of Central Oregon's punk bluegrass band, Larry and His Flask.
So, it makes total sense that everyone in the small establishment would know Carew, a Central Oregon native.
But the Flask, known for their high-energy live shows, is no longer just a great local band—they're big time! Last year the New York Times ran a glowing review of a raucous Flask show in Brooklyn. This year, after their second run on Vans Warped Tour and following the September release of the EP Hobo's Lament, the hard-touring band got nods from Rolling Stone and The Huffington Post. And they're about to head back into the studio in January before launching off on another U.S., Canada and European tour.
To catch up on their crazy year, which included touring and shows with Lucero, Dropkick Murphys and Frank Turner ("He's big in the U.K."), I sat down and had some beers with four of the dudes from LAHF.
Over burritos and PBRs, I learned four things about the Flask: Even though they are big-time, they're all still broke; in terms of sound, their new album will be the same, but different; they're starting their own record label; they have no plans to slow down.
"You got to work your fucking ass off to make it happen," said Jamin Marshall, the band's dummer and vocalist who, along with bother Jesse Marshall, started LAHF in 2003.
After the brothers engaged in a spirited dialogue with Carew and Ian Cook, the other two band members at the table, the boys decided that they played over 230 shows last year. Which is how they get noticed.
This summer, while busking on the streets of New York to pay for gas, a member of the crowd approached the Flask's publicist, who was also in attendance.
"I work for Rolling Stone," the man said. "Who are these guys? They're good!"
And that's how LAHF made it onto the Rolling Stone website, which featured a free download of "Big Ride," a one of the six songs on Hobo's Lament.
Jamin Marshall said a common misconception about "breakthrough" moments is that they are these singular, magical events. They're not. Such moments happen to the Flask because those dudes are always out there doing it, playing each show like it's their last.
Before last week, one of the last times I had seen Jamin was at a LAHF show at Players Bar & Grill where he performed his signature, crowd-surf-from-stage-to-bar-and-back move. He got two PBRs and was back behind his drum set in less than a minute.
The "Flask energy" is part of what makes them so good. And so loved. In recent years, though, it's not just their sweaty live shows that turn heads and attract new fans, it's their high harmonies, masterful pickin' and even their sharp dressing. LAHF almost always takes the stage dressed like actors from an old western movie—vests, ties, flat-brimmed cowboy hats, beards, leather boots.
"Thrift stores, man. You just gotta find those gems," said Cook, the band's lead singer and guitarist. Cook, who now wears a curled mustache instead of his signature blond beard, also writes the lyrics and structure for most the Flask's songs.
Cook said in early January the band will travel to a friend's Michigan recording studio to lay down a new album. While Hobo's Lament was filled with LAHF favorites, like "My Name is Cancer," their new album will be made up of entirely new songs. Jamin Marshall said the band plans to incorporate even more instruments than the usual, guitar, stand-up bass, banjo, drums, mandolin and horns. Expect pianos, accordions and more on the new album.
Despite the success, the near-constant tour schedule, and all the fun, the band is still broke. Cook said while on the road, they budget for $10 to $20 per person, per day. When home, which is maybe three months of the year, some, like Carew, pick up additional work. And their living conditions are far from glamorous.
"I'm literally living in a camper in my parents' driveway," Cook said. "It's freezing in there."
"Personally, we got nothing," Jamin Marshall said in agreement.
But the Flask has plans to keep more money in their collective pockets. Their new album will be under a new record label, their own, "Slam It If You Love It."
"You don't need them [record label companies] and they know it," Jamin Marshall said.
Such DIY sentiment is not surprising coming from an aggressive (but friendly!) string band with seemingly limitless energy. You'll be able to experience the wild fun that is a LAHF show next week as the band is playing at Century Center in what's to be their fourth New Year's Eve show in Bend. It's also Century Center's last, said owner Dave Hill.
The show marks a rare moment at home for LAHF, the members of which have been back in Central Oregon for barely two months.
"I'm re-juving," Cook said, before he added that he and the rest of the band would be charged and ready to go before things get heavy again in mid-March.
Jamin Marshall then chimed in:
"We're road dogs."
Larry and His Flask New Year's Eve Show
with Possessed by Paul James, Hopeless Jack, Terrible Buttons
7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31
Century Center, 70 SW Century Dr.
$10, all ages