The Appleseed Collective, a folk string quartet from Ann Arbor, Mich., explores the sounds of American Pop music in its infancy — ragtime toodle-oos, pleasant Tin Pan Alley airs and lively Hillbilly stomps.
They even have a washboard.
Don’t write the group off, however, as merely the soundtrack to your next Roaring ’20s-themed party. The band, making their State College debut as part of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, aims to carve their own niche in Americana’s musical tree, with an inventive approach to songwriting and dynamics.
Singer and guitarist Andrew Brown, a Detroit punk rocker evangelized by the sounds of New Orleans Dixieland jazz, spoke about forthcoming music from the group, as well as some influences that stray very far from the orchard.
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Q: Has the group ever received any criticism along the line of, “They’re talented, but the type of music they play is retrograde?”
A: Nothing that direct, I don’t believe. Now, in certain circles it’s not viewed well if you’re too progressive. Maybe a particular folk scene or a festival is looking for a ‘traditional’ type of sound. That’s fine, I can respect that. But that’s not where my heart is. We’re not a ‘traditional’ group. We’re blending a lot of styles, and the music is more a vessel to communicate the ideas and the lyrics of the songs. It’s a compliment when a new listener tells us, “Five or six songs into your set, I stopped trying to figure out what kind of band you were!”
Q: You’ve spoken about your musical influences in previous interviews. Do you have any non-music influences — filmmakers, writers, painters, etc. — that have inspired your work?
A: (Filmmaker) David Lynch is one. Lord Buckley is a big one. He was a stage performer and comedian in the ’40s and ’50s. There was a definite musical component — almost this rhythm — to the way he spoke. He’s a missing link in pop culture in the mid-twentieth century that doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Tom Waits cites him as an influence, so does Bob Dylan. You can hear him in comedians like Lenny Bruce and Robin Williams, too.
Q: Is the group exploring any new sounds to add to the palette? Are you challenging yourselves to push the comfort zone?
A: There will be some new sounds that fans will not expect — elements of funk and some early rock/rhythm and blues. A major emphasis has been placed on songwriting for these newer tunes... Some of them may be darker in tone, as this past year wasn’t the best. More of an emphasis on vocal harmony, as well. I think few musical elements display the power voices singing in harmony do.