In 2011, Koda Kerl and Marie Borgman poured some Evan Williams in a hot cup of tea and decided to start a band. The idea was to organically grow a sound based around lively shows that would not be restricted by genre. They joined forces with Irishmen Ryan Lavin (Marsh Mahon on bass and Stuart Gunter on drums round out the unit) started ferociously playing as much as they could. After a year of building a reputation playing rowdy bar sets they signed with County Wide Records and cut their first EP. A few years of cross-country tours and the band began playing festivals such as FloydFest, The Festy, and Arizona's Tilted Earth Festival, sharing the stage with Old Crow Medicine Show, Robert Earl Keen, and the Infamous Stringdusters among others. Their eclectic sound blends Americana and Southern Rock with Irish, Gypsy, and Old-Time all wrapped up in a raging live performance. Their sophomore record "Sweet Afton" was released on October 27th. Here, they answer their Essential 8.
What's the story behind your album's title?
Sweet Afton seemed like the perfect name for us because for us it ties together the Blue Ridge (specifically Nelson County) and Ireland. Marie and I grew up in Nelson County and Marie lived at the foot of Afton Mountain, which is a beautiful and meaningful place to us... Lavin is from Galway, Ireland, and used smoke Sweet Afton cigarettes (which are now defunct) - The original name comes from a Burns poem but we felt like it represented our sound.
Do you write about personal experience, the experience of others, observations, made-up stories, something else or a combination?
When I first started writing I only wrote about personal experience, but I've been trying to write in different ways over the last few years. Maybe one of these days I'll pull out a Springsteen-esque narrative epic.
Where do you draw inspiration from when writing?
I draw a lot from my personal experience, but I also draw a lot from the people around my and the places where I spend time. And I think like most artists I'm inspired by the music and art that I love.
What do you love most about being on the road?
I grew up one of eight kids and we weren't able to travel much...touring has given me the opportunity to see so much of the country. I also love being able to meet new people. Touring gives you a chance to see a city in a unique way and get tips on the area from locals.
Do you have any touring tips?
You have to stay positive and enjoy the adventure. It's a lot of work, especially when you first start and aren't making much money. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. I've always felt that if you spend years touring and the band eventually folds, you won't want to look back on it as a waste of time...so we have a lot of fun.
How do you kill the long hours in the van?
We listen to a lot of standup. I need to thank Louis C.K. for getting me through some long drives out west. We do a lot of impressions, but the best ones are of people we know so it doesn't do much for our live show. We will listen to music and podcasts some, but there are a lot of running jokes that wind up taking up a slightly disturbing amount of time.
Is drinking at gigs a positive or a negative?
I think that depends on the person. We like to drink at shows but you have to stay professional. Drinking on stage doesn't work for everyone, but we try to be honest with our performance and do like having a few drinks at a show. We especially like having a round with fans afterwards.
Do you have a favorite gift from a fan?
That's a tough one, so many people have done some amazing things for us. I'd have to say it's a tie between all of the people who have shown us great swimming holes before or after gigs. We've had some wonderful swimming sessions all across the country.
Chamomile & Whiskey will play Hill Country Live NYC on Saturday, November 11th
More info HERE