What kind of music do you listen to?
It's an honest question that rarely yields an honest answer. After all, the wrong answer could get you shunned in certain circles. However, a more complex question could very easily be, what kind of music does your band play?
With lines blurring more and more with the cross-pollination of genres, Tempe's Kid Sampson made the distinction easier for themselves by creating their own genre and definition. They play Moon Rock.
"Often when you're in a band people tend to ask you what kind of music your band plays. So when we tell people we play Moon Rock, we always say, 'It's like Space Rock, but with a little more gravity,'" KS vocalist Steven Totten explains. "Essentially what we mean by this is that we tend to have very noisy, psychedelic jams, but they're put into an organized, beat-driven groove."
"So in the metaphorical sense, it's as if you take a step on the moon, and fly into the air--but before you completely lose yourself in the vast depths of space, you slowly float back down to the ground," he says.
Pretty cool right?
Follow the jump to sample their groovy track, "Savannah Night Train" and find out what inspires Moon Rock.
On the band's lyrical and musical influences:
Steven Totten:In terms of lyrical influence, and the way a message is expressed and presented, we look to literature. Both myself and Andrew Waterhouse, who shares vocals and various instruments with me, are studying English at ASU; my focus is in American and Latin American literature, and his in creative writing poetry and indigenous poetry. He and I write the lyrics together, drawing inspiration from the books, poems, and short stories we've read. When we made our first recordings, we made an as-of-yet unreleased EP called Moteca, which is based on Julio Cortazar's short story, "La Noche Boca Arriba." Our band name was also derived from literature: Kid Sampson is a character in Joseph Heller's Catch 22.
Musically, it's hard to pinpoint one type of music that we listen to devoutly, which is part of the reason as to why we made up our own genre. One of the reasons that I love being in Kid Sampson is that no matter what type of music someone puts on during band practice, we'll always groove to it. A half hour spent with us could have A Tribe Called Quest, Radiohead, The Clash, Stevie Wonder, and Juanes all playing on a playlist. Our only preference in what we're listening to is if we can move to it, whether it be bobbing our heads, gyrating our hips, or pumping our fists.
But it's hard to say it's just music and literature that influences us. Any minor part of any of our lives can have a major influence, be it conscious or otherwise. The way someone looks at you, or the smell of the rain can create a song. Life itself is an influence.
On the meaning behind "Savannah Night Train" and what went into the making of the track:
I suppose the overall theme of the song is the strength to overcome that which oppresses us. I had been reading a lot of stories from the Harlem Renaissance at the time about the African-American struggle, and Andrew was reading Southwestern Native American poetry--both of which usually focus on the attempt to break free from the binds of society. So the idea of a train came to our minds, partly a literal interpretation of The Underground Railroad: something that is constantly chugging towards its goal, always on track for the next station. So the song reflects the idea of keeping that constant chug through life, despite the shortcomings that may arise. The following lines best represent this idea, I think:
All along the line, the boxcars whisper in vain, Waiting to be absolved from the rain. Onward they steam, Hoping that the land there is serene.
Even gods have walked in the dead of night, Even lambs have left light to do what it may, Even gods have walked in the dead of night, Of what is there to be so afraid?
"Savannah Night Train" was a huge step in how we were writing and performing. When we had written the songs preceding this one, we were still a fairly new band; we were still learning how to listen to and compliment one another musically when we were playing. We usually only played the basic rock instruments of guitar, bass, and drums, and only either Andrew or I would sing rather than combining our vocals. But with "Savannah Night Train," we decided to mix it up a bit. Barry plays guitar and violin on the track, and Andrew plays keys and guitar. And as I had mentioned, this was the first song which we wrote where Andrew and I both sang rather than just one of us. This method ended up being how we write all of our songs now. Rather than staying with a basic, homogeneous song formula, we try to hybridize our music, throwing different elements of everything we have up our sleeves. There's also a short two minute track which we also recorded, called "Northbound," which we consider the precursor to "Savannah Night Train." When we play live, we play the songs consecutively without pause, leaving us pretty beat after playing for nine minutes. I don't know how jam bands do it, unless they take ridiculously long naps or something.
We chose to call it "Savannah Night Train" partly because of the fact that there is an actual night train that runs through Savannah, Georgia. We went on Wikipedia and everything. But a savannah also suggests an idea of tranquility, of freedom: a wide open field to run through without care. It's the end of the train's journey, the antithesis of the night and the rain; essentially, liberation.
On account of us all being college students, it goes without saying that money is scarce. So we had the song in our catalogue for quite a while before it got recorded. Luckily, about a year ago, a friend of a friend who attends the SCC Recording school contacted us and wanted to know if he could record us for an assignment. Obviously we were thrilled, and had the privilege of recording the song with high quality equipment without paying a cent. The room we recorded in has actually been used to record some of DeVotchKa's songs, so we lucked out with the sound and the quality of the recording. It was an effort to record the song, because we were recording live, and the song is like, six minutes long. But it was worth it, and I'd like to think the whole band is proud of the end result.