For Jeff Austin, the mandolinist for Yonder Mountain String Band, the new group he has formed by teaming up with Umphrey’s McGee lead singer Brendan Bayliss is completely unlike anything he has done before, and that’s the way he likes it.
“To talk about Umphrey’s and to talk about Yonder in the same context of this record… I can’t even do it,” he says. “It’s just such a different beast, you know? It’s its own individual thing. This record is something that really stands on its own.”
Calling themselves 30db, their debut album, One Man Show, features 14 diverse tracks that roam from radio rock to acoustic ballads, and from bluesy rock to epic Americana jam sessions. There is a freshness to the songs that makes for an enjoyable listen, which is ironic considering the events that brought Austin and Bayliss together musically.
“We were both kind of going through the same period of time in life. We were going through divorces at basically the same time, within a matter of months of each other,” Austin confesses. “And we were friends to begin with, but when this happened we kind of had each other to lean on and someone else who knew exactly what was going on because they were going through it too.
“So because music is what both of us do, it was sort of our outlet. We were both writing songs about the emotion and everything, and we started talking and he said, ‘Well at least I’m getting a song or two out of this even though this period of time sucks.’ And I said, ‘Oh, yeah, well I’m writing a bunch too,” so we thought this was a no-brainer that we should probably write something together.”
So write they did, and as the time went by, everything just seemed to come together naturally for Austin and Bayliss, so much so in fact that they never had to bother with choosing a theme for the record or even sticking to an idea or a message they wanted to get across. Even though the album took two years to record — each of the band’s five members all play in other bands — the whole process was so organic that the recordings just took on a life of their own.
“The one thing we really let happen was we let the record kind of go where it wanted to. We just let it open up and grow some legs, basically. I think that’s why it sounds so original is because we didn’t try to say, ‘OK, let’s just write a record of four- or five-minute songs and that’s all it’s going to be,’” Austin says.
And of course it doesn’t hurt that the rest of the band was as committed to recording the songs as Austin and Bayliss were.
“Once you get guys that are that amazing at what they do, who commit to it and really put a lot of energy behind it, it takes on a whole different life, you know?” he says.
And that energy has not gone away either. When we spoke, it was the day after the band had played their very first gig together in Minneapolis, and according to Austin, the band had the sort of fun that would make kids in a candy store green with envy.
“It was an absolute freaking blast. We were like five kids just bouncing around,” Austin says while laughing. “We really were! We were literally bouncing around because you know what? I think, no matter what any of us is involved in, we commit to it 100 percent. If we’re going to go and try something else, why give it anything less than it deserves?
“It’s a great thing to see. It’s a rare thing to have one group of guys you play with and feel that connection with, and then to have this happen where everyone’s so amped up to play, it’s amazing.”
So life is going well for Austin and the guys in the band. They are enjoying the music they’ve made, they’re having a great time performing and nothing weird has happened — so far.
“No naked guys jumped up on stage last night.
Everything went well… which means that tonight something really weird’s going to happen! I’ll probably get attacked by a group of wayward clowns and then kidnapped into a hot air balloon.”
Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.
On the Bill
30db plays the Fox Theatre on Wednesday, May 19.
Doors at 8 p.m. Nick Forster with Eric Thorin and Liz Forster open. Tickets are $20.
1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.