Ten Questions with Kevin Blackwell of Sassparilla

The other day I reviewed Magpie by Portland based band Sassparilla, but I wanted to know a little bit more about them so I contacted Kevin Blackwell from Sassparilla to get a little insight into what makes this band tick. He’s funny, engaging and poignant at times.

Matt De Mello: There seems to be a movement going with a convergence of punk and bluegrass type bands. What drew you to that style of music?

Kevin Blackwell: I would argue blues, bluegrass and country were the original “punk.” Somewhere in time and in the land of linear thinking “punk” became a musical genre and style rather than a philosophy. Before we had the label “punk” folks were just making a statement for or against what they saw as something typical, mainstream, boring, socially unaware or socially dangerous/irresponsible. I think we live in a time where people are acutely aware of the precarious nature of the world. I think when people become aware they naturally deconstruct. To me “punk” is the deconstruction of something that isn’t working. Shit ain’t working right now. Is it?

MD:  Sassparilla is a root, most notably used for root beer. Why did you choose that as the name for your band?

KB: It was an accident! Started off as a joke and then stuck.

MD: Portland is starting to become the new hub for not only hipsters, but great music. What is it about that quirky little, rainy city that creates such great music?

KB: The people! This town is so talented and inspired you can’t help but create and want to be a part of it. I went to see Casey Neil last night for MFNW and he said something that i felt was poignant and made me proud of PDX. He said, and I’m paraphrasing because i had a little too much of the courage in me, “What folks don’t know about our little town is that every night of every year is MFNW.”  It is so true! Every night in hundreds of venues there is top shelf music being made. The shittiest venue on a tuesday in Portland would rival most towns for their Saturday night. We are very lucky. Don’t move here, though! There is no work! And we long ago sold out of skinny jeans and ironic T-shirts.

MD: Do you prefer cake or pie?

KB: I am a savory guy and a glutard.

MD: What record, growing up, most inspired you to become a musician? What track off that album?

KB: I was inspired to play music by my dad and his love for music. I saw how happy it made him and I wanted to participate in something that could make him feel that way.

MD: Have you ever literally tiptoed through the tulips?

KB: Did you know some mushrooms are lethal?

MD: What do you like to do when you’re not making music or touring?

KB: I have infant twins. When I’m home, I’m with them. I like riding the zoo train with them.

MD:  How do you feel about politics? Not necessarily who’s running this year, but about the science of politics in general.

KB: It is a science isn’t it? I became acutely aware of this while watching the convention speeches. Everything is so contrived. Nothing is real. Every word is chosen so carefully and is directed at the issues whether you realize it or not. So interesting.

MD: What is your favorite movie?

KB: I don’t have the attention span for movies. It took me a month to watch Dances with Wolves. I like the new cable shows (Boardwalk Empire)….although i have to buy them from iTunes because i can’t afford cable. So un-American.

MD: What would you like to accomplish, as a band, in the foreseeable future?

KB: My only hope is to have the opportunity to keep doing this. And to someday write a song that will make my dad happy.


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