10 Questions with Tumbleweed Wanderers

The other day I got the opportunity to interview a great young band called the Tumbleweed Wanderers. They’re a fantastic group in the mold of the Mumford and Sons or Creedence Clearwater Revival. Being a local San Francisco band it’s nice to see them getting their due. 

Matt De Mello – Less than a year ago I was hanging out with Taylor Goldsmith after a Dawes show and you were covering one of their songs after a show at the Fillmore. Tell me about going from a band that performed on the street in SF to a band that has just released a much heralded debut album?

Tumbleweed Wanderers – That’s awesome!  I remember that night.  We were playing “When My Time Comes” when Taylor jumped in and started singing with us.  We still do a lot of busking on the street for promotion and its always a good time.  Playing outside of concerts has lead to some of our greatest opportunities (shows,friends,tours,etc).  I would say more than half the people that know about us know us through busking.  We never want to stop busking because it is such a huge part of who we are as a band and its a great way to break the barrier between the stage and audience.  

 MD – How has the tour gone so far?

 TW – Tour is always an amazing time!  We are all great friends and feel so lucky to be traveling and playing music together.  I don’t think any of us have driven this much in our lives.  We started touring last winter and have put over 30,000 miles on our van.  Its been really awesome seeing how receptive people are to our music outside of the Bay.    

MD – What was the album making process like?

 TW – All of the songs were written over the past year or so.  We demoed all the songs the month leading up to our studio time.  We had to make sure we knew exactly what we wanted because we only had 13 days for recording and mixing.  It was a great experience working at Tiny Telephone with John Vanderslice.  We really wanted to make sure we could record as much of it live as possible.  Our first EP was all done with overdubs and it just didn’t catch the energy of the songs as well.  It was also really fun to record all analog.  We really took advantage of the analog and tape effects…especially in the album’s transitions.    

MD – Burritos or tacos?

TW – Burritos…Hands down! 

MD – Sports or Politics?

TW – Sports.  It just doesn’t seem as fun to invite all your best dudes over on a sunday for beer, pizza, and CSPAN.


MD – Do you listen to what critics say when they’re negative?

TW – It depends.  We actually just recently got our first really scathing review.  It was actually pretty hilarious, especially when he said our drummer Daniel looks too much like a 5th grade science teacher.  When the criticism is constructive we definitely open our ears to it.  We really want to make sure we are playing to the best of our ability.  Plus we understand not everyone is going to like what we do.      

MD – How long have you been together? 

TW – Little over a year now.

MD – What made you want to create bluegrass music?

TW – Well I wouldn’t necessarily say we create bluegrass music in a traditional sense.  However, we do play bluegrass instruments when acoustic and I would say some of us are bluegrass influenced.   I think we all just happened to play these instruments on the side and put it to use more when we busk.  It helps having a banjo and mandolin to help project when playing on the street.  We also just really like changing things up instrumentally to keep it interesting. 

MD – In this new digital age, where everything is seen, how important is maintaining a certain image?

TW -Its crazy how much social networking has changed the music industry.  I think it is more important to use it to engage and update fans than to worry about maintaining a particular image.  We want to break the barrier between the stage and crowd as much as possible and give them something they can relate to.  Also we just want people to see that we are being ourselves on stage and in our music.  Honest music is the best kind.  I feel like if we focused too much on living up to an image the things we do becomes less sincere.

MD – Where would you like to see the band in five years?

TW – We would love to sell out Red Rocks in Colorado. It would also be awesome to headline major festivals like Coachella and Outside Lands.


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