Meet the Asheville-based blues-rock band Alex Krug Combo! Earlier this year, they released a new EP called “Sleeping on the Woodlands.”
In their burgeoning career, the Americana six-piece already boast quite a list of accomplishments. To-date, they’ve shared stages alongside such movers and shakers as Horse Feathers, The Hip Abduction, Erin McKeown and Donna the Buffalo, among countless others, and stormed such gigs as LEAF Festivals, All-Go-West Festival, Grey Eagle, Orange Peel and Pisgah Brewery. Additionally, their 2015 EP, Gentle Spotted Giant, was named one of the Top 5 “Dreamiest Local Albums” of the year by the Mountain Xpress and features production work from the prolific Michael Selverne (Motley Crew, Steep Canyon Rangers, India.Arie), as well as contributions from Bill Berg (Bob Dylan), Lyndsay Pruett (Jon Stickley Trio) and Jackson Dulaney (The Blood Gypsies, The Aaron Burdett Band).
Sleeping on the Woodlands is four tracks of rollicking, organically-produced Americana. Recorded at Echo Mountain Recording, the collection is a steam locomotive barreling down the tracks — the team behind the release is an exquisite lineup, including executive producer Jessica Tomasin, mixers Michael Selverne (also primary producer), and engineer Julian Dreyer. Even more, Jackson Dulaney’s work on lap steel is astonishingly tight-knit, as is Zack Page’s upright bass, yet both permit the arrangements to really breathe on their own. Truly, it is Alex Krug and her mountain-crushing vocals and evocative storytelling driving the industrial-sized apparatus.
Learn more about Alex Krug Combo in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
Thanks for chatting with me today. Later this afternoon we’ve got a guitars and cello rehearsal. We’re working with a cellist, Isabel Castellvi, and she’s amazing. After that some screen printing in my living room. We have a tight budget so we screen print our own stuff. Which usually means I mess up a bunch of perfectly good shirts lol 😉
Now that we are into the 10th month of the year, how would you say that 2019 has treated this band? What have been some goals this group has had this year? How close are you to reaching them? What are you already excited about for 2020?
2019 has been so much work and extremely rewarding. We really couldn’t be more proud of the album and how it turned out. Sleeping on the Woodlands has the essence of what we feel when we play music together, it feels very true. Its was tracked mostly live so it has that energy and I love it. As far as 2020 goes we have another EP we’re going to be working on.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Was it hard to think of a name that you could all agree on?
We all came together during the recording of our first EP ‘Gentle Spotted Giants’, that was the first time I met Bill Berg. I thought that he would just play with us for the session but after the session he told me that he would love to be a part of the band. Jackson Dulaney had all ready been a part of the group on with lap steel though he wasn’t on the first EP. When the six of us would hang out and play and be together the vibe was so fun and the music worked really well. All of us really appreciate and love each other and music. This connection was apparent pretty quickly and playing together is something we all look forward to.
In past bands we have tried to have a creative name because it’s fun. Alex Krug Combo is just Alex Krug Combo because it’s simple and it is what it is.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? How has the music scene there changed over the years?
Asheville is a small city that sits gently held in the palm of the lush mountains that surround it. Ten fifteen years ago it was a place where artists could affordably live (not as much now). I had so many artist and musician friends cheaply renting big and little arts and craft style homes in a neighborhood near downtown. There was a lot of front porch time, walking one porch to another porch, potlucks, playing music, little and big house shows, screen printing, stews, homemade beer and hard cider, tea, tiny backyard firepit fires. Though the city has changed a lot in that time there is still those remnants in certain circles and that vibe is defiantly something we wear like a favorite flannel.
Let’s talk about your newest single, “Woodlands.” What was the inspiration for this track? How do you think it prepares listeners for your forthcoming EP “Sleeping on the Woodlands” set for release.
It was winter in western North Carolina where I live. The mountains had new snow and a crispness about them. A few friends and I drove to go for a hike on a remote trail that follows a clean fast river. I walked in the back behind them, our foot steps making fresh tracks in the snow. It was late in the day and the beginnings of dusk were coming in around us, deepening shadows. I was looking around at the young green snowy hemlocks and the sycamore, which leaned over the creek with their strong smooth gray and white camo trunks and dry winter achene dangling from the thinner twigs, unfazed by cold winter. The words just came to me there on that walk for some reason. this fall?
Generally, how does this group go about writing your music? Do you write together or separately? What is the first step in your music-making process?
I write the music alone because I’m a big introvert and bring it to them where we explore it together. Kyle, Jackson and I do a lot of casual work on them, sipping some whisky and having fun with it. I’ll email a crappy phone recording to Bill and he sends his thoughts back. The elements of the songs are stirred together with all our impressions.
I always like to ask bands if you all hang out socially apart from the music? In other words, when you aren’t working on music, do you guys enjoy hanging out for fun?
We do, Bill lives an hour outside of town but we’ll still get lunch sometimes and we email pen pal about music and life. Like I said before Kyle, Jackson and I, they’re brothers to me, we sit around, play music, listen to vinyl, sip bourbon, tell stories at Jackson’s farmhouse or in Kyle’s living room. Rachel Gramig, we’ve been singing together for so long. She’s one of my best friends and have seen each other in many different life chapters. Long hikes, tight harmonies, lots of house shows. Often as soon as I’m writing something new I can hear her. She’s in Denver now but that just means I travel there a lot and we play lots of shows out there and hike in those mountains. I just got back from playing out there with her.
How do you feel that this band has grown through the years? What has remained the same? What do all of your various musical experiences bring to this group?
Being together in iteration of the band for more than four years be now understand how we work. We know how we flow so its a lot easier to drive the bus.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
I like it all, we like it all!! I’m least happy in front of a computer!!
What do you think makes for an ideal show for this band? What have been some of your favorite shows and venues over the years?
The best shows are ones where we can really get a good musical feel going on, leaning into each other’s sounds.
Do you have a Fall Tour scheduled yet? Where can fans see you perform next?
We don’t have a fall tour yet, we’re working on the next EP and looking for someone to help with booking. I’m really dyslexic so all the computer stuff is a nightmare.
How has social media impacted this band? How often are you all on your different sites interacting with fans? How have you been able to utilize it through the years?
It’s really remarkable how, given some genuine effort, social media can be very positive. Its an privilege to get to interact with fans and friends in whatever form. We’ve slowly been getting better about social media but we have a ways to go. The first goal is good music though, so that is what comes first.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today? Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
I wouldn’t call it an escape, rather playing music together is a positive and empowering position of action. Doing what is true to us and being present with our lives, attending to the current moment in our lives and what’s going on around us. That’s powerful. Some moments I’m on the phone with a senators office, some moments I’m playing music.
What musicians have really been inspiring you all since you first started making music?
Good question! Its so hard to say though. Right now I’m really inspired by people like Billy Holiday and Nina Simone. They has such challenges, they were incredibly smart and talented and yet treated so horribly and faced so much trauma. I’m so grateful they were who they were and brought us so much amazing music even with all of that hard stuff.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
For this EP, ‘Sleeping on the Woodlands’, it’s for those who are on the outside, that are on the periphery, who have been, in some way marginalized (due to injustice, prejudice and ignorance). The song Woodlands is to say, you may surely be on the edges, forgotten, ignored and not heard but those who have been sidelined are really the most important. The song Overboard is one of my favorites on the album and it speaks to that, so does Woodlands.