An In-Depth Interview with The Indie Folk-Rock Band, TACOMA NARROWS!
Posted On 23 Sep 2015
Tag: All Access, All Access Music Group, Arlene's Grocery, Artist Interview, Bill Monroe, Blind Pilot, Bowery Electric, Carolina Jubilee, Cheney Munson, Earl Scruggs, Edward Sharpe, Gary Peterson, Good Mourning, Johnny Cash, Josh Ritter, Kickstarter, Life and Love, Low Anthem, Michael Daves, North Carolina Farm Trust, Paul Simon, Pianos, Railroad Earth, Resonance, Rockwood Music Hall, Single Release, Tacoma Narrows, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Teachers College, The Decemberists, The Devil Makes Three, The Lumineers, The Wood Brothers, This is How It Starts, Trampled By Turtles, Tuesday's Children
Serving up a healthy dose of indie folk-rock fun with an explosive mix of acoustic and electric energy, emerging NYC-based indie band Tacoma Narrows are one band you need to learn about ASAP!
Earlier this month, they trusted their fans to choose their debut album’s lead singles, to be released the same day. “This Is How It Starts” and “Life and Love” were selected as fan favorites from their upcoming debut album “Good Mourning”.
“This was kind of nice because each song shows a different side of our sound. ‘This is How it Starts’ shows off our folk-pop side, while ‘Life and Love’ shows our rock side,” said band founder/lead vocalist and former English teacher, Cheney Munson.
Enjoy the following All Access interview with Tacoma Narrows front-man, Cheney Munson:
How’s your summer been?
The summer was both challenging and really rewarding for us. Challenging because of the band’s summer travel and work schedule: it was hard to find time for whole-band practices. However, we made sure to book one NYC show per month, at Bowery Electric, Pianos, Arlene’s Grocery and culminating in our Single Release show at Rockwood Music Hall. Those shows really helped us stay focused. We’ve had a huge turnout for each show and have been able to debut new material at each one, which has been really cool.
How did Tacoma Narrows first come together? How did you decide on your band name? What other names were you considering?
I never really considered other band names. I’ve been obsessed with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge ever since seeing the video in a college physics class. The way it twisted, turned and ultimately collapsed reminded me of something at once dark and beautiful. When I saw Gary Peterson’s ink print “Resonance” of a man dancing on a bridge before its imminent demise, I knew I had to 1) write a song about it and 2) form and name a band after the bridge.
We came together gradually. My drummer Will and I used to teach together in Newark, NJ. We started jamming after school to wind down. We picked up Jason our fiddle player at a local bluegrass jam I go to on Sunday nights. Jim and Joe were both old friends of Will’s. Joe teaches History and English in NYC and Jim moved hear a couple years ago to finish his PhD. Jonah is the most recent addition and really rounded out and elevated our sound with his harmonies and mandolin chops. He recently moved here from Kansas. So its an electric group in terms of backgrounds but we all get along REALLY well. Which is SO important for a band.
Cheney, specifically, how did you go from being an English teacher to a full-time musician? Do you ever miss that old life? Do you think you’ll ever return to teaching at all in some way in the future?
I taught for 8 years, at an amazing school in Newark, NJ — its principal, the teachers, the students — were all phenomenal and worked together with the common vision of closing the achievement gap. It was an inspiring and exciting place to work. With that said, it was a lot of hard work and I didn’t have much work-life balance, much less time to work on music. In short, I was getting pretty burned out.
I was having brunch with a good friend of mine and he said “Why don’t you do a Kickstarter and take a year off to record an album?” Once he got the idea into my head, I couldn’t shake it. It was just really good timing. I miss the kids, but I definitely don’t miss the lifestyle. I think eventually I will go back to teaching — it helps that I still have one foot in education through my consulting with Teachers College (which also pays the bills when music comes up short, which is often).
How did the group get involved with the benefit show on September 11th at Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 2 benefiting Tuesday’s Children charity? What does this organization mean to the group?
Honestly, we scheduled the show on Sept 11 and it seemed strange to me to do a NYC gig on 9/11 without in someway acknowledging the tragedy associated with that day. I researched a bunch of charities and Tuesday’s Children seemed like the best fit. I like that it’s a global organization. I like that it focuses on community outreach, family advocacy and crises counseling. Many of the students that I taught had early childhood trauma, and I know how impactful intervention can be. So I guess in some ways it hit home in a personal way as well.
What else does Tacoma Narrows have to look forward to this Fall?
So many things. We have a residency at Pianos that we are super excited about starting on Sept 30th. We’re playing at a food and music festival down in Harmony, North Carolina called Carolina Jubilee on Oct 16 and 17. All the proceeds of that weekend will go towards the North Carolina Farm Trust and will help promote sustainable and local farming, which is really cool. And then we have our album release show at Rockwood Musichall on November 14th. It will be a crazy party, kicked off by renowned bluegrass player Michael Daves and ending with an amazing DJ and night of revelry. So excited for that show/night. We’ve been waiting for it for more than a year.
Were you happy with the songs your fans picked to be your album’s lead singles? Would you have picked them?
So happy. They’re not only two of our favorite songs to play live, but I also think they really get at both sides of our music. We’re folk-rock in every sense of the term. “This is How It Starts” is upbeat, but definitely leans toward our more folky side. “Life and Love” really rocks and is super-energetic; it gets at our rock side. In any case, we couldn’t be happier with our fans and friends and families’ choices.
How do you feel about being compared to The Decemberists and The Lumineers? Do those bands inspire your sound? What other groups have continued to inspire you all? What music are you all listening to these days?
Both in my opinion are amazing bands. And we’re definitely humbled by that comparison. I think we sound more like The Decembrists than The Lumineers personally. But the latter has definitely been in my head and feet when we’re writing songs. We have a lot more Americana influences than those two bands. A much more accurate, albeit less known comparison would be Railroad Earth, a band I recently discovered thanks to Jonah, our mando player.
Been listening a lot to old-timey stuff: Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Paul Simon, Johnny Cash as well as a bunch of new indie-pop-folk, like Blind Pilot, Low Anthem, Josh Ritter, Trampled By Turtles, The Devil Makes Three, Edward Sharpe, The Wood Brothers, etc. There is SO much good music out there. I could go on. But I won’t.
What’s been the most surprising thing to you about the music industry?
Well, the first was the crazy opportunities and empowerment that comes out of crowdfunding. It was a game-changer for us. The Kickstarter money gave us the ability to hire an amazing sound engineer and take our time creating a really high-quality album. In other words, we didn’t have to take any short cuts. AND we aren’t beholden to a record label, which gives us more freedom (and cash). But it also was a great way to get our name out and raise our credibility. I had no idea how instrumental crowd-funding would be to launching our band in a serious way.
On the other hand, it’s surprising and overwhelming, just how many amazing bands and musicians there are — how much competition there is. It’s hard to separate yourself from the pack.
Can you talk about the inspiration behind your upcoming debut album “Good Mourning”?
It’s actually pretty literal. When I was nine, my mom died in a car accident. When I was 19, my sister also died in a car crash. Obviously, these two events wracked my world. But as time passes, I’ve seen how those experiences have given me insights and access to some really beautiful and profound experiences and perspectives. It’s hard not to sound trite or morose when I’m talking about this, but most of our songs are about a kind of hope or light that is borne from darkness, destruction, despair and chaos. It comes back to the image of that dude dancing on the bridge before its collapse: to try to acknowledge and even revel the certainty of death. To know that all this life will soon be gone and to meet that knowledge with gratitude and urgent wonder instead of despair is kind of beautiful. Difficult. But beautiful. “Good Mourning” is a light-hearted take on life’s inherent darkness. It also happens to be the one thread that ties all our songs together.
What do you hope listeners take away from your music? Is there a message you hope they take away from it?
Not really. What I like about music and art in general is that every listener and viewer brings their own experiences to bear on a song or work of art. What one person takes away from a song may be completely different that another person. I feel silly if not downright pedantic when I tell people what message I hope they take away from our songs. It kind of annoys me when authors or artists or musicians explain the “meaning” or “message” behind their work. But if a listener got the gist behind “Good Mourning,” I wouldn’t be angry.
For more on Tacoma Narrows:
Website // http://www.tacoma-narrows.com
Facebook // https://www.facebook.com/tacomanarrowsny
Online // www.tacoma-narrows.com
Soundcloud // https://soundcloud.com/tacoma_narrows
YouTube // https://www.youtube.com/tacomanarrowsny
Bandcamp // https://www.tacomanarrowsband.bandcamp