Twisted Pine —once a straightforward, Boston-based bluegrass act—has been hard at work; busily evolving into what the Boston Globe now calls “something else, a wider version of a string band; boundary jumpers akin to outfits like Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek, and Crooked Still.” Their influences certainly don’t stop there—Twisted Pine’s collective instrumental and songwriting skills should also be listed in the same echelon of contemporaries like Vulfpeck or Hiatus Kaiyote or Lake Street Dive.
In just a few days on August 14th, their new album “Right Now” will hit shelves and streaming services worldwide. The album’s first single is “Don’t Come Over Tonight.” This collection is ripe with the grooves of 2 am funk jams, the sass of zero-gravity pop, and the astral flute and shoobedoos of 70s radio; all from fairly traditional instruments played in a very non-traditional way. “You could call it, ‘neo-folk indie soul avant jazz jam grass-icana’ but that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue,” says Twisted Pine bassist, Chris Sartori. The band is among a new generation of line-blurrers; musician musos who don’t see any reason not to let their influences mingle and meander off the beaten path. Album opener “Right Now” feels as if Twisted Pine have hired a drummer for the new album, but that’s just Sartori’s bass and Dan Bui’s mandolin chop effortlessly holding down a backbeat heavy groove under Kathleen Parks’ singing and fiddling and tasteful flourishes from Twisted Pine’s newest member, flutist Anh Phung.
Learn more about Twisted Pine in the following All Access interview:
So given these unusual Covid-19 times, what does a typical day look like for you all? How have you adjusted to these times?
Anh Phung: My days have definitely evolved since the beginning of lock down. Flying back to Toronto from Boston, I self-isolated in my room for the first 14 days. My days consisted of playing “Donna Lee” most of the time, interspersed with “Chloe Ting” YouTube workout videos, while my roommates delivered breakfast, lunch, and dinner to my door. With the peak of BLM, I spent most days educating myself, reflecting, and taking whatever actions I could to support the movement. These days, I’ve added a new hobby of trying out new foods as well as old classics from the Asian supermarket. I highly recommend Samyang Carbo Hot Chicken Ramen as well as Nongshim’s Cuttlefish Chips. I’ve been on a bit of a bubble tea binge as well. I think I’ve adjusted alright.
Let’s talk about your soon-to-be-released album, “Right Now.” How excited are you to be releasing it so soon? What was it like making this collection? Did anything about the overall process surprise you at all?
Anh Phung: I think it’s fitting to be releasing an album called “Right Now” right now. Things might feel like they’re on hold just because we’re all a bit more secluded but we don’t have to think of it like that either. Let’s do this! Making the album of course had moments of disciplined takes, but my favourite parts were when we just took our time to explore new musical terrain as we would do live. It gives the album a bit more life and it is really the heart of Twisted Pine’s sound. I also loved geeking out with our engineer, Dan Cardinal, about effect pedals and which ones I should buy next. I personally wasn’t surprised by the process but that’s not to say there aren’t any surprises in the music!
If you could get into the studio with any artist today and collaborate on a new song for you, who would it be and why?
Chris Sartori: Herbie Hancock! He’s a musical trailblazer and a creative force, and a master of collaborative process; It would be so cool to see how he’d approach our music. He’s played with everybody, seen so many eras, and has influenced countless epic recordings. I would love to experience some of his open-minded creativity, and maybe also glean some of that musical wisdom that comes from years of writing and improvising within many different styles.
What has been the hardest/most challenging part about being quarantined? Is your city starting to open up more now? Have you all been able to hang out and play together?
Dan Bui: The hardest part about this whole pandemic for us, and I think everyone can pretty much relate to this, is that feeling of having the rug just completely pulled out from under you. Everything you might have had planned and everything you were working toward just got completely shut down dead in its tracks, and this is true whether you’re a touring musician, a student, a business owner, or whatever. Like everyone else, we’ve had to rethink everything and adapt to the conditions. Ultimately, I’m thankful we’re in a position of being able to release a new album of music that we feel good about. We’re a bit scattered around the Boston area and Anh lives in Toronto, so we haven’t been able to hang out in person. We do have online meetings several times a week and have worked out some fun and creative ways to make music together remotely. Anything it takes!
What has it been like having to reschedule your spring, summer and fall shows? What shows in 2021 are you already excited for?
Dan Bui: It’s been a bummer for sure, but we know that ultimately we as a society are going to figure this out and find a way through it. Music fans will still be there and hungrier than ever for that authentic live music experience. As for the shows that we’re excited for in 2021, I’m looking forward to all the festivals next summer that we couldn’t be at this year: WinterWonderGrass, Charm City, DelFest, Green River, Ossipee Valley, Rockygrass, Canmore, Green Mountain, bunch of others. Next year y’all!
How do you think future music is going to be influenced by this incredible and absolutely necessary Black Lives Matter movement that the world is going through now? Has it been inspiring you and your music?
Kathleen Parks: I hope that because of the Black Lives Matter movement, we will see a big change in the music community to witness more representation and acknowledgment of people of color. Everyone in the band has taken a lot of time to re-evaluate how our privilege effects the way we interact with promoters, venues, fans, etc. As a band, we are each willing and dedicated to working on ourselves to recognize those naturally implicit biases. It has inspired us less so to write about an experience we know nothing of, but rather to lift up the voices of those who do. We want to talk, work with, and hear out Black Lives so that we can make a change in the music community in which we network that is so naturally geared towards an all white bill. We want to see all colors in the lineup.
How would you say that your first single “Don’t Come Over Tonight” prepares listeners for the rest of the album? What was the inspiration for this song? How did it get to be on this album? What was it like making the music video for it? How creatively involved with the making of it were you all?
Kathleen Parks: “Don’t Come Over Tonight” was written one night as a result of alone time at home, spring cleaning, and listening to Elliott Smith records. We started playing it about 3 years ago and knew it would be on our next record of originals for sure. It definitely was one of the spear heading tracks for us to keep writing and arranging music that was not usually performed with acoustic instruments, this song naturally lends itself towards the genres of electronic, pop, and rock. Over the years we’ve sharpened and polished the arrangement and it’s become a crowd favorite with its dueling space bounding solos between fiddle and flute, monster groove, and fierce lyrical and vocal prowess. The live performance usually knocks it out of the park so we thought recording it together in Dimension’s live room as one unit and done in a one take fashion would make for a great album version. The video was shot during the live take, so what you see is what you hear!