I'll never forget the first time I heard Another Side of Bob Dylan. Driving by myself from Ithaca‚ N.Y. to Buffalo‚ N.Y.‚ it came blasting out my speakers and resonated with my soul like angels singing from the heavens. The connection was so deep and powerful--it was hard to imagine a time when this album wasn't in my life‚ as it felt like it was always part of my core and I just happened to fully realize it for the first time.
That mysteriously profound connection with music is something you hope everyone experiences: finding something that stimulates your humanity perfectly. It skips over any introductory level of doubt‚ confusion or uncertainty‚ and the depth in what the musicians are trying to convey is immediately recognizable.
Seeing Akron/Family play for the first time was that kind of experience. It was totally inclusive and they didn't hold anything back. The comfort in their own skin‚ matched with their sincerity‚ energy‚ openness and musical sensibility‚ made for rock music that I knew existed‚ yet I was hearing it for the first time. It was easy to be with them completely‚ and the cynical skeptic inside never arrived. It was too good a celebration. You had jump in and get off on it.
Talking with guitarist/vocalist Seth Olinsky‚ I felt reassured with my instinctual feeling towards the band. He's a very open‚ smart musician‚ who embraces the philosophy that changes only open new possibilities for making music. Akron/Family is at the beginning of a new chapter--the achievement of their latest album Love is Simple and the departure of guitarist Ryan Vanderhoof from the band closed the door on the last. Seth makes it clear that as one door closes‚ several new ones open for the music that Akron/Family can make.
This conversation took place in December 2007‚ just as the band returned home for a tour in Europe.
Mike McKinley: You just returned from touring in Europe‚ right?
Seth Olinsky: Yeah‚ just got back from Europe. Iceland was the last gig. We played our first time there. It was good! This tour was mostly focused around the U.K.-England and Scotland. We've played London a few times‚ but we've only done one kind of tour of England‚ playing Leeds‚ Newcastle‚ and Nottingham‚ and whatnot. This was our second time there in about a year‚ and there's definitely growth-you know‚ bigger crowds‚ and people were more aware of what we were doing.
MM: I've talk to… well‚ mostly jazz musicians about the difference between playing in front of that audience and the respect for the art there as opposed to here. What do you find with your music that….
SO: The thing with Europe is every country is‚ from our experience‚ pretty different‚ from country to country‚ just the style of music that they're aware of‚ the way that they… like some countries‚ some parts of Italy‚ they may talk even though they're really enjoying the concert‚ whereas in the Netherlands‚ they're really focused on what's going on.
But yeah‚ there are some differences on the whole. Europe‚ actually-excluding the U.K. -from my basic understanding‚ the arts are funded partially through the government‚ so the venues tend to be a little more… like the stages are nice‚ and the systems are better‚ and there's more employees‚ and it's a little bit more approached like art I guess‚ as opposed to rock [laughter]. You know?
MM: Right.
SO: Or like a club approach. But that being said‚ there's also a little bit of a stiffness in the crowd sometimes in Europe‚ where they listen really well‚ but they don't really participate or jump up and down and scream and sing. And our show can be participatory sometimes or really based a lot on the energy that we're getting from the audience.
So sometimes you're playing a college in America and the kids just go crazy‚ and then you go over to play in Scandinavia and the crowd loves it‚ but they just sit there. Or they stand there. So there are ups and downs to both‚ I think.
MM: That's interesting because the show you present is really an inclusive…
SO: Yeah…
MM: We want you to come in‚ come with us‚ and we're going to react to how you react. That kind of thing.
SO: Yeah‚ exactly. And I don't know if it's a European classical thing or whatever it is‚ but sometimes they tend… well‚ I think the more times we go somewhere‚ the more the audience is expecting what we're coming there to do and they're excited about it. So the energy is there‚ regardless of where it is.