"Real life. I'm into that these days. I'm into talking about that."
Ben Kaufmann has a lot to say. Like‚ a lot. About music‚ venues‚ expectations‚ and what the future holds for a quartet as unique as Yonder Mountain String Band. But mostly the bassist is absolutely elated to talk about his latest gig in the here and now: fatherhood. Armed with nothing but a cup of coffee‚ a baby‚ and 3‚000 miles between us‚ Ben was open‚ honest‚ and forthcoming about his current State of Mind (see what I did there?). It became clear that once this doting Dad could actually find the time and appendages to start writing again‚ this exciting new stage in life would surely help manifest itself in yet another "growth spurt" for his constantly developing teenaged band.
While I really wanted to ask this recovering (self-professed) Masshole about the Boston Red Sox‚ Bobby Valentine‚ and Fried Chicken in the Clubhouse possibly leading to the ultimate demise of his beloved 2011 Sawx‚ the conversation went in an entirely different direction‚ because Lil' Emeris might have picked up on any trace of agitation in his Daddy's voice‚ and one would think the fastest way to end an interview would be to make the dude's baby cry. The tradeoff however‚ was learning all about home-birth‚ the origins of "thrash grass‚" what makes some dead birds more depressing than other dead birds‚ and how exactly one jams with a 4-month old.
Our conversation took place over the summer. Since then‚ Yonder Mountain String Band has crisscrossed the country playing shows and pleasing the people. 2012 will culminate with a 4-night New Year's run at Boulder Theatre in Boulder‚ Colorado. And they've entered the studio to lay down some new tracks for the first time since 2009. Catch them now‚ before they enter their avant-garde period‚ showing up in meat dresses and translucent eggs (and catch them again after that happens -- because why wouldn't you want to see that shit?). It's coming‚ people. Read on!
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How are you?
I'm doing good‚ I've got my four month old baby in my left arm‚ I've got a cup of coffee in my right arm.
So‚ you're on your toes.
I'm on my toes‚ and here's a squeaky giraffe [squeaks]
Nice‚ I just took a squeaky toy away from the puppy and locked her out of the room.
I'm good‚ I'm learning all about parenthood these days.
That's actually at the top of my list of questions. You've definitely gone through a lot of changes over the past year‚ one of which is becoming a parent. So‚ how is fatherhood treating you?
Oh‚ it's the best thing I've ever done. For sure. But‚ what I realized was… I'll put it this way: you know how people say you never know about being a parent‚ until you're a parent? Like‚ you just don't know how it really is‚ and parents will tell you that all the time. Well‚ prior to having a kid‚ I thought‚ yeah‚ I know that I don't understand and that I can't understand how it's going to be or how it's going to feel‚ but what I didn't understand was‚ that I didn't even understand that I didn't understand. So‚ that's the deal.
So‚ are you just wrapping your head around not understanding it?
Yeah‚ you know‚ you think that you understand -- yeah I get it‚ I'm not going to get it‚ but you don't even get that you're not going to get it. It's even weirder than you think it might possibly be. But in this case‚ it's very‚ very good. A very good experience all the way around‚ and we did it very‚ very differently I think than most people‚ with‚ you know‚ how they give birth. And I mean‚ we were very umm… it was a totally‚ totally Northern California‚ you know‚ candle in the room at home.
Was there any electricity or did you just choose to have the candle?
We had electricity for a heater‚ so we could have hot water in the tub‚ because Emeris was born in the water.
Oh‚ wow! Can you describe how that all went down and what your decision behind doing that was?
Umm‚ sure. I grew up on the East Coast‚ just outside of Boston‚ and when I grew up‚ I didn't know anybody that had had a home birth‚ right? I had never even heard of such a thing. If I asked somebody where they were born‚ I was looking for the name of the hospital they were born in. And so I didn't know you could do it any other way. And slowly‚ of course‚ as I moved west‚ you start to hear people do it in different ways. You know what I mean? And then you start to think about that. When I met my wife -- we've known each other since the first ever Yonder tour -- and we started talking about having kids and all‚ then… I'm not sure‚ but I believe it's very much the woman and the mother-to-be's decision and the father‚ you know‚ you have every right to be heard and express concerns or whatever‚ but you really have to get on board with what she wants to do‚ just because you just should. I don't know if men maybe don't‚ well‚ anyway‚ the thing that I sort of came to realize was that somewhere along the line‚ it seemed like men‚ meaning doctors‚ and the establishment‚ you know‚ the phallocentric society that we live in‚ they convinced women that pregnancy is a medical condition. And that it needs to be overseen by a doctor‚ in a hospital.
Because‚ it's like‚ you're sick‚ you're pregnant‚ you're sick‚ come to the hospital‚ you're giving birth‚ you're sick‚ come to the hospital. To me‚ it's nauseating that that lie has been perpetuated. Because in reality‚ for thousands and thousands and thousands of years‚ women have been giving birth all by themselves‚ with no doctors‚ no nothing -- just the support of other women. And so‚ and the body knows how to do it. And the baby knows how to do it. And so you have to just be confident‚ because everyone along the way is going to tell you that it's a mistake‚ or that they're nervous‚ or you should be worried‚ or what if this happens or what if that happens. So‚ people are going to try and sell you fear‚ because they -- I don't know why people do it‚ it's just a human trait: we want to scare people. Doctors will scare you‚ "Oh my god you're going to do it at home? Well‚ this could happen and that could happen." They're just trying to make you eat fear. And if you buy into it‚ then you lose. If you make decisions based from a place of fear‚ you lose. I don't care‚ even if -- even if the situation works out well for you‚ you've lost‚ because you did it wrong.