With the talent, poise and genuine acclaim usually earned after enduring decades on the road, Seth Yacovone has already built a career path others spend a lifetime pursuing. Though the lineups have changed, the Seth Yacovone Band has been performing together for close to seven years, touring constantly, and managing to release four albums with yet another live disc in the works. As his playing has grown and developed, Seth’s pure blues-rock sensibilities have not gone unnoticed, as he was recently asked to open for BB King when the legend came to Seth’s home state of Vermont. After wrapping up a short East Coast tour with Psychedelic Breakfast, the band is in the midst of playing their way back to New England from sunny Florida. We got the chance to ask Seth how the tour and upcoming album are going.
So you just finished the East Coast swing with Psychedelic Breakfast, how’d it go?
We had a really good time playing together. We went out on the road and played eight shows from Vermont to Georgia, and it was a really good musical match. We were lucky, we hadn’t played together that much beforehand, and we ended up playing a set together every night at the end of the night, after alternating sets. And we had some great times jamming together, it was a really interesting thing musically for both bands to get to play with the other band. We got to improvise and try different stuff out, and it was really rewarding.
Well within eight shows, between both bands you guys performed over twenty sets combined. It’s as if you were a small traveling festival.
Yeah, it was. It was nice to have another band on the road too. Someone else feeling the pain and the joy that goes along with traveling.
Playing shows as a co-bill rather than an opening slot, did you find the time to open up, and really lay out?
Yeah, everyone had a full chance to play, and no one had to play really early and miss having a crowd. Some nights we had shorter times than we wanted, so we each played one long set, but most nights we played an early set and a late set.
I remember Widespread Panic and Phish toured as a co-bill, with alternating sets depending on geographical location. With the obvious benefits for booking, and sharing audiences, are you surprised more bands in the scene aren’t touring in the co-bill form? It seems you guys are bringing that back.
Yeah, it surprises me more bands aren’t doing that, especially right now with the economy, and the amount of people going to shows. It’s a great way of spreading the word, and having the chance to play in front of another band’s audience, as well as your own. It just helps to get people to come out, ’cause you get two bands, and more music.
With your raw sense of the blues, was the South real receptive to your sound?
Some shows have been, some shows not. It kind of depends on where we are. Being blues based and playing the South, I don’t think it hurts us, and there are always a few people who appreciate us a little bit more because we are a blues band. It’s definitely Southern influenced music.
Your name and exceptional guitar playing has been getting recognition for a while now, but playing with Tim (Palmieri of Psychedelic Breakfast), a relative newcomer with a lot of talent, did that give you a chance to push yourself this tour?
Definitely. Psychedelic Breakfast are a very “technically on” band, and they know how to play their stuff. It’s a definite challenge to keep up with them, those guys can fly all around their instruments. We’re more of a…I don’t know, we just kind of go out there and let it all hang out (laughs). I mean they do too, but we’re not as skilled technically as they are. So it was definitely a fun challenge. It’s fun to just play with the different styles of music, and see how everyone interprets everything differently.
Well now that you have dropped the word “Blues” from the Seth Yacovone Band name, are you finding more freedom to play all sorts of styles? Now it seems the catch phrase to describe your band is “power trio”. How has the transition affected the band?
Yeah, I think by dropping the Blues name it gave us more freedom. I mean, we kind of already changed our sound enough that it wasn’t even fair to call ourselves the Seth Yacovone Blues Band anymore. And so we already had the freedom, but it just allowed us to not have anyone else have a preconceived notion of exactly what we were gonna do. And as far as saying we are a power trio, well, we definitely are a power trio. And I don’t find that limiting, cause at least it’s not a style. I mean power trios come to mind, but Primus, The Police, and Cream don’t necessarily sound alike, even though they are known as power trios. So it still leaves a lot of space so that we don’t feel too boxed in.
And you recently recorded some shows for an upcoming live album?
Yeah, we recorded two shows in New Hampshire.
At the Stone Church right?
Yeah, which is one of my favorite places to play. We played there for two nights and recorded both of them. We still have to figure out exactly what we want to put on it, and get it together and mix it, but I think out of those two nights we should be able make a solid album of material. We certainly had a lot of fun. I think it will be good to have an up-to-date live album ’cause our other live album (Yessir!) is from 1998. Different members, it’s a whole different band really, so to have the three of us who have been playing together for 4 years on a live disc, with the audience energy, it’ll will be nice to have I think.
Consequently, you’re latest album Standing on the Sound is more mature, and more rock based than your previous recordings. As you develop and venture into more improvisational rock elements, are you purposefully leaving the traditional blues or is the change just happening naturally?
It’s just what’s happened over the years. We’ve never predetermined that we should stop playing blues and do more rock based music, but it’s just the way the songs were written, and whatever is coming out. It kind of allowed us to go where we’ve been going. And we change things up on stage and take a lot of chances. So when all three of us are improvising, that will change the way we sound from time to time too. It will start to influence the writing, ’cause if we go a certain direction on stage, and it works, then maybe we’ll write a song kind of in that same direction. So it’s never been a preconceived thing. It’s just whatever kind of music comes together and ends up coming out of us.
Well the whole jam genre is full of very similar sound styles, but you guys really emulate that unique Hendrix Experience, Cream, power rock sound that I suppose besides you, only Gov’t Mule is really bringing to the table. It’s refreshing to hear that sound coming back from such a young band.
Well we were really influenced by those bands. So much that the influence is just gonna come out. And it’s nice that people have been enjoying it. We’re pretty stripped down, you know. The power trio is a very direct format of playing with a band. Everybody is really filling up their own space. It’s an interesting challenge, in that it’s freeing and limiting at the same time. If we were a band with eight people, it gives you a little bit more of a chance to breathe, and allow for other stuff to fill in. But the three of us have to really hold each other up.
So you’re what, 23 now? You’ve toured Europe, sold out the House of Blues, played with Phish and moe., and opened for BB King and the Neville Brothers. Has it been overwhelming? How are you taking it all in?
Oh it’s been crazy. You know, we’ve been really fortunate. The band started in 1996, and through the years we’ve been able to slowly build a following, keep working, and keep breaking even. And we’ve had some great opportunities to play in front of a lot of different people, and with a lot of people we admire. So getting a chance to do that is just unbelievable. We’re just so fortunate to be able to play music for the public. Especially because we are really doing what we want to do. It’s not like we are a wedding band, where it’s more of a job…where you’re playing for people, but you don’t have this free reign. It’s so nice, and I know it’s not something that is always gonna be there, and we don’t take it for granted.
Well you’re doing what you want to do, but you’re certainly not hanging out playing in your friend’s garage. I mean, you’re backstage with BB King…how humbling of an experience is that?
Oh, very humbling. BB is amazing. Especially as a guitarist, I mean every guitar player after him has taken all his ideas and mixed them up. He’s just a huge, influential musician, and a really down to earth guy. It was really nice to meet him at that level.