Tumbleweed Wanderers first made waves busking around California’s Bay Area. With their boisterous, rock infused brand of Americana, tight harmonies and instrumental versatility, it didn’t take long for this four-piece to get noticed, and within a couple of years, Jeremy Lyon, Rob Fidel, Patrick Glynn and Greg Fleischut were selling out the venues they had busked in front of mere months before.
Now, the guys have played major festivals, including Hangout Fest, Outside Lands and Shaky Knees, and on June 9, they’ll release their second full-length album, Realize (contribute to the pledge drive here). To hear the meditative but energetic, funky yet classic sound that’s getting them noticed, you can stream the album’s first single, “Bad Blood” (stream on Spotify or purchase on iTunes).
Next, look below for an exclusive release of the band’s latest video, “Into the Mines,” and listen to the track on Soundcloud. Then, read on for our Q&A with Jeremy Lyon and Rob Fidel about busking, filming, recording and finding a “cosmic swamp vibe.”
Elmore Magazine: How have your roots as Bay Area buskers informed your music?
Jeremy Lyon: When we started out, we busked outside all the Bay Area shows we could. We played a lot of covers ranging from Sam Cooke to Fleet Foxes and then we’d throw in some originals. Many of those original tunes made it on our first couple EPs and our first album So Long. Busking taught us to grab people’s attention by being loud and energetic, so we played upbeat songs and constantly belted at the top of our ranges in three-part harmony. That arrangement style became a signature part of our sound. It wasn’t until we got a little more experience in the studio that we gained the confidence to make the arrangements more dynamic, while still trying to tap into that raw energy.
EM: Can you talk a little bit about filming the music video for “Into the Mines”?
Rob Fidel: We shot the live videos for “Into The Mines” and “Bad Blood” in Stinson Beach, CA. This is the same studio that we recorded a lot of our new album in, and we really wanted to share with everyone how beautiful and serene this place is. It had always been a dream for me to record in the same place that we all slept and lived in during the process. Cutting out the commute to the studio allowed us to stay up late to play music and wake up and dive right into the creative space we were in the previous night. It was great to have so much natural light in the studio. Most studios are like a cave, and it’s very easy to feel claustrophobic and lose your sense of everything going on in the outside world.
EM: Which artists are chief among your influences? Have your influences changed throughout the life of the band?
JL: I listened to a lot more classic stuff like The Band, Neil Young, CSNY [Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young], etc. when we started out, and while I still love that vibe, I’ve been listening to a lot more new music recently. I want our music to sound like the present, not like we’re trying to recreate something. A lot of the bands I listen to now I hadn’t heard of, or didn’t have a record out when we started, like Blake Mills, Lucius, and Father John Misty. [Misty’s] I Love You Honeybear is the best album I’ve heard in years.
Some bands, like My Morning Jacket, Wilco, and Dr. Dog we’ve all been fans of since before we had a band. Now that we’ve played together for a few years and taken steps musically, I’ve grown a deeper appreciation for these bands and am much more tuned in to the new directions they choose. I loved B-Room, the last Dr. Dog album, and I can’t wait for the new Alabama Shakes and My Morning Jacket albums to come out. I think the songwriting, energy in the performances, and the tones on the singles they’ve released so far have been next level. Jim James has this ability to put into words what I’ve been thinking for months without realizing it until I hear the song. I haven’t felt a connection to an artist like that before.
EM: You’ve already accomplished quite a bit locally, having played some of the great Bay Area music venues. With your sophomore album coming out soon, what is next for the band? What are the plans to move up to that next level of success?
RF: Take over the world! We have come so far as a band since we first started this whole thing, and we couldn’t be more thankful for the support everyone has showed us. Music makes us happy and making music together makes us happy. As long as we are still in it for ourselves and happy doing it, I consider us successful. We have been able to pursue this crazy dream of ours, and the goal with this release is to keep allowing that to happen. We had so much fun playing festivals and touring all around the country over the years, and plan to do more with this release.
EM: The Bay Area has a great, varied musical tradition. How has that influenced the band’s music?
JL: I’ve always lived in the Bay Area, and grew up listening to late ’60s/early ’70s Bay Area groups like Sly & The Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Big Brother & The Holding Company. When we started busking and doing bar gigs we played a lot of Creedence, and we did some stuff off Fresh by Sly Stone at our So Long album release party, and we used to play “Move Over” and “Cry Baby” by Janis on tour.
Those bands had S.O.U.L. but they were rock bands too. They had this cosmic swamp vibe, but also channeled American roots music. I think we sought to strike a similar balance with our own music.