Age, occupation, where are you from, where do you live now, and how long have you lived in New York?
I'm 27, currently applying to physician assistant schools (read: not really working). I'm from Amherst, NH and I've lived in New York City for five years.
You're in a country jug band called The Flanks. What's your role with the band and could you clue everyone in on what exactly a country jug band is? And are there actually any jugs used?
I play fiddle, or rather, I play fiddle-style on a viola. I guess you could call it the “viddle”? And I sing. Traditionally, jug musicians play makeshift instruments like the washboard, the washtub bass, jugs, spoons, and kazoos, as well as guitars and banjos. The sound is bluesy, jazzy, raucous and a lot of fun. We don't play too many old-time instruments, although there are a few New York jug bands that do. We do mix up the instrumentation quite a bit, it's one of my favorite things about The Flanks. Between the five of us, we play the bass, acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, mandolin, viola, kazoo, harmonica, accordion, and a guitar strung like a dobro – we call it the "faux-bro". But no jug, at least not since I've been in the band.
How did The Flanks start, where did the name come from, and how is your music received in New York, which really doesn't strike us as much of a country jug kind of town?
The Flanks got their start when one of our guitarists, Tom Bouman, started playing with his brother Nat on bass. They got together with two of Tom's friends, Nick Capodice on harmonica and sqeezebox, and Sean Huntoste on banjo. Later Tom brought in Danny Mulligan, a friend from work, to play acoustic and electric guitar. Nick, as he was then unemployed and very hungry, suggested various names for the band, all of them cuts of meat. They decided on "The Flanks", as three of the bandmembers had previously played the position of Flanker in rugby. Sean eventually left the band, and Tom picked up the banjo and mandolin shortly after. I joined The Flanks about two years ago. I'm constantly amazed by how much people like our music. It's not a sound you hear much around New York, but once people get a taste they keep coming back. It's just good-hearted music that makes you smile and want to drink beer. Come and hear us and I bet you'll like it.
Over the weekend, the band played at the Brooklyn Country Music Festival, what was that like? Is there a huge country scene here that most New Yorkers are missing out on?
I love the Brooklyn Country Music Festival! This year there were 37 bands and eight nights of music over two venues -- double the size of last year's festival. If that's any indication, I'd say the New York country music scene is doing pretty well.
What is the biggest misconception about country music or country jug music? Do you get good jokes about jugs from people after they hear your music (Nice jugs!)?
I used to think country music was all Billy Ray Cyrus and Toby Keith and the junk they play on mainstream country music stations. But honestly, when was the last time they played anything decent on mainstream radio? It's tough to get to know good country music, especially in New York. Buy the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack or some Hank Williams. And go see a live band, Good Music New York has information and listings for every type country band you could want: jug, honky-tonk, klezmer, cajun, bluegrass. There's great country music out there if you know where to look.
Jug jokes...ah yes. We played an event called "Jugfest" at Southpaw in Park Slope, and one of the attractions was a busty transsexual porn star. Between sets she would tell blue jokes and bring out the jugs!
How long have you been playing the viola and what other types of music do you play on it?
Like a lot of violists, I started out playing the violin and switched to viola later on. I played classical viola throughout high school and college, mostly in chamber ensembles and orchestras. I hoped to find a small orchestra to play with in New York, or form my own quartet, but it just didn't work out. Thank goodness the Flanks came along. Now I play better than I ever have before, and I'm having a great time. Plus, I still get my classical fix by singing in an amateur choir called Canticum Novum.
Best/worst Brooklyn gentrification trend?
Best: All the great new bars on Grand Street
Worst: So much construction! There are two new buildings going up just in my backyard. Where am I going to park?
What place or thing would you declare a landmark?
The White Castle on Metropolitan Ave in Williamsburg. You can't find my house without it.
What advice, if any, would you give Mayor Bloomberg?
Keep at it. I haven't always agreed with his big ideas, but I like that he's trying to shake this town up a bit.
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone?
Madison Square Park on 23rd St and 5th Ave. It's a nearly perfect park, with nice art installations in the summer, a good breeze, and yummy hot dogs. It's a great place for a freak-out.
The Flanks play this Sunday at Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg and later this month at BBQ NYC