Napa Valley in Northern California is typically known for its peaceful setting, beautiful landscape, and, of course, its world renowned vineyards. Starting May 9th it will be known for something else as well, the venue for what could prove to be one of the hottest up and coming music festivals in the country. BottleRock kicks off this week, folks. If you haven’t heard of it yet, don’t worry; it’s been quite the tasty little secret even here in the Bay Area. With over 60 bands, numerous comedians, wine merchants, local food, and the best beer the Bay has to offer, this event has all the makings to challenge Outside Lands as the premier rock and roll experience NorCal has to offer.
Newcomers Willpower Entertainment and 360 Media have teamed together to bring an exquisite lineup for those who enjoy the alt rock/indie folk scene as well as an incredible experience for those rock and roll purists as well. The festival will be headlined by the likes of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the Avett Brothers, the Black Keys, the Shins, Kings of Leon, Jane’s Addiction, and the Zac Brown Band. It remains a mystery how the promoters were able to assemble such phenomenal group of headliners in its first year of existence. With that said, you won’t find many people complaining.
Before getting to the headliners, festival goers will be wowed by the likes of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the Alabama Shakes, the Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Grouplove, Jackson Browne, Iron & Wine, Andrew Bird, the Flaming Lips, Primus, the Black Crowes, the Violent Femmes and many more. There seemed to be zero limit to the amount awesome that BottleRock was willing to pack into a few days in the Napa countryside. Comics from Dmitri Marti to Jim Gaffigan to Anthony Jeselnik will also be performing.
With this festival seeming to be such a great success before it has even launched, I to caught up with Orpheo McCord from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to get his take on the event and even tap into what the group is currently working on. Maybe this will gives audience members a little taste of what to expect from their performance this coming Saturday:
Ourvinyl: With a set of 10 or more at any given time, how do recording sessions go? Are there issues with getting everyone together and how do those recording sessions usually go?
Orpheo McCord: Recording is always a creative process that requires experimentation so each song requires different approaches. We recorded “I Don’t Wanna Pray” piled into one room with one mic and placed everybody in the room according to how their instrument should fit into the mix. Other times we track with the majority of the ensemble dispersed amongst a few rooms but most of the time it starts with a few of us laying down a base for others to build upon. We’ll try a bunch of stuff up front and then slowly add or take away. We do all the background vocals together around a mic or two. It is usually great fun! Lot’s of laughs…
OV: You guys are somewhat notorious for being on the road after Big Easy Express. You’ve toured with acts from Mumford and Sons to Rocco Deluca. Who’s been your favorite band or act to tour with?
OM: We have been fortunate to go on tour with such talented folks. We love them all for different reasons. We have such a good time with the Mumford fellas and plan to continue playing shows with them. The energy and intention behind our music compliments each other. I love Rocco’s haunting voice and rich guitar. He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister has infectious songs and always bring a lot of energy. They have a tap dancing drummer…Awesome!
OV: Your album Here seemed to deviate from Up From Below a little bit. Up From Below seemed to have a few more bells and whistles, pun intended, while Here seemed to strip away a lot of the extras and even seemed to have some elements reminiscent of the Beatles. Was this intended?
OM: We ended up recording a bunch of songs…pretty much two albums worth so when it came time to put something together for Here we had to decide what to do…we contemplated releasing a double record but ended up not going down that route. Out of all the songs we recorded, we wanted to put something together that was cohesive musically and sonically and Here is what came of it.
OV: The Americana/indie folk/alt country music scene has absolutely blown up in the last 5 or so years with your band, Band of Horses, Black Keys, Mumford, Justin Townes Earle, etc. What do you think has contributed to that, if anything?
OM: I think there is something so real and timeless about this kind of music that organically resonates with all sorts of folks from all walks of life. These groups you mention have a cross generational fan base and all of us have been influenced and inspired by so many of the wonderful songwriters and musicians and other artists that have molded American culture in times past and the purest essence of that rises to the top and comes through in a profound way that is relevant to our current times.
OV: You guys have played a lot of outdoor festivals to go along with your extensive indoor venue touring, do you prefer the festival atmosphere or the intimacy of the smaller indoor venue?
OM: Both environments have their merits. Festivals are great fun most of the time and it’s a great opportunity to turn people on to the band that weren’t savvy to us prior. I like playing outside during the day too…there is a different kind of exchange in daylight hours. It’s also quite exhilarating exchange. Those kinds of shows are catered toward an evening that we are putting on and people are coming specifically to share the evening with us. That in and of itself creates a special energy that we have a lot of fun experimenting with as an ensemble. We are all about honoring the exchange that all of us at a show experience together. This really feeds us as a band and since this exchange is unique to every show, each show has its own life. We intentionally don’t have a set list so we can tap into the moment and express what we have in our repertoire that will compliment the moment or change up the moment to bring it to a heightened state.
OV: What are you guys currently working on?
OM: We are finishing up our new record that will be out this July…we are really excited!!! We are also developing an umbrella non-profit called Big Sun Foundation. This will be an amazing platform for us to contribute to various causes and communities in need. It will also be a platform for our fans to get involved too.
OV: Do you do any writing/performing on your own that you want my readers to know about?
OM: When I have time at home I like writing and recording. I’ve been coming up with some atmospheric instrumental tracks. They would lend themselves well to film. I like playing different instruments that I don’t have a chance to play with the Zeros. My fiancé, Rachel Kolar and I have been writing together too. We are thinking of calling the project Benjamin Franklin. We both are big fans of Benji…
OV: How excited are you guys to be a part of the very first BottleRock in Napa?
OM: Yeah Bottle Rock! Napa is so beautiful in the spring!
OV: What, in particular, excites you?
OM: $4 of every ticket is donated to various non-profits such as Autism Chords, The Lung Cancer Foundation, Sweet Relief Musicians Fund and The Rex Foundation. That is awesome! There is also a really eclectic line up…I’d like to catch some of the other acts.
Orpheo pointed to a fantastic feature of BottleRock with his last response. While those going to the festival will be having a great time seeing their favorite acts, enjoying the best food and drink the Napa Valley has to offer, and taking in the beautiful scenery, they will also be supporting numerous different causes. Willpower Entertainment has worked with non-profits in the past, and just recently announced they were able to raise a sensational $75,000 for the Bryan Stow Fund through benefit shows while teaming with the San Francisco Giants. Here’s hoping BottleRock and do even better for their partners this weekend.
BottleRock appears to have a lot to offer. With a lineup like this year’s they have set the bar high for themselves moving forward. Here’s to hoping the execution of the event lives up to anticipation for those lucky enough to have stumbled upon this diamond in the rough. OurVinyl looks forward to the opportunity to giving a glimpse of this festival to all the readers out there and would also like to thank Orpheo McCord for taking some precious time out of his assumingly jam packed schedule to answer some of our questions.
See you in Napa in a few days!
Written by Mitch Inkrott
OurVinyl | Contributor