Banshee Tree is an amalgamation of music that may not make sense to some. However, when the sum of its parts is realized, his vision becomes crystal clear. Now, on Friday April 1, the band will go from busking to headlining for the second time at the Fox Theater.
Formed in 2014 as a swing band by guitarist and vocalist Thom LaFond, it eventually evolved into its current form, combining the influences of all its members, including psychedelic rock, jazz, swing, electronica, hip-hop, punk, and more.
“We’re a close-knit group of good friends, traveling around the country in a couple of Priuses,” says guitarist and vocalist Thom LaFond. The camaraderie includes LaFond, Nick Carter on violin, Jason Bertone on double bass and Michelle Pietrafitta on drums.
The band originally started out as a rotating cast of musicians playing jazz, blues, and Django Reinhart-influenced swing music. Eventually, LaFond and Carter began to push the makeshift sections away from their original form towards more modern interpretations.
“I never felt like the group was locked into the jazz or swing dance circuit,” says Bertone. “There was always a very diverse group of interests and influences in the band, from punk to electronic music, who always found ways to get through a songbook that was mostly made up of tunes written before 1950.”
This ability to stay modern while drawing on ancient times is what sets Banshee Tree apart from the jazz and swing scenes.
In the ensemble, each member plays traditional instruments such as guitar, double bass, violin and drums. However, at the feet of the members are a range of effect pedals for each instrument (except the drums), allowing them to add contemporary timbres on top of their instruments, such as delay, reverb and distortion. These elements push their songs into the realm of psychedelic rock or even house music depending on the rhythm.
COVID and the shuttering of the Lazy Dog, which used to host free live music almost every night of the week, put a damper on the Boulder music scene. “It’s been hard in recent years to see so many of the smaller bars in town closing or reducing their live music offerings,” Carter says. “It makes it extremely difficult for groups to boot up and build momentum without spaces to do so, and it’s hard for a local scene to thrive without a popular hang or three.” However, he points out that there are a few cool places in town that play live music, such as the Rayback Collective, Supermoon, and VisionQuest.
Despite the lack of venues in Boulder, the ability to unplug on the street and Banshee Tree’s residency at License No. 1 allowed the band to find an audience. “We learned a lot from playing in such a supportive space. The feeling of a young community is hugely inspiring,” recalls Carter. “The Boulder live music lovers I know are still very committed to supporting local music, and I think the biggest challenge right now is connecting those people to the spaces and times where it can happen.”
The residency, plus Banshee Tree’s ability to busk, allowed the members to hone their art and audience enough to establish themselves as a touring band. Currently in the midst of their most ambitious tour yet, making a stop in Boulder to headline the Fox Theater on Friday, April 1.
“It has been one of the best experiences of my life,” recalls Pietrafitta. “From an unexpected addition to the Yonder Mountain String Band show in Key West, to performing in front of 30,000 people at a Mardis Gras parade in Dunedin, to rogue sailboat performances, nighttime jams and incredible new friendships, it’s such an adventure. ”
The next leg of the tour includes stops at Lucidity near Santa Barbara, Some Kind of Jam in Pennsylvania, Sonic Bloom in Colorado, Four Corners Jam Fest in New Mexico, and the final Northwest String Summit at Horning’s Hideout outside Portland, Oregon.
The band says they are excited about what’s to come and just as excited to start recording a new album.
Banshee Tree, 9pm, Friday, April 1, The Fox Theater, 1135 13th St, Boulder, CO 80302, Tickets are $15 – $18.