"Great Music and a Great Hang" with Jen Hartswick
You guys recently played a show at a new jazz club in New Jersey called Chico’s. What was that show like and how did it go?
We had a great time. It was a really fun night. [Laughs]. I think it’s really hard to get people out on a Tuesday night. But the people who went there had a really good time. We always have an incredible time when we play. Everyone in that band has different projects that they’re a part of. Some people have six or eight or ten projects that they’re a part of and this is just one of them. But I always want to make sure that if this is another project for somebody that it’s fun, and it’s worth doing. It’s great music and a great hang.
All of those people are my favorite people in the world and that had to be the first thing when I was putting together the band – we have to all love hanging out with each other. And then we all have to be bad asses too. So I think that’s why it takes so long to form a great band. It’s because there’s a lot of people that you meet and you think “Oh maybe that would work” and then something comes up and it doesn’t. But with this band we just all love hanging out with each other and we all love playing music. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and we have an incredible time up on stage. We laugh and hopefully make some deep music, but it’s never something that takes itself too seriously.
You’ve mentioned in the past about coming from a very musical family. Can you talk about some of your biggest musical influences growing up?
I was raised in a very classical music family, with a lot of classical music and musicians. I would say early-on I kind of just got bitten by the jazz bug. My first recollection of music was of Ella Fitzgerald, so I would say between Ella and Art Tatum and Clifford Brown. It was never trumpet players in particular or singers players in particular. It was just whatever struck me about a certain person. But I have a lot of early jazz influence. I would say Ella, Art Tatum, Clifford Brown and Freddie Hubbard were all huge influences in my middle school and junior high upbringing.
Those are some great influences to have that early on.
Yeah, my friends and I all kind of just discovered it at the same time so it was never this weird, lonely thing. We would all keep showing each other records, like “Did you see this Mingus record?!” I mean, to us, it was new. But you know it had been recorded thirty years prior. So there were a big group of us who grew up together who were always showing each other things. And we still do it. We’re still all friends and we still say “Oh have you checked out this record and this record?” Some of it may be current stuff and some may be records that you found from 1961. But it was always like we had a core group for people who were always excited about discovering new music.
Do you and Trey ever debate over classical music?
[Laughs]. I wouldn’t say debate. I would say get really excited over certain pieces. He was obsessed with this Ravel piece probably six or seven years ago. There were several Ravel pieces that he was obsessed with and he used to play them all the time. So I wouldn’t say debate, just really excited.
Do you have a favorite piece or a favorite composer?
It’s so vast. I mean if I had to narrow it down to a composer, I don’t think that I could, but a huge piece for me was always “Pictures at an Exhibition”. That was a pretty huge epic for me when I was like 10 in my living room with all the lights off, getting freaked out by it.
What kinds of things are you listening to nowadays?
You know what I love right now? Stuff that I would never physically play in a million years. And, my husband loves electronic music and indie rock and those are two things that I have never really taken a liking to until the last few years and I finally started really checking it out and listening to it. We saw LCD Soundsystem the other night and that was absolutely incredible. I definitely got that record a few weeks before it and just have just not stopped listening to it. So it’s a really interesting thing for me to go see a band like that that I know nothing about. And that’s one of my favorite things to do is just go see music without any expectations. We’re really fortunate to be able to do that.
So what’s happening with TAB, are there any plans for shows this fall?
I think the fall is kind of booked up for his other band. But I think there’s somewhere in between tentative and solid plans for a little winter run. I know we all want to, it’s just a matter of getting everybody together. But as far as I know, there’s some plans to go out in the winter for a little bit.
You guys also just released a live album from earlier this year at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. Can you talk about why that show was chosen? What’s special about it?
Yeah, absolutely. You just have those nights. It seems that the Tabernacle is just a special place. Every show we’ve ever done there has been incredibly memorable. I was actually just watching this little video that Umphrey’s put out of them playing that Tabernacle and what an incredible experience it was. I think there’s just something magical about that place and Atlanta in general. I mean the south goes off anyway, but Atlanta goes off , and the Tabernacle goes off.
At setbreak I remember going back and my right ear hurt so bad and I couldn’t figure out what it was. But I realized that it was actually from the noise-level of the crowd, because I face that way. And people were just so excited which feeds us and we give back and they give back and it just turns into this whole cyclical thing. But it was just one of those really special nights. And we actually went in the studio right after the tour and recorded a studio album and still decided to release TAB at the TAB over the new studio record.
So TAB has a new studio album in the works?
Well we recorded it right when we got off the tour. I mean, it’s done. [It’s] finished. And [Trey] still chose, instead of releasing that, to release the live album because the energy was so crazy and it was just a great night. I mean you just have those nights, and those nights tend to happen at the Tabernacle.
You can almost hear the energy oozing off the record.
I hope so. I mean, it was so real. It was overwhelming, really. I was so psyched that they put that out because the people who play [at the Tabernacle] know it, but it just never gets talked about. If you have the opportunity, you should go.
Is that something that you’ve felt before – a venue that has its own kind of energy that the band can sort of tap into?
Absolutely. I mean, you look at Red Rocks and how can you not feel that? There’s just certain magical places like that where whether it’s the history, or the energy of the land, or whatever goes on, it’s “tappable” and tangible and undeniable.