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Published: 2011/05/24
by Randy Ray

The Essence of Amberland with Brock Butler

RR: Amberland has a very particular P Groove trip going on, so one has to be very careful about keeping a delicate balance between having yet another festival that you just happen to run and having it be your festival. I feel you’ve been really smart about how you’ve chosen these bands to play at Amberland this year.

BB: Thank you. I’m inclined to agree with you. We chose some of these bands based off the region from which they’re from like the Former Champions are out of the Richmond, Virginia area. We have hopes that there are people who might enjoy Perpetual Groove, but that these bands have buddies that they’re close with and they want to go see them, too, in a setting that they know has been nice in the past. [Amberland] is really mellow and calm, and earlier parts of the day, everyone is relaxed and somehow, we’re able to maintain that throughout.

It is Memorial Day weekend. I don’t know about you, but every Bonnaroo and every big thing I’ve ever attended and come back from, I feel like I need a holiday after ending the thing. With Amberland, I like the idea that people might be out playing some Frisbee in the earlier part of the day, and everyone is hanging out and having a nice three-day weekend together. And to still have that vibe at the end of the day, early to late afternoon starts, start getting some music going, there’s no overlapping of any kind, so you’re never forced into looking at the schedule and thinking “I want to catch 45 minutes of Grace Potter, and then hustle over here.” It’s a hard thing to make a decision on. I’ve been to Bonnaroo the last two years just as a guest musician and spectator. I see a list of the bands that I want to see, and undoubtedly, two of the bands that I want to see are slotted directly on top of each other, or slightly staggered. I saw Merle Haggard, and Girl Talk or someone was playing nearby, and there was a sound bleed. It’s just a conflict of vibes.

RR: At Amberland, a festival in its purest state, with much of the concentration and attention on P Groove itself, the band plays six sets over the course of the festival. How much preparation goes into those setlists for this coming weekend?

BB: We have done different methods in the past. One we decided to work with this year is that we are going to pretty much write out the setlists. Starting on Monday, we’re going to be rehearsing long days, every day, up until it is time to head over to the site. We have new songs, brand new pieces that we’re working on, and we want to deliver them with a confidence and certainty that it doesn’t sound like we’re working on a new song, but have
it sound like it already—whether or not it is very firm, that takes time for a song, over and over again to really get a sense of identity—sounds very calculating and put together. We’ve tried to do a set where there was a “Pink Floyd scene,” and we overshoot on the amount of material and a few things end up being a little rough around the edges. The
idea this year is that we want to bring this new material and some of the ones I’m seeing come together are really strong ones that I haven’t had an immediate amount of hope, but I know that as soon as I sit down with the four members, it’s just going to feel really good to hear it all come together.

RR: Veering back to your solo material, which is also featured at Amberland, how much preparation goes into Brockfast, which takes place on Sunday at the festival?

BB: A good bit, actually. That’s when there are a couple of new artists that I’ve gotten turned on to. The kids put up a thread on our message board, and they talk about songs that they think that I would do well with. I also have one original. I’m going through kind of a very point of uncertainty regarding a girl that I’ve been madly in love with for four years. It’s not completely over, but things are just weird—for better or worse. As soon as it started happening, the lyrics just started dumping out of me. It’s my way to deal with certain things and have it be productive to a certain extent.

RR: Speaking of relationships, Amberland is hosting its first wedding this year.

BB: Yeah. It truly is.

RR: I believe you are part of the wedding party, right?

BB: Yeah, I think I’m walking the bride down. One of the people who are getting married has been a very longtime fan for many, many years. He asked me if I’d be willing to do it. It means a lot to him. I think that’s really the very essence of this whole thing. Let’s say we have 500, 600 people to come out, or even up to a thousand, it’s very possible for me to walk around the grounds. I’ll carry my acoustic with me, and plop down at people’s campsites, and just hang out. I so rarely get an opportunity to really get a meeting, or a time to hang out with audiences who have been so supportive. This really gives me an amount of time to just hang out and socialize, or, at least for me, I feel like I’ve got personal satisfaction out of it. On regular gig nights, my attention span just gets called in so many different directions that I just don’t feel that I’m able to be the very focused listener and friend to these people that I would very much like to be. It’s hard; it’s taxing—the touring and traveling. Once we’re all settled into Amberland for three days, I know I’ve got time to get around and catch up with people and express my gratitude in personal ways if I’m able to.

RR: Is that a conscious shift to become this different person, or is it a natural flow?

BB: It’s a very natural flow for me. I really like our audience. I take a great pride in people because a lot of bands get different reputations based on how their audience behaves. I like that many of the people that come [to Amberland] are adamant about trying to leave the property as clean as (within our power to do so) when we found it. I’ve always taken a great pride of the good qualities of our audience.

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