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New Groove

Published: 2005/04/04
by Chris Clark

Ten Mile Tide

Ah, the computer age. Whether you’re surfing the Internet searching for flight deals, writing an email to an old high school friend or downloading last night’s show from moe., the computer has revolutionized life on this planet. In doing so, it’s become a staple in everyday life for those in the post-modern world, and for those who know how to utilize it and use the Net to their advantage, it can become life changing.
For San Francisco’s Ten Mile Tide, nothing could be truer. Since offering free downloads of their music via file-trading websites such as Kazaa and Morpheus, TMT has seen their music and their popularity explode, thanks in large part to the device that Metallica hates so much.
"All we know is that we put our music out there and people like it," said Ten Mile Tide lead guitarist Jason Munning. "We had Street Teamers in 30 states and 7 countries before we even started touring. We even have a tribute band in Brazil!"
This may seem odd considering many out there haven’t the faintest idea who Ten Mile Tide is. What may strike as even more surprising is that this band has seen over 10 million downloads of their songs worldwide in just the last few years.
Their story began in Rosenheim, Germany six years ago when Munning crossed the Atlantic to visit his twin brother Justin and roommate Steve Kessler while at college. After a couple cases of cheap German beer and several hours of spirited jamming, the band’s roots had formed.
"We started jamming together and working with lyrics that Justin and I had been playing around with since high school. Next thing we knew the beer was gone, the sun was coming up and we had five or six songs," said Munning.
After returning to the States, Ten Mile Tide was born. Upon graduating from Stanford University, the founding members would set out and begin assembling the group of musicians that comprise the band today. Through time spent in San Francisco-their new home-the Munning twins and Kessler would soon meet future drummer Knuckles and bassist Jeff Clemetson and later keyboardist Matt Mitchell. TMT became a diverse group of audiophiles, each with his own musical background, but a common musical goal.
"The Bay area was a change for all of us," explained Munning. "You can’t help but feel happy when it’s always summer or spring. We come from a lot of different musical backgrounds which all seem to converge when we play together. None of us came from really musical families. For me, somewhere in high school I just wanted to rock."
And rock they do. Ten Mile Tide’s sound covers a wide scope of American music, from folk to pop, bluegrass to rock. Inside, one will find influences from some of the greatest artists that have ever graced the stage; The Band, CSN, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and King Crimson all come to mind. As of late, TMT, through constant touring and musical intermingling, has also been heavily influenced by bands like MOFRO, Strangefolk, Tea Leaf Green and even Sons of Ralph.
Possessing a sound that can appeal to the jam-oriented, twirl dancers as well as fiddle-loving backcountry folk, TMT has a little bit for everyone. For Munning, describing the band’s music is easy. "We call it feel-good acoustic rock, foot-stomping folk and beer-drenched bluegrass. We like to rock our live shows, but at the same time we have a strong focus on songwriting and our sound has roots in traditional music."
As Munning asserted, songwriting is key for TMT. Heavily steeped in traditional folk influences, the band’s whole-hearted, grassroots lyrical style and songwriting meet their rock n’ roll roots to produce a dynamic, more-than-meets-the-ear sound. Violinist and Fiddler Steve Kessler, who played with the Phoenix Symphony Youth Orchestra while in high school, adds an upbeat, bluegrass tinged sound to the Munning twins twosome of acoustic and electric guitars. Matt Mitchell, the most recent addition to the group, adds a taste of rock texture on top of the sound and often funky rhythm section of drummer Knuckles and bassist Jeff Clemetson.
In emphasizing solid songwriting, Ten Mile Tide has also spent much time focusing on three-part vocal harmonies, as well as instrumental harmonies between keys, lead guitar and fiddle and strong interplay between instruments. "We have a very collaborative creative environment. Everyone contributes something to the process and we don’t have any egos to feed. We keep working until we come up with something we are all excited about. We usually play new songs live to test them out and if it doesn’t come out right, we’ll first try to rework it. When there is no hope left, we scrap it," explained Munning.
Though most bands who spend ample amounts of time on the road allow and usually encourage live taping, TMT upped the ante and did it all themselves. By posting their own mp3s on free-exchange websites like Kazaa, Napster and Morpheus, they were able to quickly drop their day jobs and focus solely on playing music.
For many aspiring bands, this is no easy feat.
"It (online file sharing) gave us the exposure we needed to quit our day jobs and tour full-time. It’s almost been two years and we love it. We have traveled almost all across the country and have met the greatest fans and other musicians. We might have the most fun of any other band out there," alleged Munning.
To Munning and the rest of Ten Mile Tide, using the Internet to spread the band’s music and message just seemed to be the proper fit. "Always we’ve supported free distribution of our music believing that music fans will appreciate it and support us by coming to our shows and buying our CD’s online," said Munning. "And we were right! The grassroots support we have from fans across the country is amazing."
Much of the word about TMT also helped the band win Relix Magazine’s Jamoff in 2004. Over 200 unsigned bands submitted music for the competition, and out of all the band’s, TMT took home first prize. In winning, the band was also featured in last June’s issue of Relix and their song, "Sweet Life" was featured on a promotional Relix compilation CD which was distributed throughout the country at festivals last summer.
"It was an absolute honor to win the Jamoff," explained Munning. "Being featured on the compilation CD was great because it was distributed to exactly the types of music fans we want to reach. We’ve had great feedback from the CD and attendance has increased at shows across the country."
Now that the band has developed a sizable fan base in many areas of the country to compliment their profound success through file sharing on the Internet, Ten Mile Tide is on the verge of big things in 2005. With two albums already under their belt, a full-time touring schedule and a Street Team with over 350 members in 45 states and 10 countries, they are equipped to bring their sound to the masses. The band is currently on tour and this summer they’ll be making stops at several large festivals such as the High Sierra Music Festival with a slew of new material on hand. By the end of 2005, TMT also hopes to have a new studio album, as well as their first live disc out to the listening public.
"For us, the best part is being able to travel the country with our best friends playing the music we created together. We live how we want to live each day and it helps you appreciate the small things when you do that," said Munning. "If it weren’t for TMT, I think we’d still be all hanging out in a small room, drinking beers, playing some sort of drawn-out board game, plotting a way to survive in this crazy world without having to wake up before noon."

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