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New Groove

Published: 2007/01/21
by Mike Greenhaus

Scarecrow Collection

What do Van Halen, the Slip, and the North Mississippi Allstars have in common with Scarecrow Collection? Well, besides figuring out a unique way to cut down the family section of their guest lists, all four groups are based around a pair of guitar/drum playing brothers. After jamming together as children, drummer Joe Fee and guitarist Gerard Fee began constructing a band with a decidedly 1960s and 70s sound. Since busting onto the jamband circuit four years ago, the New Jersey-based collective, which also features bassist Mike Sojkowski, guitarist Nick Setteducato, and keyboardist Ed Fritz, has generated a slow, steady buzz thanks to its organic mix of jam-rock energy and singer/songwriter structures.
Staples on the summer festival circuit, especially around the northeast, Scarecrow Collection has caught the ears of a number of scene-veterans, placing the quintet onstage with Bob Weir & Ratdog, Keller Williams, Col. Bruce Hampton, Railroad Earth, Assembly of Dust, RAQ, Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, Mike Farris, The Jennifer Hartswick Band and The Bomb Squad. The group also caught the attention of Harmonized records who will release the groups next studio album, Radio Frequency Disaster, on April 17. Their debut album, Hooked and Shattered, has generated a steady buzz, helping the group score a spot in Relixs On the Verge section and high-marks in the JamOff competition. Below, frontman Gerard Fee gives its first Scarecrow Collection history lesson and looks ahead for mid-2007. *MG- First off, can you give us a little background about how Scarecrow Collection came together? *
Well, I started playing with my brother [drummer Joey Fee] years ago. I would write songs and we would play them at home. As we met people, wed ask them to jam with us and the current lineup came together about three-and-a-half years go. When the band started we were more song-oriented. Ive always been influenced by people like Paul Simon and James Taylor, while my brother is really into jazz. After Nick and a mandolin player who used to be in the band joined we started doing a lot of jamming, but lately it has sort of come back to the songs. *MG- Scarecrow Collection is releasing its first CD for Harmonized records in April. What was the process of creating songs for that album like? *
We kind of wrote most of these songs for the new CD and didnt even play half of them out live. For a while we were focusing on some of the older songs and wanted to create something that stands apart in the studio. We recorded at Water Music where Govt Mule recently recorded part of their new CD and we recorded everything to analogue tape first. We really wanted to record that nice, warm sense. Most of our favorite performers are from the 1960s and 70s so we really wanted to capture that feeling with our new CD. I think it worked out and has that nice warm quality throughout the entire CD. There are a few brand new songs when but when the CD comes out these songs will still sound fresh on stage.
Now, we have been focusing on the new songs and we are kind of writing more even more material. There is brand a new song we wrote a month ago, On His Side, that we have been playing. We are putting verses and pieces together to create even newer songs. That is how we put the new CD together as well. For a while I did most of the writing and brought the songs to the band. But we kind of constructed the new CD together as a whole. Everybody in the band kind of vibes off that idea and the songs really sounded whole and one dimensional. So, now we are trying that approach again. *MG- Would you say your writing style is heavy rooted in improvisation? *
We try to make the song come out first. We work on the lyrics and try to make a really solid song happening and then over time we try to make the songs a little longer. But, right now, we have been feeling like if a song doesnt need a jam we arent going to force it to make it last longer. Wed rather have a solid song first and then have the jam. We really focus on the song. So, when you see us live, we feel like it is half singer-songwriter and half jam. I think we found a good medium to play both styles.
I am trying to really focus in on my songwriting and trying to be as real as I can to the songs. I like a lot of music from the 1960s and 1970s, like Paul Simon, James Taylor, Beatles, the Doors, and the Allman Brothers Band. I like a lot of current music but what feels real to me, like Radiohead, Coldplay, and John Mayer. A lot of singer/songwriters. People can tell if you arent being true in your songs, so I have been making sure the lyrics really reflect the way I am feeling and if I have that down the songs will just come out a lot better. It has helped me to come up with songs in that way. *MG- Can you site some performances a new Scarecrow Collection fan should download? *
The Red Square show we did in Albany stood out to me as really great. We also did a show with Ryan Montbleau on December 30 and that show really stood out to me. We have also done a lot of shows at Mexicali Blues in Teaneck, NJ, which stand out as being really good. But, my favorite show is 1-8-04 at the Electric Company in Utica, NY when we opened for the Bomb Squad. The crowd was really energetic and we introduced a lot of new songs, which felt fresh. When I was singing that night it just felt really good and I think the recording comes across the way I really felt. It was high-energy the entire show. The festivals have also really opened the doors for us in terms of introducing people to our music. At Gathering of the Vibes we played on the mainstage for the first time and it that was also a standout performance for us. *MG- What else does Scarecrow Collection have in store for 2007? *
Well, the CD comes out April 17 and we are just going to tour really hard behind it. I think we are going to do a run down south this spring. We are planning on taking a two or three week to tour and then come back and play around our homes in New Jersey and New York for a week. We are going to try to expand around the east coast and then hit the middle of the country. Eventually we are also hoping to get out west. So, 2007 is going to be a big touring year for us.

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