The Slocan Ramblers will bring their unbelievable bluegrass beats to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center March 31. Bass player Alastair Whitehead took a break from the band’s schedule to answer a few questions about how the group came to be, how they got their name and why they are excited to visit Wisconsin in this Artist Q&A!
1. Tell us a little about how the group came together.
The band has been together for about 6 years now. Me (Alastair) and Adrian were living together while at music school, Darryl, Adrian, and I had started jamming at our apartment, and had bonded over our mutual enthusiasm for bluegrass and folk music, something not all that common for a few jazz school guys. I had met Frank at work and heard he was a great banjo player. We upgraded our jams to the garage to make room for him. The four of us hit it off both musically and socially pretty much from the get go. We were offered a gig before we had even really decided to be a band let alone choose a name. It went really well, and we were offered a monthly gig, then a weekly gig. Eventually we made our first album, started touring, and now it seems to be a full time occupation. We’ve definitely been really lucky with how it has all worked out.
2. How did you get the name?
When we were offered that gig opening up for our friend’s band; we didn’t even have a name. I spent my summers growing up in Kaslo, BC where my grandfather lived. It was kind of my second home. At the time the band got going I was reading a book about the mining boom in that area, in the late 1800’s. Lots of great old stories about building the railway through the mountains, prospectors, minors, everyone competing for a piece of the action. It was like the wild west. One of the mines that they talked about in the book was the Slocan Rambler silver mine. I did a lot of hiking growing up and we used to hike up to that mine. It’s a beautiful area with a very interesting history. The themes seemed to fit well with the music. We stole the name and became the Slocan Ramblers.
3. What is your favorite part about performing bluegrass music?
There’s something very satisfying about the simplicity of it. In our world today things are getting faster and more complicated all the time. There is so much technology in every aspect of our lives. There’s something really nice about four people playing acoustic instruments and singing. Bluegrass music has a lot of energy in it and it’s a really rich tradition. People really seem to connect with it in the live setting.
4. What can people expect to see when they come to the show?
We love to mix it up. We have a good portion of traditional bluegrass and old-time music in the show, as well as a good helping of original songs and modern folk music. We have become known for a high-energy performance and an eclectic repertoire with something for everyone.
5. (Finish this sentence) My favorite part about touring is…
Meeting new people, seeing new places, and playing music while we’re doing it.
6. (Finish this sentence) The toughest part about being on tour is…
Being away from home and family.
7. (Finish this sentence) I can’t travel without my…
8. (Finish the sentence) I’m excited to visit Appleton because…
I have never been to Wisconsin, Appleton looks like a beautiful city. We are always excited to cover new ground.