As folk music has made a strong resurgence in the mainstream in recent years, I have countless bands to add to my playlists for driving around in the hills with the windows down. One local band, however, has been on repeat all week. With their acoustic, harmony-driven folk roots and eclectic influences, Town in the City feels simultaneously familiar and fresh, a perfect soundtrack made by friends for friends.
The strong influence of sixties-era tunes and folk music is clear, particularly in the groove-heavy, acoustic-driven track “Flowers In Her Eyes” and the harmonica-infused, banjo-strumming “Highest Mountain.” Guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist Shawn Grindle spoke with LA Music Blog about how musical diversity influences Town in the City’s shimmering, folk sound:
“If you looked at each of our record collections individually, they would all be eclectic. It all started with [me] and George Chammas [guitar, vocals] growing up in Pittsburgh singing a lot of Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, and Nash harmonies. When you combine that with Matt Campbell [drums] being influenced by progressive rock bands, Dan Macken [harmonica, keys, vocals] and his love of old blues musicians, Whitt Bell’s [bass] passion for funky bass grooves, and Julia Chalker’s [violin, vocals] classically-trained intuition, suddenly you have Town in the City.”
I’ve been a fan of Town in the City since their inception in early-2012, in part because of their lush instrumentation and pitch-perfect harmonies, but also because of their exhilarating live shows, where it’s commonplace to have the audience singing and clapping along from the first song. That excitement and passion comes not only from the high energy of the rollicking tracks, but also due to the fact Town in the City is composed of longtime friends hailing from the East Coast.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way, really. It’s better to play music with your best friends than with the best musicians in the world,” said Grindle. “The camaraderie of the whole thing is what makes us who we are. While we take it very seriously and do a ton of work behind the scenes, when we get onstage, it’s just jamming with friends. Four out of the six band members live together at their home studio where they rehearse. Some days it’s time to practice, and other days it’s time to order a pizza and drink some beer. When you’re trying to paint a painting with six brushes that all want to create a different image, sometimes you can butt heads a bit, but at the end of the day, we’re all after the same goal, and when we finally hit it, you realize how important those arguments were. Anything you care about is worth fighting for.”
Town in the City has been crafting their image and sound for a while now, but in recent months, the group has elevated their music to a new level of professionalism and musicianship thanks in part to the addition of more members, including violinist and vocalist Julia Chalker.
“Not only have we gained new members as time has gone on, but we’ve also experimented with new instruments and sounds. We are constantly getting new tones for our guitars and keyboards and making sure that everything sounds good,” said Grindle. “We’ve grown in that sense. I think we’ve also matured a little more, and frankly, we’ve all become better musicians. We push each other to be better.”
Two years of finding their sound plus one self-titled debut album and two EPs later, Town in the City is poised to be the next breakout folk act of Los Angeles. The group is harnessing all that positive energy and will focus on moving forward in 2014.
“We’re going to take some time to work on some new material and then play at Fresno State’s Vintage Days festival in April,” Grindle said. “We’re also in the process of recording a handful of songs that we’ve been working on at East West Studios in Hollywood. We’ll probably have some stuff to release in June or July. We’re going to work out new material, take our time to make some really great recordings, and do our best to get the songs as far out there as they can go. We are all unbelievably excited to keep this train rolling.”
Town in the City Shows:
3/01 – Hollywood, CA @ The Mint
3/12 – North Hollywood, CA @ Kulak’s Woodshed
4/27 – Fresno, CA @ Vintage Days Festival
For more information on Town in the City: