In advance of this season’s LEAF, the 41st bi-annual iteration of the festival, we’re talking to performing artists from the LEAF lineup about the festival’s New Orleans-meets-WNC theme. LEAF takes place Thursday to Sunday, Oct. 15-18, at Camp Rockmont.
Charleston-based roots-rockers Sol Driven Train is perhaps the perfect festival band. The group — Matt Thompson (bass and vocals), Wes Powers (drums), Russell Clarke (saxophones and vocals), Joel Timmons (guitar and vocals), Ward Buckheister (guitar, trombone and vocals) and Ross Bogan (keys and vocals) — not only knows how to bring a ton of fun to the stage (not to mention some excellent dance moves), the musicians pen songs about watermelons, Toyota Corollas and other things that make the world turn. Plus, the band appeals to adults and children, having made albums for both.
Sol Driven Train plays on the Lakeside Stage on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 12:15 p.m. and at The Barn on Sunday, Oct. 18, at 1:30 p.m.
Xpress: Were you all in Charleston during the flood?
Joel Timmons: We feel really fortunate to have come through the flood relatively dry. Most of the band was leaving Charleston on that Saturday morning for a show in Georgia. Ross flooded his truck in deep water downtown, and the roads inbound to the peninsula were all closed. We had to go to Georgia without him, and during that show we got word that water was coming up through the floor of Wes’ house on James Island. Storms and flooding are a scary if inevitable part of life in the Lowcountry, but we haven’t seen water like this since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
Tell us a little bit about the performance you have planned for this season’s LEAF.
We are excited to have two sets at LEAF, one on the Lakeside stage and one in the intimate setting of The Barn. On our Saturday Lakeside set, we will be joined by local school kids from Swannanoa Valley Montessori [as part of] the LEAF Schools & Streets program. We are going to be in the classroom all week with these kids. With the New Orleans theme at this festival, we are going to be teaching the students a few songs from NOLA that were favorites of mine when I was a kid.
What role does New Orleans play in your sound – what New Orleans inspirations are most important to you as an artist?
As a child, my family took several trips to New Orleans, and I was mesmerized by the brass bands and Mardi Gras parades. Sol Driven Train has been lucky to make multiple trips to the Big Easy over the last decade on tour, and we have tried to soak up as much food, music and culture [as we can] while in town. The city’s jazz tradition and climate reminds us of a wilder version of Charleston. We love bands like The Funky Meters and their various offshoots who use horns and syncopated backbeats to elevate the jam. Tab Benoit has become a friend over the years and taught us a lot about South Louisiana culture and playing the blues.
Earlier this year you released your “Crazy Dancer” video, which is so wonderful. Can you talk about the process of making that video?
Wow, that was a fun day. Russell (the bearded, skating protagonist of the video) counts it as the “greatest day of my life.” We shot it in one afternoon at the now-closed Hot Wheels Rollerskating Rink on James Island. The local roller derby team, The Lowcountry High Rollers, came out in costume, we cranked up the music and the lights and Dave Keller filmed the party. Russell did all his own stunts, and there were only a few bumps and bruises.
The song seems anthemic – what do you hope listeners take away from it?
I haven’t thought about the song that way, but I like it. I guess the anthem is, “Be yourself, celebrate your weird, love with abandon, and don’t kiss the lobstamandaughta!”
You make it back to the Asheville area pretty frequently – what’s a favorite thing to do here (besides play a show)?
We love Western North Carolina and have considered it a second home for years. I really enjoy the rich festival scene where we get to perform our music and also take part in a vibrant musical community. When not rocking, we like to get out in the woods for a hike, climb or paddle.