Haas Kowert Tice parlays high-profile influences into captivating sounds

THREE'S COMPANY: Of the trio configuration, Jordan Tice, right, says that Haas Kowert Tice is less about the number of players and more about the specific instruments. "But it's kind of the most logical number," he says. "Wrangling five people is pretty intense; two people is kind of exposed; three is kind of great." Photo courtesy of the band

Acoustic trio Haas Kowert Tice recorded debut album You Got This in Brooklyn, where two-thirds of the band then lived. But the group’s latest effort is currently being composed in Nashville — where two-thirds of the band has relocated. “I think a lot of the new music isn’t going to be as loud. It’s going to be more chill,” says guitarist Jordan Tice. “The mindset of living in New York — that constant kind of buzzing … I feel a huge shift. I’m sure it affects the music.”

Another change for Haas Kowert Tice — performing at The Altamont Theatre on Friday, June 5 — is that the new album is much more collaborative. You Got This, released almost a year ago, features five songs by Tice and two each by his bandmates Paul Kowert (upright bass) and Brittany Haas (fiddle). While all three contribute to each track, the debut — a smart and exploratory jaunt through strings arrangements (including, but not limited to, progressive bluegrass) and musical camaraderie.

The three players met at various music festivals as college students and found they liked jamming and hanging out. The friendship endured even as they moved in various directions careerwise. Kowert now plays with The Punch Brothers, Haas with Crooked Still and Tice with Tony Trischka. Reconvening in Nashville and sharing equally in the creation of new material, “everything comes off of our individual instruments more,” says Tice. “The guitar part is a little more guitarish, the fiddle parts are a little more fiddly as opposed to centering around an idea that came off of one of our instruments.”

There’s a tried-and-true chemistry among the musicians. After all, even though Haas Kowert Tice didn’t formally take shape until 2013, the artists had contributed to each other’s projects over the years. And their association with each other predates their involvement in their high-profile day jobs. So how much does the Haas Kowert Tice style influence, say, The Punch Brothers (or vice versa)? “It goes both ways and all ways,” says Tice. “I would say [there are] influences at large, including the groups we play with. Sometimes advice from a musician we’ve played with rings true for a situation we’re working through in the trio.”

He adds, “By nature of trying to learn more about music and playing with different people, you’re building a set of experiences to draw from. Anything that goes into that situation helps in any other situation.”

Within the trio, the musicians are blessed not just with a plethora of outside sources of advice, but with a variety of educational backgrounds. Kowert and Tice both studied music — the former focusing on classical bass performance, the latter on music composition. “But it wasn’t like I was looking for ‘help wanted’ signs on composer buildings,” says Tice. “I didn’t know how it would play out.”

Haas didn’t major in music, “but she’s been just as active in music as us,” says Tice. And many musicians with whom the trio have played, together or separately, “come from the alternative school that is bluegrass,” he says. It’s the acoustic instrument version of the school of life.

Those experiences and circuitous routes that led to Haas Kowert Tice result in “a rich and varied sound and a strong presence from each individual,” writes the bassist on the band’s bio. As well-rounded as that sounds, “This story leaves out a lot of beer drunk, bass cases slept on, late drives from Boston to NYC and general goofing off,” Kowert adds.

Fans, however, seem instinctively drawn to both the heady classical training and the proclivity toward riotous fun. Listeners come out thanks to fiddle session connections or because they’re Punch Brothers fans (surely the Crooked Still and Tony Trischka nods have pull, too). And even if it’s hard to find an exact slot — bluegrass/acoustic/instrumental/experimental/progressive — in which to fit Haas Kowert Tice, “The whole idea is that we want to make a good, captivating sounds,” says the guitarist.

Expect that at The Altamont Theatre the group will offer — just maybe, Tice says — a first listen of new material.

WHO: Haas Kowert Tice
WHERE: The Altamont Theatre, thealtamont.com
WHEN: Friday, June 5, 8 p.m. $15

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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