Local Band Takes Over Maryland Folk Scene
Jun 08, 2017 04:00PM ● Published by Nicole Gould
During an open mic night, Uncle Ben Gilbert and Dave Hart approached Aaron with interest to collaborate. Little did he know they would soon release their first album, Doin’ The Dirt, in September 2009, spreading their own style of garage folk with the soulful sound compiled in 14 tracks.
Continuing with their down to earth lyrics, Skribe’s newest album, Postcards, which was recorded at Sweetfoot Studios in Easton, contains eight tracks all with their own personal story, including “Canned Ham Blues.” The album also contains a 20-page booklet filled with lyrics and art collages mostly made from cut postcards they discovered while on the road.
“… My girlfriend Malorie's dad, JP, had fixed up a classic ’60s Serro Scotty Camper that they would take to the Indian River Inlet in the summer. People called them ‘canned hams’ because of their oval shape. He had talked about planning a tour with us and living out of the canned ham…the ultimate road trip. JP Smitty passed away last year before we were able to. This one's a tribute to the blues man.” – Aaron Yealdhall
Don’t miss the opportunity to catch Aaron and the rest of the Skribe gang as they travel Maryland, bouncing from one venue to the next with their famous “canjo bouzouki” instrument. Catch them Friday, June 9th, 6 p.m. at Foxy’s in St. Michaels, Saturday, June 10th, 1 p.m. at the Bay Music Festival in Centreville, Sunday, June 11th, 10 p.m. at Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, Thursday, June 15th, 6 p.m. at Bridges Restaurant in Grasonville, and Sunday, June 18th at Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis.
Check out their website for a full schedule of shows.
Let’s talk about where this all began. How did you develop an interest for music, specifically this type of music? Did you have any inspirations growing up? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?The earliest musical influences of mine would have to be John Prine and Jackson Browne. My parents were always spinning artists like Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Tom Waits, and Randy Newman, so a lot of lyrically driven music growing up. For whatever reason, John Prine really sunk in.
In my teenage years, I really locked in with Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Soul Coughing, and The Deftones. A lot of loud ’90s stuff. I knew I wanted an acoustic guitar when I heard Ani DiFranco's live double album Living In Clip. It had amazing sounding live cuts that were always a different approach than the album version of the song: string arrangements, stripped down solo songs, she plays guitar so fiercely.
I knew I wanted to make music and my dad showed me singing could be cool, but I was terrified of performing in front of people. The guitar took my concentration off of that worry and deeper into the song.
How about the creation of Skribe, when did this journey begin for you and where did the name Skribe come about?I had been writing Skribe in friends’ blackbooks for a few years and started to take my artwork professionally around 2008. I was naturally gravitating towards the closest music scene (Annapolis) and landed a weekly job doing chalkboard art and gig posters for a venue called The Whiskey. The owner, Mike, would give me creative control (which is completely crucial to developing a portfolio) and I quickly linked up with a lot of local bands, artists, and businesses.
I had branded my artwork as Skribe Studios and by the time I started playing open mics, everyone just knew me as Skribe. At one of these open mics Uncle Ben and Dave Hart approached me about getting together to jam. That ended up being the Skribe trio you hear on our first album Doin’ The Dirt. Gingerwolf is another musician I’ve met through the magical Whiskey of Annapolis. He has become a huge part of the band, filling out the set with vocals, lapsteel, bass, telecaster, and canjo. I’ve always been a fan of his music and it’s incredible to have him in the mix.
Skribe has a very folksy/country/rock sound that’s very evident in your music, which you seem to call “garage folk.” Can you explain exactly what garage folk is and why you’ve chosen this particular genre.
I really dig the garage movement that came out of the ’60s. Guitars and amps were cheaper, more accessible, and friends were writing music in garages with little or no musical training.
That feels very American to me. The no-frills attitude cut through then, just like it did in the ’90s with Seattle. That and everything sounds better with distortion. Folk music is culture. It’s for the people. You’re going to find a more accurate history of America by listening to folk singers than you will in reading a textbook. These are two fields of music that constantly pull me in and inspire me to write.
Tell me a little more about the instrument you play made out of an oil can. That’s quite interesting and not seen often, if at all! Where did this idea come about and is there any particular difference in sound compared to an acoustic or electric guitar? Did you create this piece? If so, where did the name canjo bouzoukie develop from?
The “canjo bouzouki'” is a hybrid instrument created by Stephen Moore at Merican Canjo Company. He used a vintage gas can for the body and crafted the neck out of locally sourced wood. It’s an eight-string setup like a bouzouki (think mandolin, but lower) with an alternate open tuning that lends itself to more of a slide style. A few of his most recent creations are from cans we’ve dug up on Skribe tours.
As an Annapolis based band, your newest album, Postcards was recorded on the shore in Easton. Can you tell me about the creative process to put this album together and the story this album holds?
I had met Shea some years ago when he was running sound at the old Night Cat venue in Easton. He mentioned his Sweetfoot Studio in town and gave me a copy of a Pony Bones record he had produced. There are hills and valleys in the recordings, warm acoustics, textured percussion, a depth and unique treatment to every song. When I finally got around to visiting Sweetfoot, I knew we had to do a record. Shea’s always modifying gear and he’s got a really cool collection of rare instruments. There’s a lot of character in that building.
I had a collection of songs that grew from different times and places. “Common Ground” and “Mayo” were written years ago while “Wide Awake” was a track we’d revisit every time we hit a creative roadblock. The collages in the album booklet are made mostly from cut postcards we found at second hand stores on the road.
There are some interesting song titles included on this album such as “Canned Ham Blues,” “M.I.Y,” and “Mayonnaise & Honey.” Can you tell me the inspiration behind the song titles?
[For] “Canned Ham Blues,” Harry Harne from CrocBite guitars (in Frederick) gifted me a three string hamjo a few years back; it's this banjo-type instrument beautifully crafted from a vintage ham canister. My girlfriend Malorie’s dad JP had fixed up a classic ’60s Serro Scotty Camper that they would take to the Indian River Inlet in the summer. People called them “canned hams” because of their oval shape. He had talked about planning a tour with us and living out of the canned ham…the ultimate road trip. JP Smitty passed away last year before we were able to. This one’s a tribute to the blues man.
Apparently, it’s a good idea to put “Mayonnaise & Honey” in your hair? I did it once and wrote the lyrics to this song. Uncle Ben and I have been playing it out since 2009, but it's never felt quite right in the studio. We had a great drummer Justin Kruger come through Sweetfoot and he absolutely crushed it.
“M.I.Y.” is an acronym for Make It Yourself. I guess you could say the song is a tribute to makers like Stephen and Harry or just independent artists in general. That spirit is something you just can’t buy at Guitar Center.
“Canned Ham Blues” is very different from most songs only because the music seems to overpower any of the lyrics, which can be quietly heard in the background. Why did you decide to take this direction with this song?
I wanted to paint a picture for that one. Maybe an off night on the ultimate road trip. Rain hitting the top of the camper, a small radio droning in the background. Playing the blues on a ham can in a canned ham. Shea really brings it home with the u-bass and organ. It feels like a rainy daydream.
What are you looking forward to most during your upcoming tour? What are you hoping fans will take away from your performance?
A lot of past tours have been solo or duo, so I’m really looking forward to the day that we can take the full four-piece band on the road. I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest and a lot of friends say we’d go over well out there. What am I hoping fans will take away from our performance? I hope that our music inspires you to go home and make music or create art. Every time I see a great show, I leave ‘buzzing’ with that urge to create. It would be cool to know our music spreads that energy.
What is it about Maryland that you find yourself loving the most? Is there any spot you really enjoy playing at?
Maryland's got a little bit of everything …water, mountains, city life, and countryside. As a traveling musician, you can be in the DC/NY/PA/VA scenes with a pretty short drive. I’ve talked to musicians who have toured Texas where there’s 4 to 8 hour stretches between venues. We’re pretty lucky in that sense.
I enjoy playing the listening room type venues like 49 West in Annapolis and Stoltz Listening Room in Easton. The crowds here really respect the nuance and lyrics, so they shut up when the band starts.
What can we except next from Skribe? Any plans for another album release in the near future?
We are wrapping up a John Prine tribute EP at Sweetfoot titled Blow Up Your TV. It features a lot of our favorite local musicians alongside the regular Skribe roster and will be available for free download this summer. This fall we start recording new material at Uncle Ben’s Keuka Lake barn in upstate New York.