Artist In Focus: The Four Legged Faithful

photo1Greetings, Festers! Hopefully y’all are holding up in your first week back from Spring Break — I know we’re thinking about that sunny, folky, lovely weekend coming up soon… To get us all in the mood, and even more stoked for April 24th and 25th, check out our next artist in focus, The Four Legged Faithful!

We had the privilege to speak with Jon, the designated “band dad” to learn a bit about the band and their sound. They will be playing at the Pembroke Field House on Friday April 24th!

10363682_10201446578044881_5757969148982549846_nTell us about yourselves! Who is in the band? How did y’all meet?

There are four of us! I (Jon Kaplan) am the designated “band dad,” and I play the mandolin, percussion, and contribute to the vocals — all of us sing, actually. Matthew Migliori plays the acoustic guitar and dobro. Nate Pelletier plays the banjo and percussion. And Joseph Pierog plays the upright bass and percussion as well! We all came together in very different ways. Matt, Nate, and Joseph had been playing together for a few months. Joseph was a musician his whole life (he went to Berklee College of Music), and works as a sound engineer. Matt and Joseph played together in a jam band around 7 or 10 years ago, and their sound developed through a kind of jamming relationship.

Matt and Nate ended up meeting in a funny way — Matt’s sister and Nate’s brother got together and got married with a kid, so Matt and Nate are sort of like brothers, in a way. Nate eventually started to pick up the banjo, he’s been a drummer his whole life. And ironically, we’ve all been drummers in other bands, but we have no drummer in our band — we all just contribute to percussion in different ways than a typical drumset.

I went to high school with Nate, and he eventually said, “Hey, my brother and I have been looking to do folk stuff, I just picked up the banjo. Are you still playing mandolin?” I said yes, and he sent some of their music over MySpace (I’m not sure if you still know what that is…). I looked into what Nate and Matt had… funny enough, I hated the first three songs, but absolutely loved the last one. “If they’re doing anything like that, I’m absolutely in,” I thought. And that was about five years ago!

Where did the name The Four Legged Faithful come from?

We had another name for a little while, but it was a name that I won’t say just because typical, you know, stoner move… So, we eventually decided to change it! We saw this band, they’re called Alash, it’s a throat singing band from the Mongolian area. Some people have heard of them. Anyway, they had an interpreter who would speak to the crowd in between songs, because these guys couldn’t, and they talked about how most of their songs were about horses and women, and when they were describing this one song, they explained that they tried to make the sound effect of a horse galloping. And through that, through seeing them, we thought about how there’s four of us and a lot of percussion elements to what we’re doing. Ideally, when we’re hitting our stride and we’re doing something noteworthy, we’re each a leg of this four legged animal. It’s The Four Legged Faithful, and it seems like whenever we play people forget the. But we’re the four legged animal.

How would you describe your sound to a new listener? Has this style evolved?

We play our version of folk, or a bluegrass sort of music. We all grew up in the New England area, so none of us really knew authentic bluegrass music. We’re definitely not flawless and fast, so rather than trying to be something that we’re not, all four of us just write and teach each other the songs we write. Bluegrass just happens to be the music we’re playing because of our instruments! None of us listen to folk music in our spare time, it’s just what we play our music with.

We don’t have a drummer, but we each play some form of foot percussion. So our banjo player, he made up his own instrument, it’s called a snare box. It mimics the snare drum in the drumset, and he made it so I can play it with my foot. And he plays a suitcase bass drum, so when he hits the pedal it sounds like a bass drum. Joe plays the tambourine, which mimics the sound of a high hat. So even though we don’t have a drum, we have a rudimentary one! That’s what sets u apart from other bluegrass and folk bands. People say, “Oh, you sound like Mumford and Sons, do you love them?” We were a band before we even heard Mumford and Sons! And as much admiration as we have for them, our shows are 95% original; we cover very few songs. So we get asked to play Mumford and Sons quite a bit, and we haven’t played one yet!

What are some of your favorite original songs?

Our favorite song is usually the newest one that we’re playing. Right now my new favorite is the newest one that our guitar player wrote — I’m obsessed with it, it’s a lot of fun to sing. There have been a couple songs that have had some levels of success, like made it onto some local radio stations. We have a few songs that are on compilations discs. Oh, have you heard of Relix Magazine? We’re on their December/January CD sampler! So there are some songs with some recognition out there. But my favorite is our new one, it’s called “Friday.”

355332323_640How do you get inspired to write? Is there a specific artistic process or regimen that you go through to develop a song?

In practice, we’ll sort of say, “Let’s warm up with a few songs,” some that are relatively new to keep them sharp, or something that’s like three years old that didn’t sound so good.

Once we’re done doing maintenance, then we’re like: “All right! Who’s up?” Because when we’re all writing constantly, we’re waiting to show it to the rest of the band. I know sometimes when I write some parts I know exactly what I want them to do, and other times I want the band to do what they come up with. Usually the person whose song it is has the final say with what goes and what doesn’t.

Writing lyrics is sort of like looking at something you wrote when you’re, like, 12, and you’re like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I wrote that!” So I wouldn’t want to write in front of anyone. I’m thinking of the 50 or 60 original songs that we have, maybe three of them have been written with people together. Like I was saying, when it comes to people coming up with their own parts we write that together. But usually whoever wrote the song is calling the shots.

You mentioned that you don’t typically listen to folk in your spare time. So who are some of your favorite musicians?

The Talking Heads, The Grateful Dead, Feist (a lot of us really like Feist), Fleet Foxes we really got into for a while, Wilco… Our banjo player really likes Peter Cetera. I like reggae a lot, if I had my way I’d be a bass player in a reggae band. Our banjo player Nate, he listens to a lot of Sound Tribes, Vector 9, and a lot of different DJ’s and things like that. Dawes, that’s probably the folkiest thing I’d say I listen to.

Would you say that your favorite musicians influence your music in any way?

I personally think that everything you absorb is an influence, even if you’re not intending it to be. While you’re waiting for a bus and someone’s waiting at a light, and they’re blasting Mariah Carey, whether you like it or not, Mariah Carey has influenced you consciously or subconsciously. I’d say that our influences do that. What you like determines what you listen to, so what you like comes out in your writing. Maybe that’s why it’s fun playing in this band, because we don’t listen to bluegrass or music that has these instruments, so we don’t play them very traditionally at all.

Do you have any advice for new musicians?

I have a friend of mine who’s in a band called Hello Echo, the banjo player and I went to high school together. And he was living with these two guys, who he really hit it off with, and they all really liked each other and they formed this bond. he just said, “It would be great to be in a band together!” Their repoire was more important than how good they are at their instruments.

In my experience, having a really head-over-heels positive relationship with the people you’re playing with has really helped us. We’re hysterically giggly and giddy together, and for some reason, we just love the shit out of each other, so that really helps! And I think it comes across when we play. I feel like when people hear a bit of us, they get a taste of us. But I feel like when we get people on our side for the long haul, that happens usually when they’re at a bar with us for a night, and you’re gonna hear us for three and a half hours, and you’re gonna watch us giggle and fall over each other and cheers many times, and it’s all those stupid awkward funny moments when people find us all endearing. We’re not crisp and perfect, we’re human and we make mistakes. So I think we’re not like these perfect machines, we’re relatable just because we’re having fun and we’re drinking at the bar like they are. So I think that the better you’re able to be with and be friendly with and be around these people, the more that your music together will benefit.photo171

. . .

Thanks Jon for taking the time to chat with us! Check out The Four Legged Faithful online, and at the Folk Fest on Friday, April 24th! We’re definitely stoked to hear them play.

PS. Keep checking in for more artist profiles, and for the Saturday night lineup! Folk yeah!