Interview: Larry and His Flask
Larry and His Flask are a group of fun guys who simply love music and performing. Since the band’s inception in 2003, they’ve been on quite the journey to become the talented and engaging musicians they are today.
Hailing from the mountain town of Bend, Oregon, Larry and His Flask have created a sound that, according to them, can be described as folk rock…or maybe it’s hardcore Americana — or possibly “Americore”…? Regardless of what you call it, one thing is clear: they have an intense passion for creating music and have no intention of giving that up anytime soon. Larry and His Flask started as a punk band, became a roadside busking acoustic act with more than 10 members, and slowly morphed into their current incarnation.
Jeshua, Ian, and Jamin — three of the group’s members — took some time to sit down with Verbicide and chat about how things got started, where they’ve been, what they’re doing, and where they’re going.
First, how did Larry and His Flask come to be?
Jeshua: In 2003 I was working as a janitor, and I decided I wanted to retire from that career and just do music. I was 21 at the time, and that’s pretty much how it started. It was my ridiculous idea that no 20-year-old should be a janitor, which made sense to me. I wanted to be in a rock band so we started Larry and His Flask and a lot of people actually thought it was a good idea so we just went with it. In all honesty though, we also wanted to get into shows for free, and we thought, Why not make our own band so we can?
How has the band evolved since its start?
Ian: It has been a weird road. We started as a three-piece punk rock band, and it evolved from there. We spent four or five years as a punk band and did a few tours, but in the summer of 2011 did Canadian tour. When we came back, our drummer quit and we didn’t know what to do. We had to get a new one and so we started to think about breaking things down.
Jesse: We started playing on the streets, at open mic nights, in bars — really anywhere that would have us. The band changed a lot. At one point we had 11 or 13 members. We had an accordion, a cello, a fiddle, two lead guitarists — it was crazy. We played in our hometown of Bend and did a few short preliminary tours wherever we could.
What prompted you to start returning to your punk roots?
Ian: I think it was inevitable that we would go back to punk. It was a big part of what we did and what we will always do. Its part of who we are and it crept back in unknowingly.
Jamin: There was also a need for volume and a wanting to be as loud as possible. I mean, enough crowds talk over your sets and you realize something needs to change. For a long time I had hard time keeping a beat. I’d have this image of a crazy girl in my head with a tambourine keeping the beat. We wanted (and sort of needed) to be louder than everyone.
There’s ferocity to your style of play, and I’d venture to say you can’t be pigeonholed into one genre. So how would you describe your sound?
Ian: I guess that folk punk would be the most accurate and bland description.
Jamin: Maybe hardcore Americana? Oh, or “Americore.”
Your new album, All That We Know, came out in July and has been a hit. What is the album about, and where did its inspiration come from?
Ian: It’s a big jumble of old and new songs that spans five years. I had started writing when we were still electric, and then when we became acoustic. The title sums up the fact that those songs are all that we know: music, playing shows, and traveling is what we know and what we prefer to do.
Ian: Inspiration-wise it is from across the board. The songs draw on everything from current affairs to politics, to what you had for dinner the other night. It could be stories from a house party or concert; anything that crops up, really.
Can you break down your creative process for me? A lot of time there seems to be a ringleader, but how do you guys approach making an album?
Ian: I would say we are mostly collaborative. Basically, whoever writes the song brings it to the table and then we’ll work it out together. [A song] doesn’t come into its whole life until we all put our artistic and signature styles on it. The song really changes when we all start practicing it, that’s when it takes on a new life. Basically, it sort of starts with one person and then goes through a filter — the band — and comes out the other side as something new.
How has Oregon influenced your style of play? Do you have many mandolin and banjo counterparts out there?
Ian: Not really. I wouldn’t say our instrumentation or choice of instrument was influenced by the area — not at all actually. There was a punk rock scene when we were growing up, but not really a bluegrass one. [Our instrumentation] was influenced by past musicians, the genres of bluegrass, old folk, and historic music. I mean scenery helps; we’re at the base of a mountain range in a really beautiful and remote place. It’s got that whole bonfire rustic feel going on. That definitely fuels the music.
You guys are gearing up for a tour? Where are you headed?
Ian: In January we head to Honolulu and then back up to the Northwest for some shows in Washington. We’ll take a break for a bit after February, and then hopefully be revving up again. This is our first tour in Hawaii, and we’re really excited.
Jesse: Yeah, our buddy from the Warped Tour, Mike Camino, really helped us out with this. Mad props to Mike. It’s going to be three shows in five or six days and we’re really excited. Typically we play a show every night and have to drive 10 hours to get from one to the next, so this will be really nice.
Ian: We also have a new EP that we’ve recorded coming out hopefully in March. It’s called Hobo’s Lament and is six songs long. Right now we’re getting everything taken care of so that hopefully we can make the beginning of the Reverend tour. It’ll probably be more like the middle or end, but we’re hoping for the beginning.
Got any words of wisdom for the New Year?
Ian: Well, I think I’m going to get serious here for a minute. My advice is never ever give up on your dreams. Do whatever it takes within reason — or maybe not — and do whatever you have to do to bring those dreams to a reality. That’s what we try to do. That’s how we did it and how we got this far, by following our hearts. So I would say never give up, never give in.