Wood & Wire frontman: 'Our specialty is playing to people'
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
For Wood & Wire singer Tony Kamel, the band's bluegrass sounds are best enjoyed in person.
That's one reason the band released Live at the Historic Scoot Inn in June, and one reason Kamel hopes folks flock to the band's return to town for a 10 p.m. Thursday show at Golden Light Cantina, 2908 S.W. Sixth Ave. Cover is $5.
"I think (album listeners) will get an idea of how we improvise and the waves of energy our live shows evoke in the crowd," Kamel said. "Our specialty is playing to people.
"(And) I think people will enjoy seeing how we play off each other musically as well as off of the crowd."
"Dancin' on My Grave," Wood & Wire
The Austin-based band formed in 2011 as a trio with Kamel, bass player Dom Fisher and a since-departed member. Banjo player Trevor Smith joined several months later, and mandolinist Billy Bright came on board more than two years ago.
"We all met through the Austin acoustic music scene and the bluegrass scene," he said. "THe music is fun and communal because that's where it came from — people playing on the porch. They didn't have radio; they learned to play with their friends and family members. That's one reason I love it so much."
Kamel found bluegrass in a circuitous manner — through his early love of jam bands like Phish, The String Cheese Incident and others.
"They were into bluegrass," Kamel said. "They would (cover) bluegrass tunes and interpret them in their way. When I heard that ... I started working backwards, to the roots."
As a music student at the University of Texas, Kamel had access to the school's massive music library.
"I'd get on the online catalog and look up the music that they had — Ralph Stanley or Bill Monroe or Earl Scruggs — then I could go check out records. I'd go prepared with a box, and they'd fill the box full. And while I'd study, I'd rip the CDs onto my computer and developed a big music library.
"I got deep into the traditional side of things and eventually started looking for more modern bands and playing it myself."
Eventually, Kamel found himself attracted to a more soulful style of bluegrass.
"Maybe it's a little dirty, but underlying it is the most intricate thing that there is — that's my favorite thing," Kamel said. "It's subtly intricate and soulful. ... People can show off all day long. You can hear them play a million notes and they're bada-- players ... but man, my favorite stuff is the stuff that kind of grooves and has good, soulful singing and melodies with great playing behind it, too."
The band has slowly begun work on its next studio album, its first with Bright.
"Since playing live is our forte, we want those songs to develop in our live show in the way that they will naturally, then go into the studio and play them live in the old-school way, where we're all standing in a circle and playing," Kamel said. "We want to keep that live energy and really bring that to the studio, and in order to do that, we have to really take our time with it.
"There's a lot of pressure these days to release something, release something, release something, and we do give into that pressure and we're fine with that, but when we release something under that pressure, it needs to be super fun and off the cuff (like the live album)," he said. "When we release our next (studio) record, we don't want there to be pressure at all."
"Brand New Day," Wood & Wire