Interview with Ben Kaufmann from Yonder Mountain String Band

Ben Kaufmann, yonder mountain string band
Ben Kaufmann from Yonder Mountain String Band

Interview and Photos by Scott Preston

Yonder Mountain String Band will be appearing at Lifestyles Community Pavilion on 2/20/2008 in Columbus, OH. Playing drums for Yonder Mountain will be Jon Fishman from Phish. Jon will also be sitting in with YMSB on 2/21/2008 in Asheville, NC as well. Bass player Ben Kaufmann let me know whats currently going on in the Yonder Mountain world:

Cincy Groove: So tell me about your trip to Spring hookahville 2006.

Ben Kaufmann: The authorities pulled the bus over for failing to use a turn signal. Which was a little weird considering we had a police car helping us turn the bus around to get down the right road. They took our driver and put him in the back of the cop car. They gave him a ticket for failure to use a turn signal, then they kept him locked in the back of the car. He was probably in there 15-20 minutes, while the cops called in a K9 unit to search the bus. We were fine since there wasn’t anything on the bus. About 10 grand in legal fees later the whole thing gets thrown out. The whole thing got thrown out because of a video tape the police introduced as evidence. Once a person is issued a citation and signs it they legally have to let them go and our driver was kept in the cop car because the cops wanted to get he K9 unit there. I even has some pictures somebody sent me that they took from hippie camping of all of us lined up outside the bus lol.

Cincy Groove: How many shows does Yonder Mountain String Band play in a year?

Ben Kaufmann: We are coming in right around 100. We used to do about 200 shows a year. As people got married or as we get older its get harder to keep grinding it out. Fortunately we are in a position now where we don’t have to play 200 shows a year. For what is probably a hundred different reasons we have been successful enough playing. Playing 100 gigs is still a lot but you almost have to play that many to get to all the places you want to go. I remember playing 200 shows a year, but I can’t remember how it feels.

We were in a RV in the early days that was mostly held together by duct tape. We would drive 600 miles in between shows. Everybody would have to sleep right next to everybody else, it was a tight fit. The bus we have now is a nice bus but when you put 10 dudes on it, it turns into a dorm room pretty quick.

Cincy Groove: What do you guys do on the bus to kill time between gigs?

Ben Kaufmann: Right now I’m editing a matrix recording of a duet show I did with Adam our guitar player in Colorado. It was the first time we did something like that and the recording came out really well. So now I’m taking the soundboard and combining that with an audience recording so you get a really full sound. I haven’t done something like this before so its a little time consuming. I have an idea on how I want it to sound. Its just a matter of learning the program. Then most of the standard stuff video games, dvds, lots of ESPN Sportscenter.

Cincy Groove: Are you all baseball fans?

Ben Kaufmann: Definitely, thats probably the number one sport. Two of us are from just outside Boston and two of us are from just outside Chicago. So it tends to be the Cubs and Red Sox. Theres something very relaxing about the game of baseball until it comes to the playoffs. Everything has changed for Boston. For the longest time it was this never ending series of disappointments. It builds itself into the culture of an area. Now that they have won 2 world series in 4 years, something happened to the culture over night. It fundamentally changed what it meant to be from Boston. There’s still this great rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees but it doesn’t quite have the same venom. Everyone on both sides can still curse each other but its all in good fun now. Theres a new breed of Red Sox that not so filled with hate anymore.

Cincy Groove: Is this the 10th year of performing for Yonder Mountain String Band? any special plans?

Ben Kaufmann: Yeah its the 10th year. We just about to release a new live record which will be 2 discs. I’m pretty excited about it. Then we are going to do a new studio record this year. We will probably take most of the year to record it.

Cincy Groove: Where did Yonder Mountain String Band record the live album?

Ben Kaufmann: A bunch of different places. We took songs that we knew we wanted from a 3 year time span. Its kind of a science project. The songs were mastered and engineered so well that you can’t tell its not just from one show. The songs are very fluid. The second disc is a complete set from a show over the summer. We didn’t really have to do too much work on that one. We were really lucky to have a facility in Boulder, CO called Air Show Mastering. You know its a good place when they just have all of their Grammy awards just lying around.

One of the days I was in there working on the mastering, they had to do their annual staff photo. So they are hunting down all the Grammys. One is underneath a pile of newspapers, one is being used as a paper weight, they can’t find the Dave Matthews Grammy .

Cincy Groove: I see that YMSB is playing Bonnaroo again this year. Do you guys enjoy performing there?

Ben Kaufmann: We definitely have a lot of fun. Bonnaroo is definitely there own thing. There was a festival we played in Japan that had a similar kind of feel. Its just f*cking huge lol. I mean you get Metallica, The Police and then a band like us playing on the same stage. Its pretty intense but in a good way. The fact that we get to play on a stage for that many people is proof that this revolution of music where a band like ours can co-exist on a stage with a band like Metallica. The times they are a changing in the music world.

Cincy Groove: Who are some of your musical influences? Have you played with any of your idols?

Ben Kaufmann: I grew up in the 80’s so I was listening to a lot of 80’s music. But once I had my musical awakening, I started listening to Phish, Frank Zappa. The I started getting into a band called Fairport Convention. They are probably the most important folk-rock band ever. They are from England, Richard Thompson was in the band. When I get geeked out over a band, its all I listen to. I will learn all the bass parts from the records I’m listening to.

We got to play with a couple of the dudes from Phish. The great bluegrass musicians are so accessible , Bela Fleck, Ralph Stanley. The greatest thing about bluegrass music is that you can go up and talk to Ralph Stanley and share a conversation with him. The longer we do this the smaller the music world becomes. You really do get to have access to your heroes. I kind of geeked out over meeting Chick Corea. I was 18 and got into The Blue Note in New York to see him play with his acoustic band. I got to meet Chick at the end of the night.

Upcoming Yonder Mountain Band tourdates:
02.14.2008 Athens, GA Georgia Theater
02.15.2008 Knoxville, TN The Valarium
02.16.2008 Charleston, SC Music Farm
02.17.2008 Raleigh, NC Lincoln Theatre
02.20.2008 Columbus, OH Promowest
02.21.2008 Asheville, NC Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
02.22.2008 Nashville, TN City Hall
02.23.2008 St. Louis, MO The Pageant
03.12.2008 Boulder, CO Fox Theatre (JEFF AND FRIENDS SHOW)
03.13.2008 Ft. Collins, CO Aggie Theatre (JEFF AND FRIENDS SHOW)
03.14.2008 Denver, CO Bluebird Theater (JEFF AND FRIENDS SHOW)
04.01.2008 Fayetteville, AR George’s Majestic Lounge
04.03.2008 Memphis, TN New Daisy Theatre
04.04.2008 Little Rock, AR Revolution Music room
04.05.2008 Austin, TX Stubb’s BBQ
04.09.2008 Park City, UT Harry-O’s
04.10.2008 Boise, ID Big Easy Concert House
04.11.2008 Missoula, MT Wilma Theater
04.12.2008 Spokane, WA Big Easy Concert House
04.13.2008 Bend, OR Midtown Ballroom
04.16.2008 Eureka, CA Eureka Theater
04.16.2008 Eureka, CA Eureka Theater
06.15.2008 Manchester, TN Bonnaroo
07.18.2008 North Plains, OR Northwest String Summit
07.19.2008 North Plains, OR Northwest String Summit
07.20.2008 North Plains, OR Northwest String Summit

For complete details on shows on info on buying tickets goto Yonder Mountain String Band’s website: