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Interview with Spafford: Gem and Jam '24

At Gem and Jam 2024, I got the opportunity to interview Spafford, a co-headliner at the festival. On the first day of the festival, while Anamorphic’s set played in the background, the four members and I sat in the media tent, chatting about music, venues, and the message they want to send to fans.

Below is a transcript of my interview with the members; Jordan Fairless, Brian Moss, Nick Tchachyk, and Cory Schechtman. It was a pleasure getting to talk to them and an exciting opportunity! The interview was edited for clarity.

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What’s the difference between performing in a smaller venue, as opposed to a huge festival like Bonnaroo or Firefly? Is there a difference in energy?

Jordan: There’s layers to it, because you have the energy that’s going into the sound system and everything else that’s pumping- the way that it feels is more disorienting. The bigger the stage gets, the more that there is, so even just the sound of the sound system at a big stage is overwhelming. When you play in front of two thousand people versus twenty thousand people, that’s a whole different energy, so it all just kind of like scales, but they’re all unique, and rewarding in different ways.

What genres outside of your own influence you the most?

Brian: Well, I’m heavily influenced by electronic music, and reggae and jazz but we play all of those, so I don’t know if that really answers your question.

Nick: I love jazz. And like, but we kind of play jazz.

Jordan: We travel a lot. So I find myself in an Uber and you find yourself in a conversation, they find out you’re in the band and they say, what type of music do you play? And you start to name all of the different kinds. Ok so how, what would you call that? Oh no, it’s just our band, and we just like playing music. So we play whatever we’re feeling, or whatever the moment calls.

Is it nice having that freedom, to kind of dip in between genres?

Nick: Oh, yeah.

Jordan: Yes. Like, we’ll play one of our shows, and it’s like a Spotify shuffle playlist. You know, it’s just playing all, everything that we like.

Nick: We get less criticism from fans when we do something, maybe a little different than what we’re used to because they expect us to be different. If you were just a folk act, and you started playing metal, people would probably be a little upset, but we can get away with anything genre-wise, so there’s a lot of freedom to that.

Jordan: We can transition a borderline metal song, into a folk song, into a trance song. There’s no rules.

A lot of what you do is heavily improv based- how long did it take you to learn to listen to each other?

Nick: Oh, we’re still working on it.

Brian: Still learning!

Nick: We’re still learning.

Brian: The more we play the more intuitive and the easier it becomes, like the point where I can feel where he’s going to go next before he even does it. I kind of know where we’re all going to go kind of, because we, we play together all the time.

Jordan: And there’s, there’s layers to it in the same way of the crowd size thing, like learning how to hear each other and from the technical perspective of like, what we do with monitoring and all of that and how that’s evolved over the years and each individual’s- like, the way your reaction time evolves to where like, you’re able to exist within the moment but you can almost, within a split second, step outside of it and make a decision while at the same time, your body’s doing something. It’s this crazy thing where your mind is this close before your fingers, but you’re just doing it in real time, but you can stop, you can step out and make these subconscious connections. It’s crazy.

Would you say that in your creative process, the lyrics or the instrumentation are more important?

Jordan: Which creative process?

Nick: There’s not like, it’s not like the chicken or the egg in a way, you know? I guess it depends, like some songs are written lyrics first and with the emphasis on that, and music is built around that or the other way around. So there’s a hundred different ways to write a song. There’s no one way for us.

What venue or places you’ve performed have been the most memorable?

Brian: Red Rocks is f***ing amazing. We played there in 2019 opening for Umphrey’s McGee and then the band also played there in 2018, opening for the Disco Biscuits- magical, outdoor venue built in the middle of these huge rock formation in Colorado. We just played Thalia Hall in Chicago, which is a really cool venue built in the late 1800s.

Nick: The [Palace Theatre] in Albany was to me one of the most memorable stages I’ve ever been on- I remember climbing all the way to the top, back at the balcony and looking down and I was like oh my god. It was basically like mini Red Rocks, indoors.   

Jordan: That was our first interaction with a union stage crew, which you hear about. In Arizona, there’s no unions, in New York there’s like unions everywhere. When you get the union stage crew, it’s such a different experience if you’ve never experienced it before, like all these little parts of touring. Like, hey man, can you hand me that? Nope, it’s not my job. Seriously, it’s so funny.

We have time for one last question; what message do you want to send out with your music?

Nick: Look, we want all walks of life, everybody from every background, every part of this country or this world growing up, no matter where you’re from or where you’re headed, you’re welcome at our show. And in our show, you can build a community that is specific to having fun and letting go, and letting the music carry you to places that most normal people don’t ever get an opportunity to get to. So if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you’ll find in common in our shows, meet the people, have fun, be patient-

Brian: And most importantly, have fun!

Other members: laughing

Brian: That’s what we say to each other before we go on stage.

Nick: And it just came out, yeah. But it’s like I want the fans to do that! Be patient, listen to each other, have fun, you know. You don’t know who’s struggling out there at what time and struggling with what in what capacity, you know, you just got to be kind to people, and that’s what we want to emit to people through our music.

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