At first listen, Yonder Mountain String Band seems like the typical bluegrass band. Despite the use of traditional strings like the banjo and mandolin, one can clearly recognize YMSB’s genre-bending elements. They infuse punk and alternative rock into bluegrass to create a sound guitarist Adam Aijala describes as “high-energy, fast bluegrass.”
Yonder Mountain String Band goes about its business with a positive energy and lightheartedness that is infectious to the group’s fans. From the band’s formation in Colorado in 1998, its focus has been having fun with the music and not taking everything so seriously. High energy and fun are definitely present in YMSB’s fast-paced string instrumentals. YMSB’s use of the banjo and mandolin is reminiscent of shredding rock guitar solos.
“The nature of our band, it’s supposed to be fun … it’s kind of like ‘Let’s just go out there and let people forget about stuff that is serious and just have a good time,’” Aijala said in an interview with The Badger Herald.
This lighthearted approach is evident even in the way the group formed its name. The band decided it was time to come up with one after being pressured by a Nederland, Colo., coffee shop owner who wanted to know what to call the members in an advertisement in the newspaper.
“We just started going through those old folk magazines … looking through the songbook, trying to see if something fancy was in there … we knew we wanted to be a quartet or a string band,” said Aijala. “There was a song called ‘At the Foot of Yonder Mountain,’ and Jeff goes, ‘How about Yonder Mountain String Band?’ and we’re all like, ‘All right.’”
During the band’s upcoming appearance in Madison, it will be playing a variety of material: songs from YMSB’s latest album The Show, and new songs from its upcoming record to be released later this year. However, don’t expect the show at the Orpheum Theater to be formulaic or a repeat of the group’s last appearance in Madison. Aijala claims that improvisation is a big part of their live show, with everyone in the band being able to break out into vocals or an instrumental solo.
“Nothing’s scripted … the solos that I play are not the same every time, they might start off the same … but in between I try to mix it up,” Aijala said.
YMSB’s stop at the Orpheum this Saturday is one the band looks forward to. The band was last in Madison, also at the Orpheum, a little less than a year ago.
“I would argue [that] of any state, Wisconsin has the rowdiest fans.” Aijala said. “We know Wisconsin rocks. We know Madison will be fun. It’s a great place to end the tour.”