Student Band Sage Blonde

It happened at lunchtime last Wednesday in Cook Commons. Students sat, still discussing events of the weekend before, drinking their Diet Coke and flirting across the table. Amidst the laughter and the chatter, a train of four bold musicians bopped into the dining area playing harmonica, rattling the tambourine and singing the introduction to one of their originals, “I’m Goin’ Down.” Standing on chairs, hundreds of eyes oogling them, Sage Blonde announced that they are playing a show that night at Nectar’s. The Sage Blonde quartet is comprised of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Celia Woods-Smith, guitarist and harmonica connoisseur Avi J. Salloway, organist and pianist Rob Shelton and drummer Josh Korr. The “Blondes” sat down for an interview with The Vermont Cynic and here are a few of their sage words:What’s the meaning behind the name “Sage Blonde”?JK: It could be a few things, like in one sense it’s a contradiction, which is kind of like the nature of life and in another sense, it’s a color thing.AS: It’s a paradox, often blondes get this reputation of “dumb blonde” and a sage is this wise, kindred spirit in Eastern religion.JK: I can see it being a beer, definitely.How would you describe your sound to somebody who has never heard you before?RS: We’re trying to find our own voice within a rock vein. A lot of the bands that are coming from the ’60s and ’70s today are more like cover bands. But we’re trying to do something new with those influences and not just state them verbatim.How do you hope the audience will receive your music?JK: We’re trying to appeal to people on whatever level they want to access the music. We want it to be something that’s danceable, that they can easily access, or something that has more depth of musical complexity and lyricism underneath it, but that we don’t want that to overshadow the fact that you could just come and dance and pick up on the more catchy parts of the song. In that way, poetic and jazz influences aid a more simple rock ‘n roll format in our band, a rockin’ folk tradition. What are your musical inspirations?CWS: My mother always listened to Bonnie Raitt, Patsy Kline, Bob Dylan, so that’s what I was listening to at an early age. Now I’m a huge fan of Susan Tedeschi and Martin Sexton.AS: I got interested in playing music to early blues and then I guess what I like to do with it is make it rock – make the blues rock. I really like Eric Clapton.JK: What really inspires me other than music has always been the people around me and having music as a way to connect to other people. That’s the reason why I do it.RS: The biggest influences on my music have been the people that I’ve played with because it’s so intimate. You can listen to an album a lot but it’s never going to tell you something on an interpersonal level. How do you guys feel about not living in the same place? Is that a strain on the band?AS: It is a strain. It’s not even the music – it’s the power and the unity of us being together. Celia and I practice all the time, as do Josh and Rob, and then we throw the pie together before the concert. CWS: It’s a commitment we’re all making to one another.JK: It’s tough to be on the road every week. Sometimes your life can start to feel divided when you’re living in two locations.What do you do to prep for a show? Any rituals?JK: I generally try to be quiet for a minute and listen to the room and the way people are, to get the sound quality of the room and try to pick up on the way people are feeling. We should have better ceremonies, something with like fire and smoke and candles, with actual sage.What do you think about the Burlington music scene?JK: Everyone here really puts a lot of energy out.CWS: I think that’s why we chose to concentrate on Burlington first, rather than on Amherst.RS: There are lots of musicians here and lots of places to play all in a centralized location.AS: Every night of the week, there’s music on. It makes it easy for fans and bands.CWS: And Burlington is a good jumping off point for us, although eventually finding new venues is a little hard.JK: It’s easy to get to know people on a personal level who come to your shows. Sage Blonde will be playing at Nectar’s March 8th, 15th and 22nd at 10 p.m. I know I’m gettin’ on that train, how about you?