Cris Cohen: I've gone to a number of shows where the band is doing the full electric thing, and then they do an acoustic set. And the bass player will bring out a double bass. I just saw Barenaked Ladies at the Red Hat Amphitheater and they did that. But you stay with it constantly. I'm wondering, what advantage does an upright bass have over, say, a bass guitar?
Barrett Smith of Steep Canyon Rangers: That's a good question. In my case, it's just the instrument that I play. I don't even own an electric bass guitar. I think tonally it's different and its weight has more meat and body to it. There have been times where we've talked about having an electric bass in the band for certain songs and there would be a lot of benefit to that. I have picked up electric basses and messed with them. They have qualities that mine doesn't have. But for me, it's what I'm accustomed to. I don't like playing electric bass that much. I would get used to it if I had to. If they said, “You have to play this,” I would do it and maybe come to love it. But as it is, I like the big, upright bass.
And the band was such a staunchly traditional band for so long, traditional bluegrass band. And then once Mike Ashworth joined, he was playing drums and Graham's writing was changing when I joined. There's so much that is moving us away from the tradition of bluegrass that, for me, having an upright bass in the band is one thing that keeps us anchored in traditional bluegrass. Even just the visual of it, anything that keeps us somewhat tethered to that world, because at our heart, that's what we are.
We still are a traditional bluegrass band. But any bluegrass traditionalist is going to look at our band and be like, “They're not traditionalist.” Because we betrayed a lot of what that is. And not to make any statement or anything. It was just what we wanted to do and sing in our truth. That's the way the band is developed.
There's something about having the upright bass in the band that is important to me to keep us in that way. So, at least the instrumentation feels more like a bluegrass band, because I always want us to be a bluegrass band. And actually, maybe, I should question why that is. Maybe it doesn't matter.