Rising Appalachia is a genre-bending force of sound that uses vocal harmony, lyrical prowess and diverse artistic collaborations to defy cultural clichés and ignite a musical revolution...
Leah Song. Chloe Smith. Biko Casini. David Brown
Adam St. Simons
CHLOE- Rising Appalachia’s independent route in the music industry was both a conscious and unconscious decision. Because Leah and I are sisters, there were very natural and unstructured beginnings to this project that formed different sort of foundation than your standard band approach. We began playing music to complement a path that was already full of travel, activism, and an “un-schooled” education as opposed to starting a band to take us to that place of stardom. That being said, when industry options began coming our way we felt that would box us in to a more linear (albeit potentially more fruitful or grandiose) system and a more confined genre. We declined and kept carrying our own torch through learning the ropes of the ship we were sailing. Without fully realizing, we forged our own music management concepts and basically learned A (not the) way of running a business as well as an art project. Now that we have more help behind the scenes, we realize how invaluable that education was- as it grounded our visions and provided a platform of understanding what we need, where we want to go, and who we want to have on our internal team. I believe the artist should create the industry and have a say in what it is they want to provide and create, as opposed to the other way around which is far more standard. Art makes industry, Industry does not make art. Industry helps art, but cant create it.
You use various instruments with sounds that apparently seem distant but they are united by the great strenght produced by your music. Why this choice?
LEAH- out of highschool I made it a mission to seek a world education, and independently designed a program of study that took me first to Southern Mexico, then across Central America, into Cuba, India, the British Isles, and Southern Spain. In total I lived abroad for over 6 years, and in the formative years of my young adulthood. I took in the creative, folkloric, and indigenous spirit of the places I lived, and tried to live as a local everywhere I traveled. This meant Spanish boleros, Cuban guitar lessons, mantras, Irish ballads, the Celtic boudhran, and eventually some homemade Spanish song writing as well. That tied in with our natural proclivity to seek out world folk music, and our families persistence in NPR exposure and learning about the ways of the world. We were raised with so much cultural and artistic exposure, our senses were well chiseled to seek out the rare jems of world music. Pop music was never much of a appeal. Even, like Chloe mentioned, as kids, I always sought out the most underground hip hop I could find. The stuff that never made the radio stations. Take all that, and then add our percussionist Biko’s story-who lived and studied in Africa for 9 months and brought an incredible wealth of West African music to us, and David our guitarist who is an avid student of trad Irish tunes…and voila! You have the Rising Appalachia lens. World folk roots music…Old-time meets 90’s era hip hop, Black Star and Outkast meets Solas, Martin Hayes, Bruce Molskey, Rokia Touré, Salif Keita, Ali Farka Touré, Johnny Clegg, and the infinite front porch sessions that have shaped us from jam sessions around the world. It has been an rich lifetime of studies that will continue as long as we have our ears! Finding those hidden jems that might not ever make it to a radio station.
CHLOE- To create a place where live music is an community gathering experience. To hope that in attending one of our concerts or shows that we can create a bigger impact, encouraging people to dialog and join forces in local community building. We try and make each live performance a myriad of experiences: a dance party, a place of nurture, a dialog about how to uplift communities, a political questioning, a call to action, a respite. We hope that every song will reach somewhere that we may never know, but that it brings a moment of place back into someone’s life. ANNDDD that we are all entitled to a music, a story and a sound that is telling our story, that we are making and holding our own traditions and we need everyone’s voice.
Given to few live collaborations between Leah Song and Nahko Bear, have you ever thought about recording some songs all together?
Indeed. Kindred Friends. Leah is a featured singer on a few of his songs on his albums.
How did Filthy Dirty South come about?
Chloe- I wrote the song Filthy Dirty South a few years back when we had a little time off in New Orleans to write and learn songs down in that musical center of the universe. It was and continues to be a huge influence in our writing and social lives, providing a social, creative, spiritual and communal frame work for the entire Rising Appalachia crew. That song in particular was pulling from a few experiences that we all had as a band, which was two fold. One was the tragic and dirty BP oil spill disaster in Louisiana, and the other was the fracking and mountain top removal chaos that was happening and continues to happen in Southern Appalachia... (which is where our original bass player was from, and told stories of gas companies literally knocking at the door of his family home seeking land rights constantly). The song is about the environmental resources that are extracted from the south in all these dirty and harmful ways, why they happen, and evolves into a call for southerners especially but everyone to pay attention to that and work towards some better options for such a beautiful region of the country.
It also ties into the idea that there are places in all our lives and homes that suffer from neglect, and asks us each to take some time to nurture those parts of the world, and those parts of our homes.
Medicine” is a song-anthem honoring the traditions of folk medicine; plant-based medicine as a tool for empowerment and healing. It is a call to action to support the voices of the herbalists, healers, and teachers… the roots, plants, trees, and stones… the arts, the spirits, and the wild ones. It is an honoring of all the many ways that we can be well, and the radical and traditional ways in which we can steward health within ourselves.
This song is a direct tribute to the people around the world who are holding and teaching these ways of herbal plant-based medicine, educating us all to know our gardens, our forests, our plants and our own bodies... to bring wellness back into our own hands and communities. It is not a dismissal of modern medicine, but a gratitude and honoring of its ancestry and foundations within folkloric traditions.
Have you planned any dates in Italy for the next tours?
We are hoping to do a European tour in 2017 ! Working now to get it all organized, but Italy is on the list for sure. We toured years ago many times throughout Italy…. but things have grown a bit so we have to do it a little bit different now ;)
What are your principal influences ?
World folk music from pretty much all corners of the globe. Peoples music. Front porch music. Village music.
Also, 1990’s era hip hop, New Orleans jazz and southern blues, Ani Difranco, Willie Nelson, the Medicine crew, and Zap Mama.
What means the word Love for you? How it works with your songs?
Love means connection. Staying present even when you are distracted. Standing up for what you believe in. Cooking someone pancakes before they wake up in the morning. Going out of your way to visit folks in need. Showing up. Love means taking the time to slow down and get real with people. xxx