The Tillers, with Flash in a Pan
The Mill — Wednesday, Apr. 20 at 8 p.m.
Formed nine years ago in the wilds of Cincinnati, OH, roots renegades The Tillers will be in Iowa City for a show tonight, Apr. 20, at The Mill. With music firmly embracing the folk and bluegrass traditions, The Tillers draw on their various backgrounds from across the musical spectrum. They have toured with Pokey LaFarge and the Carolina Chocolate Drops as well as legends like Doc Watson and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. Tonight, they play The Mill with Iowa City string band Flash in a Pan. Tickets are $10.
Little Village discussed touring, stortytelling and the band members’ punk rock past in an email interview with founding member Mike Oberst.
You were in Iowa City recently, with Pokey LaFarge — was that your first time here? How do you feel about being back?
Yeah we came through Iowa City for the first time in September of 2014 on Pokey LaFarge’s Central Time Tour. We’re excited to be back in town and to hopefully see some of the great folks we met the first time around.
What was it like, being part of that sort of variety show atmosphere of the Pokey LaFarge show? How does that play into your performance philosophies, and ideas about music in general?
That was definitely one of the most memorable tours of our past 9 years! Being on the road, meeting new folks, seeing new places and sharing songs is what we love to do, but then to do it all with some of your best and most talented musical mates … Can’t beat that!
On your website bio, you refer to yourselves as “recovering punk rockers.” What drew you to this end of the musical spectrum? What do you miss most about your punk roots, and what do you fight hardest to incorporate into your current style?
We’ve always loved lots of music. I played classical piano from age four to twelve, played with a Scottish pipe and drum corps in high school, Aaron and Sean played in a blues band with their dad in their early twentys and Joe plays still with a country band. We played in different punk bands in Cincinnati for years all through our late teen years and twentys. The Cincinnati scene was super fun then. Some of our first times playing out were with our friends and our crappy amps and drums falling apart and whatever we could afford — drunken basement shows and playing at Sudsy Malones which was a crusty old venue with cheep beer and also a laundromat. It was a Cincinnati staple for the scene but it’s all torn down now. Playing loud and fast. I do miss a lot of it. Other stuff not so much. We still play loud and fast though! Haha.
Tell me about the importance of narrative, of storytelling in your music. What value do you place on it, and why?
We’ve always taken a lot of time in our writing process. It’s the most important thing I can think of to tell a good story or sing you a song written from the heart, especially when there is so much music these days that’s not worth a damn. Who knows where our songs will end up or stand the test of time or any of that. Our songs are all we’ve got to show for what we’ve been doing with our lives in the past nine years so we’re sure going to give it our all, always.
Hand on the Plow is a fantastic album; what are your recording plans moving forward?
Thank you! The tentative plan is to take the summer to tour and continue to write. We’ll hit the studio again as the cold weather sets in. It’s been too long! Look out!