Ithaca, NY based Sim Redmond Band is something to behold. Formed in 1999, the 6-piece have traveled many miles to bring their distinctive sound and positive energy to eager fans. The group’s unique blend of Roots/Afro-Caribbean/Reggae is a strong statement of how lively and diverse our local music scene really is. Offering strong rhythm, wonderful melody, and rich three-part harmonies, the group truly reaches their crowd with intent.
With 9 albums to their credit, Sim Redmond Band is constantly working to expand their collective output, and minds of their listeners. Garnering new fans globally takes constant dedication and lots of legwork, but the group’s talent, ambition, and desire give them a full musical skill set to see their goals to fruition.
I wanted to get in contact with Sim himself prior to their May 18th performance to discuss the band’s musical influences, their writing process, future plans, and a cross-cultural comparison of their performances. Here ya go!
G- Hi Sim! Thanks for taking the time to speak with LIVE HIGH FIVE! If you could, please introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone and what do they play?
S- My brother Asa Redmond plays the drums. Dan Merwin plays bass and djembe. Jordan Aceto plays guitar (and builds many of our instruments and pedals!). Nate Silas Richardson plays rhodes, guitar, and sings. Jen Middaugh sings. And I sing and play guitar, and occasionally pick up my mbira, a Zimbabwean thumb piano.
G- You formed this band in 1999… How did everyone meet up and when did you perform for the first time?
S- I had begun writing songs in the late 90’s and we started out playing as the Sim Redmond Quartet: Asa, Dan, Jordan, and myself. Our first gigs in this incarnation were at coffee houses and such late in 1998 and early 1999. Soon after that, Uniit (our original female vocalist) began singing with us and we became the Sim Redmond Band.
G- Your group is known for having a very diverse musical influence…. You blend several different styles together to form your unique sound. How would you classify yourselves as a group, and who in particular influences your style?
S- Yeah, we all have a wide variety of influences that we bring to the table. When forced to classify the music, I try to sneak around it by saying SRB is “all original feel-good music”. But as far as genre, I guess it’s a blend of roots-rock, African, and Jamaican music, but even that is a limited description… There’s a lot more than that in it. A lot of that diversity I credit to growing up around the Fingerlakes Grassroots Festival. They bring in world class bands from all over the world. Year after year, seeing groups like Burning Spear, Thomas Mapfumo, Super Rail Band, Lucinda Williams, and countless other greats, have all had a big impact on us.
G- Dig that! So, what is your writing process like when you begin creating new songs? Who in the band typically comes up new music? Is there a primary songwriter, or is the process more organic and jam based?
S- Our process in the past has been that anyone with a song (usually me, but not always) brings it to the band and the band then shapes and molds it until it’s ready for the stage or to be recorded.
G- Cool… It’s great when artists all have a strong sense of collaborative effort. Speaking of which, SRB has a host of releases… 9 in total! Can you discuss your recording process? Do you have any new releases in the works?
S- We’ve always really enjoyed recording new releases. It’s a chance for us to explore all the potential of each song; to add that horn or string section we’ve always imagined, and the fill out that vocal part, or throw in a big drum jam. We allow ourselves the freedom to do things that we might not be able to recreate on stage. Then later, we figure out how to transform it back into something we can play live. Sometimes that means Nate and/or Jordan have to cover a horn line on guitar or keys, or that we have to split up the vocal parts differently, but there’s usually a way to make it work. Sometimes a song never makes it to the stage though, and we’re okay with that too!
We haven’t written much over the past couple of years, so it may be time to take another approach. Maybe this organic, jam based process you speak of….
G- Right on hahaha! Now, Sim Redmond Band has a strong following overseas, particularly in Japan… Could you tell us about some of the musical and cultural differences between performances in the U.S. and overseas?
S- Yeah, we’ve traveled to Japan several times… It was a blast! It’s a whole other world over there, but we felt very much at home. They treat us like rock stars, people constantly asking for pictures and autographs. At performances, during songs, they are very quiet and respectful. But in between songs they are quite appreciative. And we did play in some more relaxed environments (beach parties, festivals, etc) where they showed us they certainly know how to party!
G- Yea I’m told it’s tough to get around a healthy dose of alcohol in Japan if they want to warm up to people! Tell us a bit about what you hope the future holds for Sim Redmond Band… Do you have any touring coming up, new areas of the world you are striving/looking to perform in, or projects that you are working on with other artists?
S- There’s nothing too different on the horizon. We’ve never been a conventional touring band. Our family ties keep us close to home for the most part. But we’ve been playing at the newer Grassroots festivals (Shakori Hills Grassroots, Virginia Keys Miami Grassroots) that they have been developing. They’ve got a festival for each season now. Grassroots festivals have such a special vibe, and we’re really happy to be a part of that community. Hopefully, we’ll continue to be involved with them and develop a more complete and consistent presence up and down the East Coast. We’ve also been talking more and more about getting out to the West Coast. So hopefully there will be some fun trips in our future.
G- Do you have any particular bands that you would like to share a bill with in the future or events you would like to perform at?
S- Wow, there are so many amazing bands and musicians it would be impossible to start naming them, and I’m sure some of the most amazing musicians are ones we’ve never even heard of. As far as events we would love to be a part of: New Orleans Jazz Fest would be very cool, Fuji Rock in Japan, maybe Bumbershoot out in Seattle, I could go on and on. The world is a big and beautiful place…
G- What is your personal favorite Sim Redmond Band performance to date? What was it like?
S- I’ll admit it, I’m a homebody. I like being around the Ithaca area. One of my absolute favorite venues is the Taughannock State Park Summer Concert series just outside of Ithaca in Trumansburg, NY. It is an evening event, there are lots of families and children. We’ve been lucky and the weather has always been beautiful. We’ve played there at least 5 times and it’s always like a dream come true. We’re playing there on August 18th this year. And of course it’s hard to beat the Fingerlakes Grassroots Festival, the biggest party I’ve ever been to. That’s July 19-22 this year. Those are some of my favorites, but we love them all!
G- Lastly, can you give some of the young, up and coming bands who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musicians a bit of your knowledge and expertise as a professional musician? Any words of wisdom or helpful tips you can offer from your experience?
S- My advice would be to keep it simple and just have fun playing music. If you’re doing that, then the rest should fall in line. If you enjoy it, and play music that is true to you, people will respond to that. Music is such a simple and beautiful thing, just let it be that.
And there you have it. We would like to thank Sim and SRB very much for their time, and let everyone know that they’ll be rocking the crowd in Syracuse on May 18, so make sure to grab yourself a ticket and see some live music!