INTERVIEW: Queer-led Americana, blues-rock band Alex Krug Combo

Hi Alex, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thanks so much, been working hard.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Woodlands”?

“Woodlands” is for those who are on the outside, that are on the periphery, who have been, in some way marginalized (due to injustice, prejudice and ignorance).  The song “Woodlands” is to say, you may surely be on the edges, forgotten, ignored and not heard but those who have been sidelined are really the most important.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

It was winter in western North Carolina where I live. The mountains had new snow and a crispness about them. A few friends and I drove to go for a hike on a remote trail that follows a clean fast river. I walked in the back behind them, our foot steps making fresh tracks in the snow. It was late in the day and the beginnings of dusk were coming in around us, deepening shadows. I was looking around at the young green snowy hemlocks and the sycamore, which leaned over the creek with their strong smooth gray and white cammo trunks and dry winter achene dangling from the thinner twigs, unfazed by cold winter.  The words just came to me there on that walk for some reason.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

We are working on it — limited budget and time — but we’re working on it.  We’ll see, got my fingers crossed.

The single comes off your new album Sleeping On The Woodlands – what’s the story behind the title? 

Mostly what I touched on above.

How was the recording and writing process?

The recording process was magical.  The band had been playing together for years, and we wanted to record for a long time. Finally, with the help of our fans via IndieGogo, we got to be in the studio. Echo Mountain Recording and our friends there are the best. There was a large winter storm to hit the region during our session. Michael, Jessica and Julian (our producers and engineer) were dedicated to the project, knowing how much it meant to us they made arrangements so that we could sleep there if need be. Bill Berg our drummer, who is in his 70s, rented a four-wheel drive.

The commitment to the project was really inspiring. We had a meaningful session. It’s mostly live tracking, including lead vocals, with very little over dubs. We flew in Rachel from Denver a few weeks later to track harmony. Normally, we do harmony side-by-side, so that was different. She had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t be there for the main session.

You brought a great name of producers and collaborators – did you handpick them or how did they come on board?

I met Michael Selverne at a song writing competition that I was hosting years ago. Jessica Tomasin brought him. Instantly, I loved him. He wanted to make a record with me. We made our first album as a band together called ‘Gentle Spotted Giants’ four years ago. This second album is really potent for me because we know each other much better now. The more I know him, the more I understand what an artist he is. He has a large reputation being a music lawyer and has worked with a list of famous artists that is so long it’s silly.

But in all of that, he is really a deep lover of music, art and recording. Not only does he love it, but he has a massive experience and understanding of it, both technical insight and metaphysical insight. As a producer, he’s able to bring together all the essential aspects to empower the art to be what it is. He also mixed ‘Sleeping on the Woodlands,’ and I’m really pleased and proud of how it sounds. It sounds really true to me.

Also, in the four years since the first album, as a band, I have gotten to continue working with Bill Berg our drummer in both live shows and recording. We became friends along the way and love connecting about art and life. He and his wife Kaaren Lundeen are painters and travel a lot to do plein air painting. So, we have plenty of fun stuff to talk about.

What did they brought up to the table?

So much!

What role does Asheville play in your music?

The music community really cares about each other.  People and organizations like Jessica Tomasin, Asheville Music Professionals and Connect Beyond the Page Festival are really trying to make a difference. It’s not as pretentious as other places I’ve lived. There are challenges, of course, but there’s a lot of neat stuff happening.

Does your background as an animator influences or helps you with your music?

I was never an animator. Bill Berg and his wife Kaaren Lundeen were animators with Disney in LA for more than a decade. They worked side-by-side as senior animators during Disney’s second golden era (for example for Disney’s ‘The Lion King’). Bill was the supervising character lead for Adult Simba, and Kaaren was the key assistant character lead for Adult Simba. They “shared a pencil sharpener” on so many feature films. While in LA as an animator, Bill also continued his music career and drummed with jazz and fusion bands.

Like Michael, Bill’s experience as an artist really inspired me. His affirmation and belief in me kept me going on really hard days and weeks. He taught me that it’s ok to be genuine. It’s ok to put yourself out there and care about others openly. I grew up being pretty different from the other kids and was made fun of. So, I think I put my hand over my heart and didn’t want to show that I’m a sensitive person. But I took my hand off and can say it’s ok to love those around you — even if some ignorant folks make fun of you.

Bill has the experience and skill to be a real cocky person. He could rightly brag big time and name drop. But he doesn’t; he’s powerful but humble. He’s very kind and yet not at all a push over. He cares a lot about other people. He’s very invested in his wife and his family and friends. That’s the best legacy a person could have.

What aspect of life did you get to explore on this record?

I think i covered some of that above.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

So many little things from everyday life make their way into songs. Also, our lap steel player, Jackson Dulaney, and electric guitar player, Kyle Samples, really inspire me. They’re brothers to me. We sit around, play music, listen to vinyl, sip bourbon, tell stories at Jackson’s farmhouse or in Kyle’s living room. And we talk on late night’s traveling between gigs. Their sounds get into my subconscious and directly influence my writing.

Rachel Gramig, we’ve been singing together for so long. She’s one of my best friends and have seen each other in many different life chapters. Long hikes, tight harmonies, lots of house shows. Often, as soon as I’m writing something new, I can hear her. She’s in Denver now, but that just means I travel there a lot, and we play lots of shows out there and hike in those mountains. I just got back from playing out there with her.

Any plans to hit the road?

Hopefully. We’re working on it. That’s the goal. We play in Colorado and Kentucky a lot. Hoping to step it up more.

What else is happening next in Alex Krug Combo’s world?

Looking forward to our EP release on 9.19.19 and booking shows.

Sleeping on the Woodlands, comes out September 19!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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