When was the last time you truly became addicted to an artist? For me, it happened unexpectedly at a certain Big Damn concert last month, when a Bend/Redmond, Oregon-based band by the name of Larry and His Flask knocked me off my feet harder than a shot of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. But like a particularly famous wino, I won’t go to rehab – this is one musical habit I refuse to kick. Read on to learn about why Larry and His Flask is the life of the party.
Who is Larry and His Flask?
“We’ve all been obsessed with music our whole lives,” double bassist and trumpetist Jeshua Marshall said, “and we knew at a young age we wanted to be surrounded by music at all times.” He played trumpet in middle school, then picked up the electric bass at age 13 and the upright bass at 19. His brother, Jamin Marshall, started playing the drums when he was 15; after two days of practice, he played his first show. Ian Cook, lead singer and guitarist, learned how to play when he was nine years old. Dallin Bulkley learned how to play piano from his mother, a piano teacher, and later took to the guitar. (He also moonlights on Jeshua’s upright bass, as I learned at their WOW Hall appearance.) Andrew Carew, the banjoist, also started playing instruments when he was very young: first the drums, then the guitar and trumpet. He’d never played a banjo until he joined the band two years ago. Kirk Skatvold had also never played his main instrument, the mandolin, until he joined LAHF two years ago; before that, he’d played the electric bass, with some trumpet experience from band classes.
As you may have noticed, no one in the band is named Larry. Jeshua shared the band’s name is something of an inside joke between its members. “[‘Larry’] began as Jamin’s alter-ego while he was working as a janitor for the school district. It’s basically the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde situation: when any one of us in the band gets too drunk and crazy, it’s obvious that he is ‘Larry’ – at least, at that point in time.” The spirit of Larry seems to arise in all of them during performances, each one wildly thrashing about on their respective instruments. Audience members pick up on this, too, and flail against each other like they were at the Vans Warped Tour instead of a bluegrass concert.
Evolution of The Flask
Jeshua and Jamin Marshall originally started Larry and His Flask in 2003 as a three-piece punk rock band: Jamin sang lead vocals and drummed, Jeshua played electric bass and another friend accompanied on guitar. Cook soon joined, and the group spent the next four years on short West Coast tours, traveling as extensively as Alberta, Canada, and the Northwest Territories. The Flask’s dynamic changed dramatically, however, with the loss of its “drummer of electric stuff,” as Jeshua put it, after the Canada tour.
“It put us in a really weird spot, ‘cause he was our friend,” Cook recalled. “It was like losing a family member – we were in shambles.” The remaining members felt they would never be able to find someone talented enough to replace him. “We tried a couple local shows with a fill-in, but we were just like, ‘You know what? We just can’t do this without him. It’s just no longer the same band.’”
Rather than tossing The Flask, the guys started playing some acoustic songs Cook and Jeshua Marshall had written, but set aside during their punk rock stage. “We were always into roots-ier stuff, more folk-type music, and were just like, ‘Well, let’s just throw it all back and go completely acoustic.’” They invited all of their musically-gifted friends to a jam session, which is how Carew and Skatvold joined LAHF.
“[Metal band Zombie Co-Pilot] was kind of like a sister band to LAHF that [Skatvold] and I were in,” Carew said. “We toured with them a couple times, and our band broke up at the same time their drummer quit, so everything [on the music scene] was lost in Central Oregon…” During this transitional phase, some 11 members belonged to The Flask at once, including two mandolins, an accordion, a fiddle, a cello and a borrowed banjo. They practiced “really quietly in the living room,” according to Carew, then gathered a collection of songs and “hit the streets, like downtown during the bar hours and shit – that’s kind of what started filtering the people out [to tours.]”
The Flask’s flash-mob approach to shows and self-promotion soon got the boys back out on the road. They played anywhere – open mics, house parties, street corners – and used their punk rock connections to further their travels. While some members dropped off for various reasons (some tired of touring, others were burnt out in general), the remaining six, including Bulkley, have been a solid six-piece ever since.
Shots of Sound
As noted in the song “Ready Your Roommates,” The Flask has plenty of albums to sell, although at the present time you’d be hard-pressed to find one. Listed on the band’s website are four albums: 2006’s We’re Going Dancing Tonight, 2008’s Gutted and Never Long Gone, and 2010’s self-titled and self-produced EP. The latter is the only one for sale (that I could find, at least), available either on 7” vinyl or through iTunes. The guys assured me, though, that an in-the-works record deal will result in a new album out early 2011. (Oh, and they’re going to re-release the EP on a 7” glow-in-the-dark “Halloween Edition” vinyl – release date and purchasing details are forthcoming.)
Fans can get a taste of The Flask’s music on their MySpace page – or better yet, on ReverbNation. (My song recommendations: “Beggars Will Ride” and “Closed Doors”.) Note the band’s rowdy, chorused shouts, the lightning-fast finger work done on banjo and guitar solos – the growly, country twang that only Central Oregonians seem to legitimately pull off. I’ve previously mentioned how much I adore the band’s stage presence and wide range of instrumental knowledge, but they’re definitely worth mentioning again. With the way they seamlessly blend punk rock roots and folk/hillbilly harmonies, the guys of LAHF demonstrate just how much their sound has evolved since 2003.
Future of The Flask
“We played our first show in the spring of 2004,” Jeshua Marshall shared. “From that point on, we’ve been growing and learning as much as we can. This band has always been about family, the love of the road and all the people we meet while traveling.” LAHF’s neverending number of gigs have kept them on the road for the last few years. Even at home, however, they can’t catch a break: the guys played 15 shows during their month-long stay in Bend last January.
No one’s complaining, though – the men of The Flask have an obvious, almost-obsessive passion for creating music and entertaining the masses. “As long as we’ve been playing, it’s just been the mentality of ‘We’re never gonna fucking quit, we’re never gonna give up because this is… it.” Jeshua said. “It’s all we really want to do.”
Without missing a beat, Cook chuckled, adding: “.. it’s all we really can do.”
Larry and His Flask kicks off the LAHF Or Die tour tomorrow night at The Blue Lamp in Sacramento, CA. After the tour finishes, The Flask will head to northern California to record a full-length record before planning a national, Canadian and European tour.
And now, an exclusive shout-out from Jeshua Marshall:
Good people of the world: we are here on planet Earth for a short time only, and it is all of our duties to make the best of it at all times! We are here to dance our asses off and have fun! Party to the People!!