When founding member Jeff Austin left Yonder Mountain String Band last April, citing creative differences, the 17-year-old progressive bluegrass band from Nederland, Colo., faced a dilemma.
Rather than folding or caving into pressure to change their sound, remaining members Dave Johnston, Adam Aijala and co-founder Ben Kaufman began collaborating with fiddle player Allie Kral and mandolin player Jake Jolliff. The five musicians began working on Yonder Mountain's first full-length album since 2009, which they hope to release later this year. "It feels like a young band or even a new band," says Johnston, who plays banjo. "But it's also an old band too. It's a really interesting time for us as it goes in both directions."
Johnston credits Kral and Jolliff for fresh ideas that helped the band through the transition. "They're really good at learning our old material and really good at coming up with suggestions," says Johnston. "And they're really open to our suggestions. Both are good singers, and they know how to sing harmony. We feel like all the necessary things are in place, so we're having a really great time."
Austin (who launched a solo career) left some big shoes to fill, but with five musicians now lending their voices and instruments, members of Yonder Mountain believe they've found a harmonious mix.
Although the band members are excited about recording new music, they thrive in live situations. "We like the human-ness of playing live," says Johnston. "You have some magical moments where it seems like things are kind of altering and take a turn into something wonderful. I guess you could call it writing in the moment or composing in the moment."
Yonder Mountain String Band plays the Barrymore on Saturday, Jan. 31, at 8 pm. Horse Feathers opens.