Making a return to Dreyfest by way of Seattle, Washington (duh. It's not like they would have thought "Seattle, Turkmenistan?" -ed.) is everyone's favorite accordion-wielding deathpolka lunatic, Ando Ehlers!
If his set at last year's fest was any indication, were ("we're"...There's an apostrophe in there. -ed.) all in for a blast! Y'see, last August, he played a fantastic set at Discontent and ended it by picking up a whiskey bottle and leading a conga line from there to Nova. Just a two block-long dancing, singing, drinking line of punks, hippies, and assorted weirdos having a great time! (That's a sentence fragment, sir. -ed.) As soon as Ando confirmed that he was on the bill for this year, we got stoked- we couldn't be happier! (I could. If you would stop making so many errors in grammar, I wouldn't have to edit this crap! -ed.)
Then you'd be out of a job. (A "job" I don't get paid for! -ed.)
Then you'd be out of a job. (A "job" I don't get paid for! -ed.)
God, I hate you. (mutual. -ed.)
Here's our interview with the lovely human being, Ando Ehlers!
|"Mic: It's what's for dinner"|
Salutations, Ando! First of all, thanks very much for taking time to do this interview. Secondly, we are so glad to have you make a return appearance to Richard Dreyfest!
It's been nearly a year since the fest; how have the last 365 days (or so) been for you?
I know, right? Hard to believe, but time flies!
The last year has been going quite well, thank you. I’ve been playing a lot of shows, I put out a new full-length, and I’m about to release a split 7” with S.S. WEB at the end of the week. I’ve also got a book coming out at the end of the year. Other than that, I haven’t been up to too much. Music and performance keep me busy.
One thing that I did do, though, was play the living bejeezuz out of South Park: Stick of Truth for XBOX 360. When that game came out I went into “hermit mode” for about two weeks and played it three or four times. I almost forgot how to speak. It was weird. I unplugged the gaming system for a little while after that. I don’t want to talk about it.
You're just about to depart for Farmageddon Records Music Festival. I know you played there last year as well: with as many quality acts that played there- from Shooter Jennings to Anti-Seen- who/what were the highlights? And who are you looking forward to seeing this year?
I am super-jazzed for Farmageddon Fest this year! Last year, I’d have to say that my favorite acts were McDougall and Izzy Cox. Scott McDougall’s songwriting just blows me away, he can write about things like hardship and struggle and take you to the exact moment that he experienced what wrote the song. He’s got that songwritin’ wordcraft down, if you ask me. Izzy Cox’s lyrics are haunting, but her voice is simultaneously soothing to the ears. She draws you in and slits your throat. I love those two acts, I can’t get enough.
This year I am mega-pumped for Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy’s set. I’m in love with their record “Hatchetations” that they put out last year. I got it sometime in December 2013 and I still listen to it at least once a week. I’m also excited for Blackbird Raum’s performance. Their accordion player plays his squeezebox so passionately. They’re a very fun band to watch. I’m thrilled to see Lester T Raww and the Graveside Quartet too. Lester’s sense of humor in his songwriting is right on with what I like to laugh at. This will be my first time watching them perform, so I’m excited to see what they bring to the table.
Otherwise, I HATE EVERY OTHER BAND ON THE ROSTER. That includes me.
You travel quite a bit- where are your favorite places to play?
I love to play in Montana. The entire state. You guys are easily in my top three areas. Bands that I love like the Helligans, the Deadnecks, and Tales from Ghost Town come from your great lands. And the people that I have met are friendly and love drinking and dancing as much as I do! Not only that, but you also have some scenery that is tough to beat. Mountains everywhere. I fall a little more in love every time I come through. Every state and city brings its own unique culture to the table, so to say that I have a “favorite” place is impossible. But, once again, Montana is in my top three!
As a guy who seemingly has no hesitation getting wild while playing, do you ever get (or have you ever dealt with) stage fright?
I used to have TERRIBLE stage fright. Particularly when I just started playing solo shows without a band. I did relaxing breathing, way too much pre-drinking, insane rehearsals before shows…no matter what I still felt like jumping through my skin when I performed. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I just said “screw it” and stopped caring. That sounds really unprofessional, because it is, but after I stopped being so concerned about executing every note of a song perfectly and just accepted that accordions are goofy and the people that play them look like idiots everything got easier.
I wish that I could remember which book it was, but C.S. Lewis once wrote about his body describing it as “brother ass”. We are all awkward, we are all goofy, we are all basically the same people on the inside. When you see things that way, it’s hard not to want to laugh a lot and celebrate how silly most things that we get concerned about are. Life is what you make it, you know? Just jump in there and be a doofus with the rest of us.
A child is about to take on learning their first instrument...is the accordion a bad choice?
Not at all! I have seen some videos on YouTube of preteens that could roll up and smoke my skillz. Children have a great capacity to learn and adapt to new things, and an instrument that’s as complex as an accordion is perfect if they want to get into it! Whenever people ask me how I learned, I always tell them that I play a lot of video games. I mean, I took lessons too, but mashing seven buttons at the same time is a really good drill for playing something like an accordion. So if you’re a youngin’ and you like to game, you should give the accordion a whirl. A little later on in life, when tour wraps up and I settle back in the Wild Wild West, I’d love to teach accordion to young people! I hope that the instrument makes a good comeback, and I’d love to be a part of that resurgence.
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming tour and split 7" with SS Web (who are also playing Dreyfest)?
For sure! SS WEB and I will be starting the tour in Wisconsin after Farmageddon Fest and making our way out to the PNW over a few weeks. From there, we’ll be shooting down the West Coast and zig-zagging our way back up to WI through the Southwest and Midwest. The tour starts July 24th and ends somewhere in the realm of September 20th-20something. We’ll be backing each other up for both of our sets, so for the first time…ever, I will be touring Death Polka with a band. I’m so excited to bring a crazier sound to the table, and I have some boss ideas for accordion parts for SS WEB’s songs.
The split 7” that SS WEB and I are putting out has been something that we’ve tried to get together over the last two or three years. We’ve finally been able to record and get everything lined up after all this time, and the songs that are on it are ones that we’ve been performing for at least a year or two prior to this release. On this split, we each cover one of each other’s songs and have one of our originals included as well. SS WEB did a gnarly rendition of “Bastard’s Lullaby” off of my 2011 EP “Death Polka Spear!” and I did a stripped-down cover of “Hide” off of SS WEB’s “Skulls Will Sink”. These turned out really good, and we will be playing all of the songs off of the split throughout the tour. This 7” is going to be a limited run. So if you’re coming to Dreyfest, this will likely be your only chance to pick one up!
It seems like there's been a vibe of inclusive fun (rather than exclusive, passive spectatorship) that has pervaded the underground musical community for a while now. It's become so widespread that I think we're even beginning to see a slight shift towards it in our shared dominant culture (for instance, compare this generation's talk shows: Ellen and Jimmy Fallon getting the audience involved in games is a big part of their shows compared to the last generation's Conan and Craig Kilborn). I think you are among the great representatives of this shift. For you specifically, where does that urge to, say, lead a conga line through two city blocks while sipping whiskey and shouting a sing-a-long together originate?
I love how you put that, I agree that this generation of performance has taken a great step by wanting to make sure that their pals in the crowd are having as much fun as they are. And…thank you! I try my hardest to bring it the best that I can every night. I appreciate how Dreyfest and Billings are always down with my antics.
I suppose that I can provide two answers to this question. Where I’d say that my desire to do things such as conga lines/dance competition/etc honestly comes from growing up in the punk rock community as a kid. A punk show is an experience where a group of people become one while the music starts. The crazy dancing, screaming, and energy made music something that I wanted to do for life. As I got away from playing “straight up punk” and starting rocking acoustic instruments more, I saw that a different kind of crowd was coming out for that. And it’s not that I think we should all be beating the crap out of each other and screaming obscenities over and over again, it’s more that I want us all to be having that same feeling of energy and fun that a punk show provides. So when we dance, and heckle, and laugh, and do anything like that together we’re going to that place that makes me so happy. That sounds sappy, but I’m not going to deny it. I’m so excited and thrilled to play music, and if I just got on stage and played songs and did nothing else I wouldn’t be properly sharing that energy with everyone else. So we do silly stuff and we all have the same vibe! It’s a beautiful thing.
Second answer: I did not want to miss the Deadnecks show down the street. I knew that if I stayed at the venue pushing merch and loading equipment that I would totally miss their performance. So I asked the great folks at Disconnect if they were okay with me leaving my stuff overnight. They were, so when my time slot was up I baited my pals with a roaming bottle of whiskey and we hauled ass to get down to the venue so we wouldn’t miss the Deadnecks! That’s the honest truth. I mean, the conga line was awesome. It was the largest and longest in Death Polka history. I’m sure that it will be for the remainder of time. There was an ulterior motive there, though. I’m not going to lie. I’m a big Deadnecks fan. I could not miss that show! Come on everybody! Here’s some whiskey! We’re going to the Deadnecks set!
In closing Ando, we'd like to say thanks for inviting us to be a part of your fun, and thanks for accepting our invitation to be a part of ours! (It's "In closing, Ando,".....I mean, you don't want to say that you're "closing Ando", do you? -ed.)
FUCK OFF, CAPTAIN GRAMMAR. (Nah. This is too fun. -ed.)
Please do your best to catch Ando's set. You won't regret it. Also: any lettering in red is made by a giant jerkoff. (I have more control over this than you think, dummy! LAST WORD! -ed.)
SEE YOU AT DREYFEST!