In this week’s interview, we spoke with banjoist Banton Foster of the folk-rock band Blvd Park and solo-Americana artist Ali Marcus. Their respective songs “Ain’t Gonna Be Easy” and “Wapato” can be found on SMCU’s Homegrown album.
Homegrown can be downloaded for free here until Tuesday, July 31.
How did you/your band get started?
Banton: As I understand it began around a bonfire in Sacramento three or so years ago. Brian and Tim were part of the original trio. That quickly evolved into an eight piece party band, which included Jarrett on bass and Tekla as one of two back-up vocalists. They recorded Blvd Park’s first album, “Bell Tower Mansion.” On a West Coast tour to and from Alaska, they stopped in Seattle, fell in love, and the four of them decided to move here.
They met me just as I was trying to move to another hemisphere, but I stuck around to play. Brian met Dune busking at Pike Place Market last year. We released an album (“The Sound”) in February. Expect another fairly soon. I really feel fortunate to have met such an unusual, wonderful group of people.
Ali: That’s a loaded question, because it could be playing Raffi on the piano at age four, or my first band in 7th grade… but I think you mean my current act as a solo Americana songwriter. I’d say that truly began in 2004 when I moved to Seattle and started putting out solo albums.
What’s your favorite road trip story?
Banton: We were on tour last year and stopped to busk in New Orleans. Some local cats let us have their spot on the corner of St. Peter and Royal. Killed it. We played four sets. Crowds for days! So much fun. It was great for road-morale, and the money we made kept us fed for a couple weeks.
Ali: That’s hard. How about one story I just like? In Athens, GA I was staying with a friend before a show at Eddie’s Attic, and we went to Kmart to get something for her daughter. When we came back out to my car, there was a note on the windshield asking if I lost my camera, to call the number. I then noticed my camera was gone! It must have fallen out of the door when I got out of my seat. Anyways, this person found it lying next to our car, saved it, and met me in the parking lot to return it safe and sound. And it worked out well, because I had borrowed the camera from my boyfriend for the trip, and it was early in our relationship. I was able to return it in one piece, and he still liked me.
What is the Pacific Northwest music community like?
Banton: Really friendly. There are only so many places in the world where people are so supportive, that really appreciate live music. Seattle, Portland, and all places in between. The level of talent in this area is mind blowing as well. Brian and Tekla host an open mic, and I’m always astounded by the cats that show up to play.
Ali: It’s diverse. There is the hip, mainstream scene (the popular kids), the artsy civic folks (family programming), and the folk community, which is broad, full of true fans, songwriters, ex-hippies, still-hippies, their dancing toddlers, and teachers. There are more subsets, but these are the ones I intersect with most often. Each group has its own draw for me.
We’ll conclude our Homegrown Exclusive Interview series next week with Carson Henley and Fox and The Law.