Brooklyn-based Evolfo wrap up their West Coast tour with several Bay Area appearances and concluding with their second appearance at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park. Ahead of their Sunday set at Hardly Strictly, the four-piece garage rockers and their three piece horn section (that’s seven total) will be making a stop at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz on Thursday, September 29.
I had the opportunity to have Raftery Swink, one of the group’s vocalists, and fellow vocalist Matthew Gibbs answer some questions ahead of their appearance.
The Bay Bridged: Where does the name Evolfo come from?
Matthew Gibbs: The term Evolfo has several origins, but mostly it’s a bit of a swirling mystery. It is hard to find much info about the roots of the word Evolfo on the internet. One of our favorite offline sources says that Evolfo was an ingredient in potions made by 15th century Byzantine monks.
TBB: What do you love most about California and/or the Bay Area specifically? Have you been here before? If not, what were you looking forward to the most?
MG: The coastline. Like those places where the water meets the land super violently; I’m fascinated with that pulsing maelstrom. It is sublime and terrifying in my memory. I actually grew up in California! In Marin County. But moving to Brooklyn has only deepened the sense of awe that the California coastline inspires in me. My mind’s eye has created even more epic visions of the scenery. I remember the ocean spray where it hits the cliffs being like 1,000 feet high or something. I also love the frontier history in California, especially in the Lake Tahoe area, for example. I love ghost towns and the tragic Donner Party stories and mountain folklore and wild west culture. It’s so imaginative and dark and I think it’s awesome when musicians can tastefully capture the feeling of weird ghost towns and things. My cousin Avery from the band Ismay recently did a tour on horseback of a bunch of ghost towns in California and Nevada. I thought that was the coolest idea.
TBB: Do you feel like you represent Brooklyn or Boston when you’re on the road, or do you try to skirt around representation like that?
MG: I think now we’re representing Brooklyn over Boston though we still hold Boston as our place of origin. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a Brooklyn band. I wonder what people expect when they hear that we are a Brooklyn band. I wonder if they think we’ll be on the cutting edge or if they expect us to be pretentious like we’re too cool for school cause we live in Brooklyn or something. I do feel an obligation to present something new and exciting to people. Like ‘Look! this is what Brooklyn is into right now, this is the trendy stuff!’ but the truth is we feel like an outsider band in Brooklyn as well. I understand that people like to and have a right to know where their favorite bands are from and that as a band you need to own it. My hope is we can get people to have a good time just with the music and not a whole lot of explanation to go with it.
TBB: What inspires you day in and day out? Is it a constant, or do you have to look for it?
MG: Shows. Especially when I have my mind blown by someone unexpected. No matter who I turn up to see I just hope that the band will stimulate my imagination. It’s like every time I’ve gone to see the band Babes they so immediately engage me and I feel like I’m being taken for the ride. I don’t have to search my mind for reasons to enjoy this band. They just lay it out there and it’s seemingly effortless for everyone. This is what inspires me to hone the Evolfo show, I want people to step into something and enter the space and the atmosphere and enjoy themselves. I get nothing out of the show if the audience is held captive by anything other than our music. It’s a two way street, anyone standing and watching deserves a show!
TBB: This is the end of a tour, right? Where have you been before that you’re excited to return to? Which dates are new cities or venues?
MG: Yup! We are wrapping up the last five shows of a West Coast tour. So, so pumped to get back to the California beach towns like Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. We’re in new venues in those two cites: Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara and Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz. People are always open-minded, looking for a good time in these places and that arms-crossed-waiting-to-be-impressed look we experience sometimes is virtually nonexistent. Of course as always we are psyched to return to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, that’s always like a dream come true weekend, we spend the whole time with stars in our eyes as our favorite bands take the stage after us.
TBB: What took you guys so long to get some songs recorded? Was it intentional?
Rafferty Swink: We intentionally allowed ourselves as much time as we needed to make something we were proud of. A lot of times I think bands get caught up with deadlines that are often times unnecessary. We didn’t want our music or recording time to be compromised by that.
TBB: What kind of things have you guys been doing to prepare for this tour? Is there a certain routine you try to keep on?
RS: Resting up and rehearsing is what we do to prepare. Then once we get out on the road it’s all about trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle as best as possible. Getting good sleep and eating as healthy as possible make touring more sustainable and the shows better.
TBB: What sort of band bucket list items have you been able to cross off? What dreams do you still have, musically?
RS: The dream is to continue playing bigger and better venues with bands that we dig and look up to. Opening for a band like The Black Lips or Ty would be the ultimate. The main bucket list item that’s been crossed off is putting out this record and hitting the road to support it. We’ve had really positive response to the new material and I am excited to keep that momentum going with new releases and bigger shows.
TBB: Tell me about one of your first shows together. From that show to now, what’s changed and what hasn’t?
RS: One of our first shows took places in a grimy basement in Allston, Massachusetts. It was sweaty, wild, and held together with a shoestring. The only thing that’s really changed since then is the music. I think we’ve developed our own thing and grown into our skin as performers a bit. That allows us to push the wild and reckless energy further.
TBB: What’s coming up next for the band after this tour wraps?
RS: More recording and more touring! We’re going to be back in the studio to polish off the final mixes on another set of songs that will be coming out in the spring. We’re also planning on doing an East Coast tour towards the end of November.
TBB: What’s your favorite piece of gear you use and why?
I’m a big vintage guy. The only vintage item I’ll use live is my ’70s Silvertone Silhouette guitar because the amps and stuff are too breakable. The Silvertone is awesome though, I would say it’s my favorite piece of gear. It’s such a different thing from what I’ve played most of my life and I can’t get enough of it. It’s got this really round and dusty kind of surf thing going on and it distorts naturally either because of its age or the way it is wired. I guess I don’t dig too deep when picking out the gear I love, if I play it and it works and it suits me then I use it. I feel like explanations for why these things sound good sometimes just cloud the most important question which is simply, ‘Does it sound good to me?’ In the end all I can do is trust my own ear. I guess explanations help when I’m searching to buy something new though, I’ve got to know what’s inside so I know what to ask around for.