Vintage To The Core; An Interview With C.W. Vance of Farnsworth

West Virginia’s native sons Farnsworth showcase homegrown rock to the core.  The duo (guitarist/vocals C.W. Vance and drummer/vocals Jason Reese) bring soulful ’60s layered melodies, ’70s hook heavy riffs, and a sneer from the ’90s.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Vance to chat a little about Farnsworth’s history and the duo’s hometown music scene.  We also talked a little about the band’s recent release ‘Elk City’, which dropped on November 20th.

 The two of you decided to start the band after having a discussion at a local record shop.  Having known each other for a little bit, what took so long to have you work together?

Well it’s funny because we actually “jammed” together in a group once in high school when I was trying out to be the second guitar player in his band. I was really excited to try out because I knew Jason was such a great drummer however, when the time came for the solo the band leader looked at me and said “Do it, take a solo!” and I just froze. Turns out, I didn’t make the cut haha.

I didn’t really get serious about putting a band together until 2011 (six years after high school) and I knew I needed to seek Jason out again.

We don’t hear too much about the music scene in Charleston, West Virginia.  What could you tell us about that people are missing?

WV has a pretty diverse music scene with groups from folk to metal, to alt-country and rock. There are a lot of incredible bands that have come from WV, Ducain, The Demon Beat, American Minor, Byzantine (to name a few) and we always get the response of “You’re from WV???”. It’s a beautiful place but has been ravaged by antiquated industries and I think that says a lot about our work ethic and DIY nature. 

The band has been dubbed “equal parts The Black Keys and The Black Crowes”.  What is it about these bands that inspired Farnsworth?

Jason got me turned on to the Black Keys and like most others, we think they are an incredible group and have strived to push ourselves to do as much as we can ourselves, be it recording or touring. The Black Crowes are just such an amazing band that it’s hard not to like them!

The lead single to ‘Elk City’ has a clear vintage rock sound to it.  How much influence came out during the writing process of the single?

Thank you! Well, Jason and I are huge vinyl buffs and as such, listen to a lot of 60’s and 70’s material. As you can imagine, our road trips have us playing the usual Free, Grand Funk, and Cream but we also listen to a lot of Lee Michaels, Charles Bradley, and Sly and The Family Stone. People ask us if we set out to write “70’s rock” but it really isn’t something that we have decided to do on purpose, it’s just how we write, derivative of what we listen to.

How long did the writing and recording process take for ‘Elk City’?

We hit the studio (Musicol) in mid Oct of 2016 and tracked the basics of the record, and when we walked out on Sunday night (we tracked it in three days) the record was “completely fleshed out”. But, we wanted to take some time and listen to it to find just what the songs needed.

Being mainly a two person ensemble, do you find the creative process of setting up the songs equal?

While Jason and I are the core and founding members of the group, we did record this record as a three piece with a former member. We used to be a two piece (ala The Black Keys) with an octave pedal and bass amp to fill out the lows but, ultimately we wanted to be able to stretch out a bit and fill the sound out more. At this time we do perform as a trio. Maybe it’s a case of Farnsworth and Friends? Haha.

You worked with Zachary D. Gabbard and Mike Montgomery, who are two amazing Ohio musicians/producers.  I’m assuming that you were big fans of the twosome’s work with their respective bands?

Oh absolutely! We are huuuuuge fans of The Buffalo Killers. As a band they just kill and it is a wonderful experience to hear each new album and see the direction. With that being said, we knew of Mike from The Buffalo Killers and had dreamed of recording with them both. Which is exactly what recording was like with them; a dream! They are amazing at what they do and couldn’t be more down to earth. We hope to work with them again. Personally I (Chris) am a gear nerd and would listen to Mike’s work and try to figure out what he was using for different songs. Being in Candyland, as well as Musicol, was like being a kid in a candy store for me.

The two of you recorded all tracks live, in the same room with minimal separation unto 2” tape over the course of 36 hours.  With the advancement of digital recording, what was the reasoning with going towards going with tape instead?

When we were on tour last year we stopped by Musicol and did a walk thru of the studio and chatted with Keith Hanlon about what we wanted to do and he was so accommodating and excited to make a record with us. Musicol is like stepping back in time with loads of vintage RCA ribbon mics, Neumann tube mics, and vintage compressors galore. Not to mention that the tape machines are top notch vintage Ampex and 3M decks that are used daily. To be able to record like your favorite bands did was really enjoyable. Recording, including overdubbing, with tape isn’t as hard as some imagine. The workflow is very linear and organic. It is nice to be able to make a decision on a sound and lock it in, it takes the guess work out of it later.

I noticed that the band has some dates coming up in the next month or two.  Are there any plans on doing some extensive touring further down the road?

We are currently mapping out some dates for early next year in Ohio, Michigan, and possibly New York. Our goal is to go wherever they will have us and kick out the jams and hope to make fans in the process.

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