Concert Preview

The Maldives and Tequila at Sunrise

Seattle’s beloved alt-country band talks booze and "American" music before the No Depression Festival.

By Judy Naegeli August 18, 2010

The Maldives open the 2010 No Depression Festival.

This weekend’s No Depression Festival at Marymoor Park had a void to fill after the Punch Brothers dropped out at the last minute (due to scheduling conflicts, or irreconcilable differences, or fear of pigeons —one of those). Thankfully, Seattle’s beloved alt-country band the Maldives stepped in, completing an already stellar roots-music lineup that includes Lucinda Williams, Swell Season, local acts the Cave Singers and Sera Cahoone. Maldives front man Jason Dodson talks about the band’s last-minute inclusion and future plans.

You were added to the lineup because the Punch Brothers backed out. How do you feel about that?

I feel great about it! We are honored to play the ND Festival, and it gives us a chance to play our new songs for a nice, big audience. To be honest, I’m not even sure who the Punch Brothers are.

I understand you were quite a hit at the SXSW 2010 No Depression Showcase. Have you done a lot with ND in the past?

We played the No Depression Festival last year, albeit in a truncated form for the Seattle All-Star Revue group, covering a Levon Helm song. I’d never been on a stage that big before, so it took a lot of tequila to muster up my courage. Luckily we only had to play one song, early in the day, so I didn’t mess it up. I have since quit drinking before shows… And Austin was a blast! There were some nice folks who lived down there that said we put the local boys to shame. That is a high compliment coming from the birthplace of outlaw country.

What about the other performers? Have you played with any of them before?

Sera is a great friend of ours, and we’ve shared many a stage with her and her band. We all kind of started playing our own music around the same time. A few years back we played up in Roslyn, at the Brick. I used to have a picture of the marquee up there, because they misspelled both our names on the board. I always thought that was funny. I’ve heard those Cave Singers are nice people.

It seems like roots music has been enjoying a big revival. Is that true? What are your thoughts on the genre in general?

I’m not sure “roots” music ever went away. I’ve noticed young people really latching on to the sound, so maybe that’s why it seems like a revival of sorts. I’ve always liked the term “roots” music, as opposed to “alt-country” or “Americana” or even “folk.” “Roots” implies something deeper, something with connections, something familial. It’s comforting to me. I’ve always said the Maldives play “American” music, which is pretty broad, because I can’t figure out how to describe what we do.

How long have the Maldives been together and what are your influences, personally and as a group?

This lineup has been together for about four years now, though I was out playing as the Maldives in different forms for about two years before that. We all bring our own influences to the band, though there are a few we can all agree on: Neil Young, the Band, Gram Parsons, Willie Nelson, and Bruce Springsteen. Throw in some Beach Boys and some Bob Dylan, especially the Rolling Thunder Revue, and I’d say that covers some of the major bases. There’s a ton of other stuff; we’re all pretty well-versed music nerds.

Any big news or future plans you’d like to share?

I’m excited to be taking some time off from playing shows this fall and getting back into the studio to record. I’m not sure if we’re gonna be making a new full-length album, or just an EP, but it’ll be good to give the new songs a try. And I’m excited to see how people receive Lynn Shelton’s $5 Cover: Seattle series she made for MTV, of which we were a part. That should be out in October. Other than that, my only plans are to follow old Woody Guthrie’s advice: Take it easy, but take it.

The No Depression Festival is Saturday, August 21, at Marymoor Park. Tickets are $45-$50, and the fest opens with the Maldives at 1:30pm.

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