A Strong Connection

The Faux Paws trio has a stirring range of fiddle tunes, saxophone solos and a roots feel to their recent self-titled release. According to their press release, the band has played for more than ten years and the brothers “Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand grew up playing contra dance music with their musician mother in the band Great Bear. Chris Miller grew up in Florida, and he was enamored with bluegrass, and studied jazz before going on to play with GRAMMY nominated Cajun-country band The Revelers.”

The trio has traveled near and far in North America and with the release of their new release, Andrew VanNorstrand took time to answer some questions for Jupiter Index.

Jupiter Index: Can you talk about how you three came together to play and about your debut release record The Faux Paws?

Andrew VanNorstrand I first met Chris at the Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camp in the Catskills back in 2009. We really hit it off! My brother Noah and I have been playing together since we were little and we have a very strong musical connection. Chris fits into that dynamic in a really awesome way. Sometimes he blends and matches us, sometimes he interrupts the "mind-meld" and shakes things up. We first played together in the Andrew & Noah Band and then later in the dance band Great Bear but that whole time we would also occasionally play shows as a trio. So it feels great to finally be focusing on this configuration!

JI: Your music has good lyrics and melodies; can you give us a bit of background about writing the songs and music for the new album?

AV: The material on the album is a real mix of old and new. Some of those tracks have been live show staples for close to ten years. Others we were still tweaking even while we were in the studio! Noah and I write most of the original material on our setlist. I have more of a singer-songwriter background while Noah tends to focus on the high energy dance tunes. But all three of us contribute a lot to the arrangements and production.

JI: Tell us what the recording process was like for you on the release and was there a track that was more difficult to finish?

AV: We got together with our long-time friend / engineer / producer / band mate Dana Billings at this cozy little barn studio in Trumansburg, NY. It was a cold, snowy week in February and we just hunkered down and worked on the tracks, tried out ideas, and kind of discovered what this album was gonna sound like. Some of it was pretty surprising! Especially the newer material that wasn't road-tested. We tried to be patient and let the songs lead the way. There are always a couple tricky numbers in any recording session and they're almost never the ones you expect them to be. I remember we were workshopping "She's Not Looking for You" and Noah and Chris saying "Yeah, we love this song but it really needs another verse." By the next day, I had a few more lines and it all just came together.

JI: Which artists do you feel have made an influence on the band thus far?

AV: We've got a pretty broad spectrum of influences for a folk / roots trio. Noah and I grew up with dance music from New England and Quebec, but also listening to a lot of western swing, country, bluegrass and old-time music. Chris brings a deeper level of experience with jazz, Cajun and zydeco, but was also listening to some of the same music as us. A few specific artists that come to mind: Bela Fleck, Nickel Creek, Gillian Welch, Jeff Tweedy, Liz Carroll, Sufjan Stevens, The Mammals, Richard and Linda Thompson, La Bottine Souriante, Donna The Buffalo, Bruce Molsky, The Clayfoot Strutters, Jenny Lewis.

JI: What are your plans for the fall with the album? Would you like to add anything more about your music?

AV: The album officially comes out on August 27 and I am just so excited for everyone to finally hear it! We aren't touring very much this fall and of course there are lots of unknowns these days. But we've been working on a couple music videos over the summer with some fantastic visual artists and those will be coming out soon! I'm excited to see how this music connects with folks and where it takes us. We are already starting to think about touring plans for 2022.

by G.M. Burns