When the Cajun Slamgrass act Leftover Salmon was born — the result of a merger of the Salmon Heads and the Left Hand String Band — the world was a markedly different place. Salmon Rushdie had just had a price placed on his head by the Ayatollah of Iran, The Berlin Wall was officially down, and Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel was the top-selling album of the year. Now, 25 years later, Leftover Salmon continues its epic run — despite the loss more than a decade ago of founding member/banjoist Mark Vann — and adds another album to its discography packaged with a new signature brew from Breckenridge Brewery called Silver Salmon. Here, guitarist/vocalist Vince Herman and bassist Greg Garrison talk about legalized pot, living on the road and jamming for a quarter of a century.
French Davis: First off, congrats on making it a quarter of a century. What’s your secret?
Vince Herman: What? I thought it’s only been 6 years! Selective memory is awesome! But really, we enjoy this more than anything we could imagine doing. Going to that place where a group of people can be of one mind for a few moments in time is an essential part of my experience of being human. Seriously. That experience is serious medicine. Now the driving, flying, waiting, missing home part is just what you have to tolerate to make a living doing what fulfills you. Having a group of friends who know each other well musically allows you to go places you can’t get to in a pickup band and it becomes addictive I guess.
FD: Tell us about the new album — some of the tracks that made the final cut, and why you chose those.
Greg Garrison: 25 is a collection of stuff from shows over the past three years — but the material covers the band’s whole career. We tried to pick performances that showcase what we sounded like with Bill Payne (pianist) in the band — kind of find some moments that went in unexpected directions, like on “Keep Driving.” And there are some staples of our live shows like “Boogie” in there too. And a really fun version of “Blister in the Sun.”
VH: Part of the fun of being in a band for so long is that there’s a lot of material that when you pull out an old gem that fits like a good hat, you get a warm fuzzy feeling. That’s what this record feels like.
FD: Aside from personnel changes and the loss of loved ones, what are a few ways Leftover Salmon of today is different from the Leftover Salmon of 1989?
VH: Well, there’s a 26-year-old in the band still, but it’s not Drew and I anymore, it’s Alwyn (Robinson, the band’s new drummer). We’re a bit more technologically advanced in terms of our instrument rigs, which makes it easier to get our acoustic instruments up to rock-and-roll volume than it was in the ’80s. I like to think our songwriting has evolved in a positive direction, and I guess we know a lot more people when we go out on the road now. Oh, and pot’s legal!
FD: Looking back at 25 years, what are you most proud of?
VH: That both of my sons have a deep love of music and its social value.
FD: What do you wish you had done differently?
VH: I guess I wish I’d been home more, but that’s not something you can wish your way into when you do this for a living.
FD: Your beloved home state has sure changed a lot during your tenure here. What do you think of the Colorado of today versus the one you started out in?
VH: Didn’t it seem higher up in the air before, or am I just higher? I’m glad Colorado is leading the country in beginning to stop the farce of the drug war.
FD: What’s on tap for the next 25 years?
VH: Silver Salmon lager by Breckinridge Brewery and continuing to do what feels best without much of a bigger plan.
Leftover Salmon plays the Boulder Theater Nov. 27–28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $32+, www.bouldertheater.com