Today’s Feature – May 27-28: Angel Band

May 28, 2008 at 10:03 pm (Today's Feature)

From their style, to their title, to their harmonies, Angel Band is hard to ignore or pass over. They’re obviously not your everyday group of artists – an all female trio of lead singers that jump harmonies effortlessly with an all-star cast backing them up with instruments from the guitar and the bass to the dobro, mandolin and fiddle. Specifically, your angels are Nancy Josephson, Jen Schonwald and Kathleen Weber, and their backup band (known as “Chum”) includes David Bromberg, Bobby Tangrea, Bob Taylor, Jeff Wisor and Nate Grower.

Starting out by covering some of the best folk artists in the business, the Angel Band is now busy writing their own material, slaying audiences with talent across the board, “whether it’s the crazy tight three part harmony, the killer backup playing, the stories, the passion or the compassion, it gets your attention.” Certainly, it’s easy to think that it’s tough for three lead vocalists to get along, but with the entire trio coming from a background that includes “American acoustic music from folk, country, bluegrass and Appalachian music to blues and gospel,” their performances have been seamless.

The newest album is titled “With Roots & Wings,” with songs that are “mostly self-penned, weaving vivid images, powerful lyrics, musical integrity and ‘chops’ to write home about.” Making the work even more exceptional is the contribution from producer Lloyd Maines, pulling together all the best aspects of the Angel Band. Check out the collection – it’s truly a piece of sincere work. And get out to a show; these women are out to have a good time. Jump into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Angel Band

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us how Angel Band first came together? Was an instant connection or did it take a while for the band to really form?

Nancy of Angel Band: Angel Band first started about 3 years ago. David (Bromberg…our guitar player) started having jam sessions on Tuesday nights at a local cafe. People came out of the woodwork..really, really good musicians. David kept telling me about this family musicians who showed up regularly. The mom and daughter sang harmony and the dad and son played guitar and mandolin. After bugging me about it for weeks I finally went down to the jam. These women could sing! I added a high harmony. That was it! Bob Taylor, our bass player, was also an original member based out of the jam sessions.

The family moved on after about a year or so. Bobby Tangrea showed up at one of the jams and took the position of mandolin/guitar and fiddle player. Jen followed, then a series of other singers. Finally, about a year and a half ago we found Kathleen.

PEV: How have your abilities or style as musicians changed since your earlier days of playing music?

Nancy: We’re now writing all of our own material. We started by doing covers of either contemporary folk writers (like Gillian Welch) or traditional stuff.

PEV: Growing up in, what kind of music were you listening to?

Nancy: We all listened to whatever was on the radio as well as a wider array of really good music. We all have a background in American acoustic music from folk, country, bluegrass and Appalachian music to blues and gospel.

PEV: Tell us about the earlier days in the music business for the band? Before you were playing regularly and able to put out album after album.

Nancy: Album after album? We’re hoping and wishing and dreaming and…(to paraphrase Dusty Springfield).

We’ve been fortunate to be tied to David musically. We’ve had opportunities to be playing in front of his crazy audience which means playing in front of perhaps thousands rather than hundreds…or even tens!

PEV: Was there a certain point when you realized that music was going to become more than just a hobby?

Nancy: I think when the first incarnation of the band morphed into the second it required a conscious decision about if and then how to go forward.

PEV: Having worked with several top artists, who have you not collaborated with so far that you would like to?

Nancy: We’d love to work more with The Subdudes. I’m also really intrigued by Bruce Hornsby’s music. Emmylou would be someone fun to work with…I guess we just love playing and we’d be happy to play with anyone who also loved playing.

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best scene for music?

Nancy: Hard to say…when we travel it’s so we can play. Going out to see others only happens when we’re home. Thankfully Philly has a really cool music scene.

PEV: How has “life on the road” been for the band? Good parts? Bad parts? Any favorite spots to hit on the road?

Nancy: Oddly enough this band doesn’t have the drama that many other bands experience. Us girls like to get to a town and walk around. The boys mostly hang, get ready for the gig. Sometimes I’ll write with either Bobby or Bobby and Marc (our sound man). We’ll get to soundcheck, rehearse, have some dinner and go to work.

So far there hasn’t been a place we haven’t liked!

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Angel Band performance?

Nancy: Fun, musical integrity and…more fun.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist out right now that you think we should all be looking into?

Nancy: David and I have been listening to Old School Freight Train a lot. Great playing and singing. Ollabelle is another band fav.

PEV: What can fans expect from your sophomore release, “With Roots & Wings”?

Nancy: All the songs (except Angel of the Morning) are originals. Lloyd Maines’ production work is extraordinary. He took the best parts of the band and put ’em on this CD.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Angel Band?

Nancy: We’re pretty normal. Kinda just like anyone else.

PEV: When you sit down to write, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

I have to have complete silence when I write. I usually am writing 2 or 3 songs at a time. I have them all on my computer and I go from one to another just throwing out lines or words that fit.

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio right now, what would we find?

Nancy: The exact same crap hanging around from the last practice.

PEV: When you are not touring or performing, what can we find the band doing in their spare time?

Nancy: Kathleen has a landscaping business. Jen works with her Dad…they own some apartments. I do the band stuff and also am a visual artist. David has a violin shop. Bobby works at a computer company. Bob has a woodworking company. Nate just plays the hell out of the fiddle.

PEV: Before a show, are there any pre-show rituals you do or is just go out there and perform?

Nancy: We “tune” our voices. The band tunes up and off we go.

PEV: There are not many all-female trios. Do you find that maybe you have something to prove to the music business, that artists like yourselves can be successful with your current formula?

Nancy: We’re not terribly interested in proving anything. We’re interested in making good, true music. What shakes out is what’ll shake out.

PEV: In one word, describe Angel Band.

Nancy: Beautiful.

PEV: So, what is next for Angel Band?

Nancy: First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.

For more information on Angel Band, check out cdbaby.com/cd/angelband

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