AmericanaFest 2017: Escondido

photo: Marina Chavez

“We had our first Pitchfork review about an Elliot Smith tribute we did, and they said, ‘One of the more interesting takes came from members of the younger generation who probably grew up after Elliot Smith passed away.’ We were like, ‘What are you talking about? Do you think we’re 15?’ I’m 35 years old!” laughs Escondido’s Tyler James. “You’re so old!” exclaims his partner in musical crime Jessica Maros. In fact, since unleashing their debut in 2013, Nashville’s Escondido, made of music-making duo Tyler James and Jessica Maros, have garnered millions of streams on Spotify alone, and have toured the land spreading their desert-esque brand of dusty Americana—Dusticana? We feel good about it. Now, the pair is gearing up for their first AmericanaFest appearance, and have a new album, Warning Bells, on the way.

“We can all relate to it I think; during the making of this album, there was so much change happening around us—the election, a new president, and a lot of different things around,” Maros explains of the timely-named album. “We had that title before everything started happening, but I think that a lot of the songs deal with what happens when you start becoming aware of things happening in life.” Warning Bells was recorded in Eagle Rock, California with veteran producer Rob Schnapf. “He produced a lot of our favorite records from Elliot Smith, Kurt Vile, and Beck, so we were stoked to have the opportunity to work with someone else for the first time on a record,” James explains. “I produced our first two records; the first one we recorded in Nashville in one day in one studio, and the second was mostly done in my bedroom. This time, we worked with a producer, and we had a couple of months in a cool studio to learn from someone who’d made so many records we listen to a lot. We let whatever happened happen—we thought it would sound like Rob’s other records he’d produced, but it ended up sounding like us still, which was reassuring to know that our sound finds us no matter what approach we take,” he continues. “We have a lot of stuff that sounds like our other albums, but this time, we were a little less precious about some of the songs, and let them become what they are.” “I loved having a third person, an outside perspective, who was a neutral being in the room. It helped us communicate our thoughts and ideas in an easier way. The process was a lot slower than what we were used to, and I really appreciated that. It seems like in Nashville, and maybe everywhere else, people just crank out songs really fast. This was really different, we took our time,” Maos continues. “The stillness was cool, it allowed our music to breathe.”

On September 8th, the band gave us a taste of what’s to come with the release of “Darkness,” the first single from the album. “We really experimented with different vibes; we usually are an all guitar and trumpet-based band, but this time we added some keyboards, which is a little out of our element. It’s still a very Southwestern and tropical desert feeling, but it’s a different taste,” says Maros. “Sometimes you can’t really explain why. You just go with the moment.”

“We’ll be using our show at AmericanaFest to test out some of the new material, as well as all our hits. Honestly, I’m not sure how we’re going to fit all of our hits in only one set,” laughs James. “We’ve taught our fans cheers they had to learn before they show up.” “I’m sure people will be chanting and jumping up and down.” adds Maros. “Everyone should bring their trumpets to the show!” “Yeah! Maybe they could learn parts to the songs before the show and they can play with us form the audience. I can put out an instructional video on our YouTube channel before the tour!!” James interjects as Maros adds, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Catch Escondido’s AmericanaFest show on Saturday, September 16th at 9:30 p.m. at Cannery Ballroom.

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