In 2014, Consider the Source dropped their first studio album in four years, World War Trio: Part I, and Upstate New York was honored with the inaugural live voyage when CTS played a special release show on Halloween in Albany. The trio has a devout following and the album showcases the creativity, talent, and discipline that flow smoothly and abundantly from each band member.
I recently caught up with the guys from CTS to get some insight into the sorcery. I learned Winooski, Vermonters can attest that Gabe was really bad before getting really good, John’s favorite musical moment came while jamming with Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff lets his good looks do 99% of the talking. Check out the interview to learn more about the best trio going.
Garrett William Montgomery (GW): You guys have been at it a while, you’ve been together about 10 years?
John Ferrara (JF): This is technically our tenth year.
Gabriel Marin (GM): The first couple years was just every month or so we’d get together and jam a bit.
GW: A mutual friend introduced you?
JF: A mutual friend introduced Gabe and the original drummer, Justin, and Justin and I grew up together. So when Justin jammed with Gabe he was like, ‘hey, you gotta come play with this guitarist.’
GM: I have a vivd image of Justin’s old band and my old band playing together at CBGB’s next door. And I remember thinking that guy is nasty so when I got with Justin, I was like ‘you gotta get that guy John to come jam.’ So that was pretty fun. Our bands played with a lot of mutual friends so we knew of each other, but didn’t know each other.
JF: It’s funny… Gabe was in the most popular band in his high school and not to be… I’ll just say, my band was pretty good too.
GW: You were in your school’s best band too, you can say it John. It’s no surprise. So, Justin was the original drummer?
GM: Yeah, and he was great, it’s great. He’s still a good friend and came to our show in New York; his brother’s our manager.
GW: So where do you come into the picture, Jeff?
Jeff Mann (JM): Craigslist (laughs).
GM: We did a lot of trials, and he was the last of the first batch.
JF: We had all sorts of crazy online things. Some were really good, but some were really weird.
GM: We had a lot of guys really good at one aspect…jazzy, or heavy, but not rounding it all together. We also thought he was the hottest (laughs).
GW: Those locks are striking. Speaking of looks…how did the all white/ all black outfits come about?
JF: We had talked about doing it for a while. One day we just did it
GM: We mentioned it for such a long time. We all had the idea, it happened once, and we were like ‘wow, it works.’ Now it’s a mental thing for us, it’s a mental thing for the audience. It’s also a practical thing because the lights never bounce weird off them. The only thing that’s tough is keeping the whites white on tour.
JF: Coffee stains…any stains…(laughs). No, but it’s cool. It cleanses the palette, sets the stone, clears the space before we start playing. We spend so much time in the van driving, often 8 or 9 hours a day in whatever clothes we’re in, clothes from the day before sometimes. It’s really hard to do laundry on the road. After a stressful day if we get a flat tire or the AC breaks, we’re like ‘ok, let’s get up here and we’re fresh. It’s show time!’
GW: Before getting up there, how do you come up with a set list?
GM: It’s a group set list. We change the order up, but we keep most songs from night to-night. We have enough freedom within the songs that even if we did play the same exact set different nights, people would think it’s totally different.
GW: Right. Lots of improv. So how do you communicate during jams and improv runs?
JF: Just listening, and there are a few musical cues.
JM: Lots of eye contact.
GM: If someone has an extended solo, anything can happen for a while, but eventually it’ll land somewhere on something we all realized we’re going with.
JF: Then when we get into one of those sections, there’s a lot of freedom for each of us to do whatever we feel. The three of us all listen to different music, but there’s a lot of overlap. And because we’re always in the van together, we’re listening to music together. I think we’re getting to the point where we’re speaking the same language so even when we’re practicing, we hear each other and warm up on ideas, and they all seep in and then on stage, you’ll realize ‘oh yeah, that’s Gabe doing that thing from rehearsal,’ or Jeff’s doing some cool drum thing and it’s like ‘that’s from the other night. I see where he’s going.’
GM: It becomes one mind. Sometimes we’ll be practicing on opposite sides of the room, just stop, and look at each other. Without saying anything but we know, “yeah, that was it!”
GW: So…Gabe, how did you get that guitar?
GM: It’s the fretless and the fretted. I saw a long time ago a picture in a guitar magazine. And then I saw someone play it on TV when I was 19 or 20 and I knew that’s how I wanted to play. On the old jazz channel, it was the Screaming Headless Torsos. And the midi pickups, I saw some guy doing some really bad stuff with it…he sounded really cheesy, but I remember thinking it could be really great with the fretless. The day I got it we had a gig in Winooski, VT and I had never used it before and I was terrible. But a couple of days later it just clicked and sounded great. I remember John being like ‘Why would you play it on the first day?!’
JF: That was an assault man (laughs).
GW: You’ve got a pretty sweet Roland drum pad, Jeff…
JM: I had a pad for a long time. I didn’t use it much when I joined the band, but there were a couple of songs that needed samples so I started using it more. I’ve been slowly incorporating it a little more.
GW: You guys play acoustic and electric sets… do you prefer one or the other?
JF: It’s cool having both. I don’t think any of us really prefer either. It’s cool now because we’re kinda starting fresh again… it’s kind of like a new band. We each have instruments that we’re not as proficient on. It makes us think differently and approach song-writing differently, too. We’d never have a 4 minute song with electric stuff. It’s a new perspective. For the past 4 years or so, we have built up so much material, so it’s nice to have a fresh batch of music.
GW: So the acoustic side is relatively new?
JF: Yeah. We just did one set at Catskill Chill a few years ago and it was awesome but pretty unstructured. Then we really started doing it last summer. And this summer it’s become really solidified.
JM: No one else is really doing it, so it’s a nice thing to have.
GM: If it was all-electric, it could be too much after a while even for us. We all like intense music. But after one set, it can be enough. Playing the acoustic stuff gives us the opportunity to do two sets and not be overly intense. Although, it’s not like the acoustic set is less intense…just less loud (laughs).
JF: It’s in a different vein.
GW: Alright…so, an average music fan at their 1st CTS show…what do you tell them going into it?
JF: One thing we pride ourselves on is that we have something for everyone. We have so many different sides…the world side, a metal side, a large improvisational side rooted in our love for jazz, we have funk, ever since Jeff joined we have reggae, some other new stuff. And we don’t have a singer…so what? We have elements that will resonate with everyone. Most genres in the west we cover to some extent.
GW: Are there any special moments you’ve all had as a band?
JF: We did a festival last summer and Oteil Burbridge came in and jammed. That was one of the coolest moments ever. From the first note it was just special. That was the best.
GM: I think we’ve got to wrap it up now, but I hope you’ll think tonight is pretty special too.