As a part of the sixth annual Porch Stomp season, we're working with Beehive Productions, NYC Ferry and Blue Point Brewery to bring you a series of videos featuring artists spanning the gamut of NYC folk scene (and then some). Check out our blog every month for new videos and interviews with artists, and be sure to follow us on instagram: @porchstomp and Facebook: Porch Stomp
I can still remember the night that I first heard Robert Bock of The Locksmiths. It was a Tuesday evening in January 2014 when all of New York seemed to have frozen over, and my traverse through Red Hook, a neighborhood I’d only recently discovered, led me to the Jalopy Theatre for their weekly Open Mic. Taking a seat in the rickety pews amongst the rustic red curtains, I found myself lost in the mournful pining of Bock's words: "I'm going back to Nashville on a slow decline... where the broken hearts come has easy as the rhyme". Crescendoing poetry crooned with grit, his every line seemed more personal than the last, culling upon the heartstrings of one's deepest desires and strongest regrets.
Robert Bock and the Locksmiths have become a longstanding stalwart within the Porch Stomp community, bringing with them a sound that exemplifies the heart of “Gothic Americana”. Wielding vocalization inspired by the greats of rock and roll and lyricism derived from the literary heroes of the 19th and 20th centuries, the band's extension into the world of folk provides the ideal pallet for Bock's (often) dark storytelling. Their debut self-titled album dawned the grooves and timbres of country and bluegrass, calling upon the twang of dobro, fiddle and mandolin and the cradle of rich vocal harmony to evoke the woes of American life.
This week, however, Robert Bock sets out on a new creative voyage in the form of a solo EP entitled "from a chrysler 7". Upon a first listen, the picture Bock paints here is unadulterated; just a man, his guitar and his words, a world amongst his imagery and stories with only fuzzy melancholy to draw us along. Woodshed upon the NYC folk music circuit and within the heart of Big City Folk's Thursday Night Song Club, Bock's storytelling has become more crystalline than ever before.
This EP is a true "must have" for NYC folk music aficionatos. Check out The Locksmiths' new EP due out July 20th on both Spotify and Bandcamp. In the meantime, see them playing their song "Old Guitar" live on the roof of The Haylaught in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn below. Continue reading for a Q&A with Robert below.
What are your roots as a songwriter and lyricist and how did you get involved in the folk musician community here in NYC?
My roots as a songwriter started around high school and college when I began experimenting with finding my own voice. I started out in theater interpreting what others had to say and realized maybe I wanted to say something myself. I discovered the folk scene around January 2014 when I attended an open mic at The Jalopy. I had already been digging into country and folk music on my own, but didn't realize there was a whole community of people out there with the same interest.
Words seem to be paramount to the Locksmiths’ identity as “Gothic Americana”- who are your favorite poets, lyricists, and authors, and why?
Some of my favorite authors are Faulkner, Dostoevsky, and Hardy. I think they have a way of telling stories that really captures the reader's attention, but also makes them work for it. I think this makes the narrative journey very rewarding. They incorporate so many characters and are able to create a mood with the words they choose (and omit). As far as lyricists I think there are the more obvious choices (i.e. Lennon/McCartney, Dylan, Simon), but I think Colin Meloy may be one I lean towards also. Just like the writers I mentioned, he writes in a way that makes the listener work for it. He tells relevant themes through old stories and uses language as an important tool. He isn't writing for the lowest common denominator. But if you want to know, currently my favorite three are Joe Pug, Niall Connolly, and Matt Sucich.
What are you favorite NYC venues (past or present) and tell us about your favorite gig in NYC.
There are way too many great venues to name and I love them all for so many different reasons. There's the Way Station for its quirky eclecticism, LIC Bar for its staunch love of music, Caffe Vivaldi (RIP) for its history, Rockwood for its renown, the list goes on and on. But my favorite gig in NYC would have to be earlier this year at The Scratcher. I felt lucky and honored to have played there because of the songwriters that have passed through their doors and because of what the room offers. I was allowed to share my songs with a roomful of eager listeners who were there for the music knowing it would be of a certain quality. It is a safe listening space and I was allowed to present my craft. It felt like I was on holy ground for songwriters and that feeling will stay with me forever.
How long have you been involved in Porch Stomp and what are you some favorite Porch Stomp memories?
I've been with Porch Stomp since year 1 (missed one year) and It is always a treat to be part of such an incredible event. Some of my favorite memories are meeting new people and discovering new music (ex. Mike O'Malley, Dougmore), the impromptu performance I had with Christian Apuzzo (year 1 or 2?), the year of the torrential downpour where I also first brought my daughter Anna, and this past year when I shared the stage with the Big City Folk Collective and Anna was old enough get in on the performance.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to aspiring musicians looking to make their way into the folk music community?
My advice to those looking to get into the folk music community would be to get out there and make friends. Most of the friends I have now are people I met in the folk music community and I love hearing their music and finding out what projects they have coming up. It's important to remember that the people you support will also support you. It's a community. Visit the open mics and the jams and the song clubs because you never know who you'll meet.
Feel free to check out more of the Locksmiths music at https://thelocksmithsband.bandcamp.com/releases .
Special thanks to Jeff and Sue of Beehive Productions.