Musical Chemistry: Q&A with Impossible Bird

This Saturday, Impossible Bird will take the stage at Empty Sea.  Click here for more information and to buy advance tickets.

Impossible BirdFormed by Nick Drummond and Tyler Carson, Impossible Bird is a duo that will shake your bones. The genre smashing duo from Seattle has been turning heads up and down the West Coast of North America with their blend of infectious songs and playful live shows.

How do you describe the music you play and how were you first drawn to this music?

Tyler Carson: I’ve been playing the violin for 24 years. I started with classical modified Suzuki lessons when I was five years old and my teacher who was of eastern European descent told me – “Tyler, you are very talented, but you are very lazy!” (I was practicing for ‘only’ 30min per day). You see, she wanted me to practice for at least an hour, 2 by age 8, 3 by age ten… I love it. But she also was very smart and said much to her personal disinclination, that maybe I should try playing ‘fiddle music’. And that was the beginning of a life time pursuit!

When I was 11years old I played in front of 60,000 people (fiddle music) at the Commonwealth games and I am told my feet didn’t touch the ground the whole performance (I tend to be… enthusiastic in my performance). When I was 13, I played as a solo guest artist with the Victoria Symphony half classical and then send half fiddle music. And that has been a blending experience I have always had in my playing which eventually incorporated jazz, rock, country, Celtic, bluegrass… all of these genres I performed in professionally until my recent work with Impossible Bird that was the first time that I brought all of these influences together under one project. I love it!

Nick Drummond: We actually have a pretty hard time describing what we do! Neither of us are quite sure we’ve ever heard anything like it before, as it is simply the alchemy of two players who share a whole lot of musical chemistry. But what we are sure of is how much we enjoy creating it! Fans will often tell us how our sound is way too big for just two players, and how they feel they’ve been taken on a journey by the end of a show. And frankly we agree, because we feel the same way a lot of the time. When we get painted into a corner and forced to describe what our music sounds like we usually say its a cross between Paul Simon, Radiohead, and Dave Matthews. But even that doesn’t quite seem to paint the whole picture.

How did you each first start playing music and how did you meet and start playing together?

Nick: I started out writing songs and playing in a band called The Senate. Tyler came through on tour with The Paperboys and we opened for them, and immediately hit it off. There has always been a spark between us when we play, and we both felt it pretty much immediately. Then my old band broke up, Tyler toured the world, and we reconnected at a great time for both of us. This band has been together for 18 months

Impossible Bird is such a wonderful name.  Where did it come from?

Tyler: Nick’s sock drawer.  Nick you want to take it from here… ? ;)

Nick: Ha, yes. My sock drawer.

Nick, What do you think about when writing music?  What are your goals and what do you want to say with your songs?

Nick: Songs are a fascinating window into who is writing them, I find. Some songwriters leave you with the sense that they feel squeezed from all sides simply by their own existence, and others show you just how deeply one can think about the world and what one experiences in it. And some are just fun. I guess I think of myself as a combination of all three… at least on a good day. I think I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and so what I write tends to be a reflection of where I’m at as I struggle to be the best version of myself I can. Plus I love women and dancing and babies and the idea that we are better when we come together. If I had to distill that into a single message or idea, I think it would be “love wins.”

Tyler, You play the stroh violin (a violin which uses a metal horn instead of a wooden sound box)  as well the violin or fiddle that most people know.  Could you describe this instrument and tell us why you use it?

Tyler: It is from the late 19th century and designed to be more effective in the recording medium that was the gramophone. It has a more nasal and higher frequency sound that causes it to etch into the wax more deeply. They actually made full orchestras of these instruments – they even had stroh cellos!

When I heard it the first time, I just had a sense that it was important to me. Didn’t know why. 2 weeks later, Nick sent me the first song that we collaborated on – Sand and Stone which is absolutely marvelous. Deeply haunting and personally questioning and I knew why I had found the stroh.

What are you listening to now?  Who are your musical inspirations?

Tyler: Being a musician and keeping late hours by necessity, I was disappointed that I couldn’t fall back asleep at 7:30am. I had a lot of things running around in my head and then I listened to “In Rainbows” (Radiohead).  It gave me all the answers I needed and I was back to sleep.

Tom Yorke is a wonderful lyricist and possibly, no absolutely a more brilliant vocalist. He takes words and changes vowels at the most perfect time so that the word has still been spoken but it also turns it into something completely different and much more “instrumental.” He’s blurring the definition between vocals and instrument which I appreciate very much, from the opposite point of view…

Nick: Right now I’m listening to a lot of Elbow and Radiohead. Pretty standard for me in the winter. :)

What’s next for Impossible Bird?  What are your goals with this group?

Tyler: I’m very much looking forward to getting into studio again this spring and bringing that record to a number of festival performance this summer!

Nick: Next up we are working on some new songs and maybe heading back into the studio before too long. Then it’s off on the road again.

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