The Foley's Van Harvest Fest Experience

The Foley's Van Harvest Fest Experience
Foley's Van

Photo by Ironside Photography Foley’s Van, with their own brand of progressive bluegrass jams, rocked their late night set as a final hoorah for guitarist Chris Jerry, who is leaving the band to join the US Navy.

Things are picking up pace it seems for Foley’s Van, Fayetteville’s resident progressive bluegrass band.

Soaked in influences such as Umphrey’s McGee and Old Crow Medicine Show, the band has developed a rock-steady, psychedelic bluegrass jam experience for their live shows, and their Harvest Fest set may have been the best yet. The band consists of Chris “Crowfoot” Crovella on banjo and vocals, Allen Swearingen on mandolin and vocals, Chris Jerry on guitar/vocals/percussion, Brandon King on fiddle, and Patrick Callahan on bass.

Unfortunately, Harvest Fest was a crossroads for Chris Jerry, the band’s guitarist/singer/kick drummer. He recently made the decision to enlist in the Navy, which left Foley’s Van to recruit the talent of fellow Fayetteville singer/songwriter John Henry.

With the transition, the band has had to adapt to the developing and growing sound of their new entity. They said the transition has been developing and smoothing out exponentially, and they’re raging like none other now. Whereas Jerry was much more of a foot-stomping, chuck-rhythm player — Henry incorporates a bluesier style.

Their set at Harvest — in short — kicked ass. It was Jerry’s send-off show, and it surely was a “big goddamn hoorah,” as Callahan said it would be. There were 12 musicians onstage at the Roost Tent stage, including Martha McBride on washboard, Lucas Parker of Dumptruck Butterlips on guitar, Jeff Gray of 1 Oz. Jig playing trumpet, Warren Dietzel of Cutty Rye on mandolin, Scott Hilliard of the Irie Lions on drums, and even Andy Frasco showed up to emcee for a little bit while King played fiddle on the shoulders of a guy in a gorilla suit.

Here is our exclusive Q & A with the band on site at Harvest Music Fest.

TFW: So, a lot has been going on since the last time we talked before Wakarusa. Catch us up with what you guys have been up to.

Patrick Callahan: We’ve been playing a lot of festivals.

Allen Swearingen: We’ve had some structural changes, and Chris Jerry is taking off and joining the Navy. John Henry is joining us full-time now. We played Riverstomp, and that’s been one of my favorite small festivals. There’s a lot of stuff about to happen. We went and did a documentary with John Henry, there’s an album that’s about to come out — the “Hide Your Livers” album — and then we’re time lining and tracking for another one that’s coming out March 1st. We’re also going to be coming to everybody’s town starting in January, full-time. We’re looking at the Midwest, and we’ve had a lot of outreach from the Northeast. We’re also going to be on the Relix Magazine mix in the December compilation album. We’re contributing “Mind the Gap.”

John Henry: I like the way you put it earlier, that song reflects a snapshot of the band at that point in time.

Swearingen: It doesn’t really reflect what we currently have going on now.

Brandon King: From an artist’s point of view playing all these festivals, it’s fucking amazing. It’s been hanging out with only musicians all the time. We’ve been backstage just fucking jamming with these people most of the time and everybody’s from everywhere.

TFW: Tell me about this documentary you mentioned.

Henry: Essentially, I have access to a really good film crew, some friends of mine My idea was I share that contact, because that was too good to pass up. I contacted Allen about doing a series of going up there, playing a live set of like four or five songs and take live sound out of the board so we’re getting awesome live sound and live video. After I started thinking about making it a series, I wanted to do it with some other local bands as well. It’s Fayetteville local-based music.

Swearingen: Fayetteville has this whole movement right now. There’s so many great bands. It’s a cultural movement and a revival, and it’s really impressive. I really think it’s going to be the next Austin or Nashville, and it’s so close to Kansas City. There’s such good talent like Shawn James, Hollow Valley Funk, T. Chicken. This is a really good-kept secret.

Henry: With the way music has turned, you have this very stark EDM super electronic feel and very, very synthesized. Some really great music can be made, but we’re dealing with this really popular synthesized sound with the pulsing beat. People want that, and I think it’s created a counter culture within music. There’s an over-produced sort of fake feel in a lot of pop and country music today and I think people are kinda going back to a roots feel. Bluegrass, blues, I think people want that and still get that party-time pulse. I think that’s a big part of what Foley’s Van does. They keep that heartbeat to it all the time. You can make a party with acoustic instruments.

TFW: So Chris Jerry, you’re on the exit path. Tell me about what you’ve been able to reflect on with your time with Foley’s Van and your departure.

Jerry: It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while. For the most part it’s incredibly bittersweet. The past three years with these guys has been incredible. I’ve learned a lot about who I am, what I can do and I feel like I’ve made friends for life with these people. It’s something I’ll hold onto forever. I’m very proud of what this has become. It’s an amazing thing. These people actually mean what they’re doing, and willing to give their time from their families, kids, jobs to do this. The amount of dedication that these guys have is awesome and it really is. I’m in awe of what these guys put forth, and I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of it. I think John Henry will keep them down to earth. These guys are planets without a sun.

TFW: So what’s next for Foley’s Van?

King: Blowing the roofs off places, man. Faces need to be melted, and we are there to provide that service. If you want your face to melt, you should probably come around a little bit more.

All (laughing): Good one, Brandon.

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