Latest project: Last year’s self-titled EP, which can be streamed on their website, www.thetadcasters.com
Sounds like: progressive bluegrass
Bill Littleford and Nick LeBoffe make up the core of The Tadcasters, a band that started out with a regular jam night at local bar. But they quickly went from covering bluegrass standards to writing their own music and developing their own style of jazz-grass.
We spoke to guitarist Littleford about the genre and the challenges that come with creating new instrumentations and incorporating new musicians.
What exactly is a “Tadcaster”?
We sort of took our name from the beer company Samuel Smith, which is from Tadcaster, England. So we decided to call ourselves The Tadcasters, because it’s an old, traditional brewery, so it has all the same connotations as, you know, something traditional, but kind of new at the same time. Like the band’s style of music, it’s a new take on a traditional form of music: bluegrass.
For someone who isn’t well versed in the genre, what’s a staple that everyone should know?
Well, you should buy a Bill Monroe album, first off, just to hear the traditional sound. That’s where it all started. From there, there are all kinds of great albums from people like Tony Rice, and newer stuff from like Alison Krauss and bands like that. Bluegrass is so big now.
Where would you place yourself in the bluegrass spectrum and in terms of other genres?
We’re in sort of the newer grass style, sort of like progressive. We have a lot of jazz elements—I’d say we’re a sort jazz-grass-type band. Jazz-grass, progressive grass.
You teach music lessons, in fact your mandolin player Nick was a former student. What is the difference between a mandolin and a guitar, apart from their size?
A guitar, of course, has six strings and a mandolin has eight strings, but they are doubled. A mandolin is actually tuned like a violin, so it’s more in the same register as a violin. It’s sort of a higher sound, while a guitar has a lower register.
Is it a lot different trying to play a mandolin versus a guitar? Does the double set of strings make it more difficult?
They’re equally difficult. I mean, it’s like any instrument, if you’re going to learn it, you have to put the time into it and it’s going to be difficult.
You released an EP last year. What are you guys working on now?
We’re kind of revamping the band right now, because we lost our banjo player, and he sang some songs. So now we’re sort reinventing ourselves once again. That’s why playing at the Southgate House is going to be a lot of fun, because we get to do a lot of new stuff and reinvent ourselves once again. I think it’s going to go in a sort of different direction, but still be a little bit of the same.
How do you go about trying to rethink songs that were written for a certain number of band members, when you actually have fewer?
We actually had three members, so I asked a bass player to join us—we originally had a banjo. So it’s going to be a different instrumentation. That’s something I’m actually used to working with, working with limitations and changing things around. I also like the challenge too.
Will you adapt the banjo part for bass?
No, actually we’ll come up with a different part and change the way we play. At one point, we actually had a bass and a banjo, but then we lost the bass, so that changed the way the banjo played.
In a way you’ll be giving a whole new life to your songs.
Yeah, yeah. It’ll give it a new life, a whole new sound and will even change the way we write.