Black Prairie Interview: SXSW 2010
A multi-talented quintet of Portland musicians -- including three-fifths of the Decemberists -- Black Prairie are indie rock's answer to bluegrass and folk music. The would-be side project hosts guitarist Jon Neufeld, accordionist Jenny Conlee, violinist Annalisa Tornfelt, bassist Nate Query and dobro guitarist Chris Funk. Originally intending to play instrumental tracks, the string band went on to include Tornfelt on vocals, which only amps up the appeal of their rustic blend. The band will be releasing its debut album, 'Feast of the Hunters' Moon,' on legendary bluegrass label Sugar Hill Records this spring, and they'll be playing four shows at SXSW this year. Spinner spoke to Chris Funk about the band's influences, his tips for surviving SXSW and why they're not called Slow Prairie Death.
How did your band form?
Nate [Query] and I talked about starting a string band, and it just went from there. We just wanted to play some instrumental music, though now we have songs with words.
Describe your sound in your own words.
String band that bends the limits of traditional form.
What are your musical influences?
Strength in Numbers, Romani music, Tin Hat Trio, Clogs [and] Bartok.
How did you come up with your band name?
Annalisa sort of shouted it out at practice. I wanted to call it "Slow Prairie Death," but we figured no one would book us. There are a bunch of "Black ----" bands -- maybe we should have thought that through.
What's the craziest thing you've seen or experienced while on tour?
We only played one show, which was a flight to San Francisco. Sorry.
Have you been to SXSW before?
Yes, with the Decemberists many