Catskill Chill Music Festival is one of the greatest places to discover new music. You will find artists from several genres playing simultaneously on three different stages so you are guaranteed to find tunes that tickle your fancy. At this summer’s 5th Annual Catskill Chill, The Music Vibes discovered what we are certain will be one of our favorite bands for years to come.
Known for their exceptional talent and enthusiasm the melodies of instrumental trio, Consider the Source, has been described as an epic “sci-fi middle eastern fusion.” Their music embodies a melting pot of genres including rock, funk, jazz, and metal and draws on cultural influences spanning from India to the Middle East, Latin America, Central Asia and many more. Stepping out of the box, the musicians comprising this trio, Gabriel Marin, John Ferrara, and Jeff Mann, are far more than just a guitarist, bassist, and drummer. Their instruments are vehicles of expression, the tools through which they paint their melodic masterpieces, transcribing and presenting sounds that inspire them (from whatever the original instrument/music may be) in their resulting composition.
Consider the Source exudes such a contagious energy and enthusiasm on stage that it spreads through the audience like a wildfire. Whether playing a hard electronic set, or jamming out on their acoustic instruments, the musicians emanate a bright energy that electrifies listeners and translates their sheer enjoyment of the music they are playing. You can tell when a person is passionate about what they do, and such was the case for the musicians of Consider the Source, as they filled the weekend with their vivacious tunes.
The Music Vibes had the occasion to chat with bass player, John Ferrara, about his musical journey and time with the band. It is so refreshing to talk with an artist that is so passionate about music in general. John defies the role of a “pure” bassist, he is an artist and the bass is his brush and the audience his canvas through which he paints his melodic and rhythmic visions. With an eclectic influence of sounds coming from multiple instruments, genres, and cultures, Ferrara creates his music by ear; whether inspired from a piano piece, drum line or other musical source. John Ferrara was able to give us a closer look at the musicians behind the band and the evolution of Consider the Source, as well as some wonderful advice for aspiring musicians.
Rebecca: Have you been enjoying the festival so far?
John: Yeah, Chill is one of the festivals we look forward to most all year.
Rebecca: Talking to a lot of people here we realized Chill is more like a gathering of old friends… family.
John: Totally. And you get to meet some new people every year, there is like the band that has been on the rise for the next year.
Rebecca: I feel like coming here you get to discover so much new music because there are three different stages and as you walk by a stage and hear something you can just stroll on in. Are there any particular acts you saw yesterday that you liked?
John: For the first time I saw The Nth Power… That was awesome!
Rebecca: Your music has been described as being a Sci-Fi Middle Eastern fusion… Where did the influence from the Middle Eastern music come in?
John: When the band first started it was the original drummer, Gabriel, and I. The drummer and I grew up playing music together so we were always listening to the same things and bouncing musical ideas off of each other. He was getting really into Indian music and Middle Eastern stuff so he was showing me all of these cool Indian rhythms and stuff like that. At the time we didn’t know Gabriel but he was also getting pretty deep into Indian music. The two of them actually met first and jammed together at a party. Anytime there was a new musical thing that was interesting one of us would call the other and say, “Man you got to check this out!” When they played, Justin (the previous drummer) called me up and said, this is going to be great and the three of us got together in a studio and started playing together. The Middle Eastern thing was just a thing from the beginning that we all got really into. The two of them went to India to study, I studied Indian music here and we tried to integrate it into the musical lexicon that we already had and keep developing it.
Rebecca: I think that’s awesome, it’s a really great thing when we are able to bring in other types of cultural music. A lot of times in America music is very much of an English influence and the general sounds from around here, but when musicians are able to bring in the influences of other cultures such as that from India and Spain it adds another flavor to the music.
John: Aside from the music being fun for us- exploring Indian music is really cool… Music from the Middle East and Central Asia, stuff like that, its fun just as geeky musicians to get into things. It’s also more of a statement too. Like, “all cultures have cool music and for different reasons.” For us it’s not only about the different cultures but also the different genres, different genres have different aspects. A lot of people will say things like, “I don’t like rap,” or “I don’t like funk… I like this stuff.” You know, it’s important to give all of it a chance, every genre. I think if people would open up a little bit they would find that most genres and in most cultures they could find something they like about it. That unity is what we’re after.
Rebecca: So you’re music really sends a message. Your band name, Consider the Source- is that also supposed to provide a message for us?
John: You know it’s really funny because we were doing a master class and we were talking about the name. So the name was just a cool name at first. We were trying to find… I don’t know if you guys play music at all?
Dean: I play a little, I’m a drummer.
John: Have you ever started a band?
Dean: I played in a band in High school…
John: So when you were thinking of a name was it really difficult?
John: And you just kind of start thinking of stupid names…
Dean: We came up with a lot of weird things.
John: Yeah- totally! So that’s where we were for a long time, we just couldn’t think of a good name. Then Gabe’s dad was like, ‘what about Consider the Source?’ And we all just looked at each other and were like- ‘That sounds awesome!’ That would be really cool. So it was really face value at first. Then as the band grew and as we grew as people and our different spiritual beliefs became more mature… we started to grow into the name which was kind of cool.
Rebecca: It seems very fitting for you guys!
John: Yeah, I don’t know if it was a subconscious thing… you know the law of attraction works in weird ways. Now we really feel like it’s the perfect name for us.
Rebecca: In regards to your musical composition, what is the typical process you guys go through?
John: It’s kind of cool… we don’t really have a typical process. Which I think is what keeps it interesting for us. We’re not like a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus kind of band. We have the rock sensibility but we are also interested in classical music and composing more grandiose things. We also have some of the acoustic stuff which is more like three or four minute songs which is totally it’s own thing. Pretty much what we do is… Gabe and I generally bring the main ideas in, sometimes it will be just a rift or an entire song, or a general concept or something like that and then we will show it to one another and almost mix and match rifts. He might have something that works with something that I wrote, vice versa, and we try to put them together best as we can that way.
Rebecca: Who are some of the bassists that have influenced you the most?
John: It’s funny, when I first started like any thirteen-year-old kid, it was Claypool, and it was Flea, Victor Wooten, and Marcus Miller… As I got older, now I don’t even listen to that many “bass player” bass players. I am more into everything now… I am more influenced by pianists like Brad Mehldau and Chick Corea, percussionists, people like that. When I was studying the Indian music there is this kanjira, it’s a South Indian tambourine. I studied with this guy named Ganesh Kumar for a while, he was essentially a kanjira master, and so I got really into taking the Indian rhythms and transferring them onto the bass. Especially for slap bass, it was cool because I was doing some stuff that I thought was kind of cool and then when I mixed it with that Indian rhythmic mindset, my slap bass technique totally took a turn for the better. So I am more into instrumentals in general.
Rebecca: So when you first started out playing you were more influenced by the bassists that you like and as you grew older and your musical taste expanded… You have this very unique style of slap bass that incorporates all of the influences from all of the styles of music you listen to. Do you think it started out with the slap bass when you were younger and then began to encompass more of the cultural, instrumental and rhythmic sounds you picked up throughout your musical career?
John: Yeah. When you’re first starting to play you are just trying to pick up whatever you can. I would try to pick up a Primus song as best as I could, other people too, I was very drawn to slap bass so some other slap bass players too. I would try to pick it apart as much as I could. Then with the Indian music and a lot of other things, I would think, ‘how can I turn that into a bass technique?’ It’s cool, it’s really difficult at first but it’s really rewarding to make some headway, then it becomes beyond rewarding… it becomes your voice.
Rebecca: That’s really cool… transferring a sound/music onto another instrument, that’s tough.
John: My general philosophy with the bass- I don’t necessarily think of myself as a bass player, my instrument is the bass. So if the part of a song comes to mind- it might be a bass line or it might be a piano part, but I don’t play piano, so I will try to do a tapping thing that will mimic what I am hearing. Or for my favorite percussion part I will try to do the technique that combines that percussion with the bass line, because you need the bass line in there.
Rebecca: So do you do a lot of your music by just hearing the sounds?
John: Yeah, I’m not very good at reading music, so I am not good at physically writing music either. I play a lot so when I have an idea I will just stick to it for awhile to make sure it stays in my mind then I will work on it from there.
Rebecca: When you talk about wanting people to be more open to the different genres of music I see that really fitting into your style. So what you’re saying is that you’re a musician, an artist, and you’re not going to limit yourself to the box of being just a ‘bass player,’ rather you are able to translate all of these beautiful sounds and play them on your instrument so the bass is simply the vehicle you use to create your art.
John: Exactly! It’s one of the reasons I like being in this band, Consider the Source, that freedom. We are three people but we need to fill up a lot of sound. So playing just a bass line is cool and sometimes it will be the thing that works but sometimes we like covering anything that is in our mind. Like I will be thinking of something that is rhythmic as well as a bass line, or a melody and a bass line, so how do I cover all of that ground? The fun part is then taking that home and being like- alright let’s sit here for as long as it takes until something sounds good- find the right technique for it- you gotta work on it. It’s funny, it’s like I couldn’t exist in any other band because of it though, because I don’t have the sensibility of a soul bass player, or a jazz bass player or anything like that. I just develop the sensibility that I need for each song.
Rebecca: Would you say your band mates are also ‘artists’ like the way you describe yourself, that don’t really fall into line with their instruments?
John: Yeah, I think that is one thing that we have in common. Jeff, our current drummer who has been with us for two years is a beast and we love him. He pulls from so many different styles and is such a killer player in so many ways. When I met Gabe the thing that the two of us had in common was sort of the complete abandonment… sort of ‘I only want to do what I want to do’ and otherwise I am not interested. When the band first formed I was studying psychology and not really doing music, I was kind of at a hiatus at that point. When I got the call and the three of us got together and jammed it was like yeah, fine whatever, I will try it… but then it was like, ‘wow this is what I have been missing this whole time!’ The only thing I have ever wanted out of music. Before that I was doing cover gigs and for hire stuff and recordings, it was cool, playing the bass was always cool but it wasn’t what I wanted out of it. I did all of these stupid head games, and I thought ‘I should love this, I’m doing what I want to do,’ but when we got together it was really cool meeting another musician that was as stubbornly into doing just what he wanted to do. That really resonated with me even though we had some overlap but different musical backgrounds; it was that energy, that thing that we had in common that became the essence of what we do. With Jeff, he comes from a different background, he didn’t have as much of the world stuff, and he is really killer with the Latin stuff. But he is like us; he is into so many different types of music and exploring them.
Rebecca: So you played your acoustic set yesterday. What do you like the most about playing your acoustic set and what do you like the most about playing your electric set?
John: It’s really cool having both… There is a term in Buddhism called “beginners mind,” which is like when you’re a child and everything is new and everything is exciting and you get older and then you get jaded and all of that stuff. Beginners mind is when something is fresh and you have possibilities and everything is colorful and possible, the acoustic set is that for us right now. It’s still relatively new, we only really do it during the summers, we’ll do a couple of gigs throughout the year here and there but it’s primarily a festival season thing, at least for now. So it’s cool because we’re on instruments where we’re not comfortable. You know I’ve been playing bass guitar, just the bass guitar since I was thirteen and Gabe has been playing just guitar since he was in high school. So now we’re getting used to these other instruments. Even though the other instruments I am playing are like banjo bass, it’s strung just like a bass, it’s still tuned like a bass and everything, but it has a completely different feel and sound. Certain things I can do on the electric I totally can’t do on it. With the acoustic instruments there are also the nuances just about the weather, which really affects them a lot more than the solid body electric instruments. I play ukulele bass, which is really small; it has a really small fingerboard so it actually works a little bit better since I have really small hands. I play another instrument called slapstick, which is this long thin piece of metal where you use your thumbs as a drumstick and it’s more of a percussion instrument than anything. You can bend the instrument and get it to bend the pitch just a little bit so it’s really cool. It’s got a lot of flavors of other preexisting percussion instruments it sounds a little bit like certain hand drums and also sounds a little bit like bit like didgeridoo, when you play it with your fingers it almost sounds like a washed up bass, it’s pretty cool. So back to the beginners mind thing, that’s what is cool about it, techniques that we are used to we can’t do. We can’t use them on these. Like I don’t slap really at all, very little bit I slap in the acoustic stuff and that is my main thing in the electric. It’s made me develop other techniques more and not get lost in just the technique aspect, which is an issue that musicians have sometimes. The electric is cool just because that’s what we’re used to and that’s what our voice has been for so long. The other thing is that there are two different energies from the crowd. A lot of the time the acoustic crowd will even be sitting down. We played an acoustic set at camp barefoot a couple of weeks ago and the whole crowd was sitting down and it was awesome to see how many people were there on the floor. That was really cool and will never happen in an electric set. An electric set is more balls to the wall.
Rebecca: So what has been your new favorite instrument to experiment with?
John: I would probably say it’s split right down the middle between the U-bass and the slapstick cause they are very different so I can’t say I like one more than the other. One is like a straight up percussion instrument and one is a bass but has a very cool African sounding quality to it… it sounds like an instrument that was made in Africa and I have been getting a little bit more into African music. When I was a kid I was into it because my dad was a guitarist and was he really into Afri-Cuban stuff and African music so I grew up listening to it and now I am reconnecting with it a little bit. I am really enjoying listening to certain African instruments and trying to replicate that on the U bass so that is really fun. The slapstick was cool because I have always wanted to be a percussionist. I used to want to be a drummer when I was a kid but I just couldn’t fit a drum set in my house. I think that is why I am so drawn to slap bass because the percussive quality it has. So it’s kind of fun being a drummer now. Yesterday we did a song in the acoustic set where Jeff, our drummer, played mandolin, he’s always wanted to do that in front of people and it sounded great. Gabe was playing a bowed instrument called a kimenchi, which is a really cool instrument. It’s not typically used in a western context so we did a traditional wayfare stranger and I used the slapstick as the percussion part, it was a lot of fun.
Rebecca: I think it’s great that you guys get to branch out and try different things cause then like you said, it’s something new and keeps it interesting.
John: The thing about being an artist/musician is that you get those roadblocks sometimes and it’s really difficult to get out. You invest so much of yourself in your art that when you get in those moments it can be really painful. So it’s cool because sometimes if you’re stuck… Like if you’re having a fight with one friend you talk to another friend and they can kind of loosen up your mind. It’s kind of like that, “I’m really struggling with my five string bass right now so I am going to go talk to my U-bass and see if it can help me sort out some stuff.” Then your mental block goes away because you’re focusing on something else for a while, you’re not stuck the way you were. You can come back with a new frame of mind and that’s pretty cool.
Dean: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians that are starting out and want to make a name for themselves or just individuals that want to play music in general?
John: I mean there is so much advice I could give.
Rebecca: What do you think is one of the most important pieces you could give?
John: I think the most important thing would be to maintain the “stokedness” of what you are doing. You know, it’s so easy to be jaded. It’s so easy to let that take over because… I mean look at here there are so many awesome bands doing different things and any weekend… I come from New York where any given weekend we’re up against five or six other bands in this scene alone. We’re also in the progressive rock scene so one weekend it will be like, “King Crimson is in town, oh great, now we have to go up against that too.” So that is the thing that all bands have to deal with. Things like that and getting your own sound, business things that no musician ever wants to deal with because we are artists and we don’t know how to do that stuff. Throughout all of it just maintain the excitement. It’s tough and all of these things can bog you down but you are playing music and you are making people happy and you are making yourself happy. If you can maintain that mentality I think, first of all you will just be more successful as far as your career goes, and you’ll also just be happier.
I feel that we learned so much from our talk with Ferrara, some key points being, stay passionate about the things you love and keep them refreshing to hold onto that “stokedness.” Branch out of your comfort zone and listen to music of all genres, there is a good chance you will find an artist or musician that you enjoy or that inspires in a musical style you don’t often listen to. There is great music all over the world and in many different forms, so it’s always a wonderful thing to explore the sounds out there. Be unique, be you, don’t feel like you have to “follow the rules” or commonalities of a certain instrument, no need to be solely (or pure) “guitarist” or “drummer” or “bassist” if you don’t want to. You can be an artist/musician that plays the guitar or drums or bass but thinks of music in a completely different, fluid and non-specifying way as John Ferrara and Consider the Source does.
Consider the Source’s performance at Catskill Chill Music Festival was truly incredible. We walked into Stage B that Saturday night and the band really exceeded our expectations. The music was so beautiful yet at the same time completely wild, energetic, and hard. The musicians were so expressive on stage and you could tell how into the music they were and that they loved what they were doing as much as the crowd loved what they were hearing. Consider the Source is definitely one of our new favorite bands and we only wish we had discovered them sooner.
The band recently released a brand new album, World War Trio (Part 1) that is their longest composition to date. They will be performing this album live, in it’s entirety, on their current tour that started on Halloween. For those of you music aficionados, Consider the Source will be playing with another Music Vibes favorite, Kung Fu, at their annual “Toys for Tots” performance on Friday, December 19th at Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut.
Check out Consider the Source’s Catskill Chill Acoustic set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joy2-WSwWxY
Check out John Ferrara playing the slapstick at Camp Barefoot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCc9FG7Q9FU
Check out World War Trio, the bands newest album: http://www.relix.com/media/audio/album_premiere_consider_the_source_world_war_trio_part_1
Review written by Rebecca Wolfe
Photography by Rebecca Wolfe
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