The word “collective” is an apt term when describing local rock group Salamander Collective. “Group” is also an apt term, more so than the word “band,” as Salamander Collective is a musical outfit with a rotating cast of players, a collection of musicians from around the region, pulled together when needed to simply make music. And while they are structured like a band, with booked dates and a record ready to drop, they still roll with a casual mindset, where musicians will come together and play when available. With a group that makes mostly improvisational music, you can be that casual.
Salamander Collective will perform Saturday at 11th Street Station.
Their free-form nature exists out of need, but it’s also the most enjoyable.
“Everyone since the beginning has always played in different bands, not everyone was available for one gig or another, so you’re always having different people play and you don’t really have time to rehearse. So almost out of necessity, but at the same time was realizing the most fun part was the exploration, when no one is thinking too much about what’s happening,” said drummer Cy Fontenot. “We’re all just doing it and letting it move through us, and when that really happens, it’s pretty undeniable, everyone feels it. So, tapping into the magic of that and just pure music, pure expression, it’s led us here. Just under the spirit of pure collaboration, you never know what’s going to happen when people get together and a band becomes greater than the sum of its parts.”
The whole idea of the band began with Fontenot in Louisiana. He moved to Durango in 2017, and it was here that he discovered an already existing scene of improvisational jam music led by bands like String Cheese Incident.
WHAT: Local improvisational jam-rock with Salamander Collective.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: 11th Street Station, 1101 Main Ave.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.11thstreetstation.com.
“All of these people have been carrying this torch of improvisation,” Fontenot said. “And this whole scene is here, and I had no idea.”
He picked up musicians along the way. A bass player in Tucson, Arizona, a keyboard player in Sedona, Arizona, and others, some here, some elsewhere, all ready to play when needed.
That’s how they’ve rolled, evolving into a band that thrives on improvisation, while also establishing some vague structure to guide the songs on their forthcoming release “JAHMODE.”
Recorded at one of their bass player’s home studio in Tucson, many of the songs on the record were born from melodies and rhythms created during their shows.
“Some of these songs come from jams that happened earlier,” he said. “We’ve said ‘that’s catchy, we should take that idea and make it into an actual song.’ So, it’s a lot of harnessing little ideas and seeing how we can grow them.”
For Saturday’s show, the band is drummer Fontenot, joined by Sylvia Snow on vocals, Richard Cooke on flute, Brayden Schmick on viola, Matt Meyers on saxophone, Benny Beyer on keyboards, Aaron Carver on bass and Maya Sierra on backing vocals, who will also be painting as the band plays.
They’ll also try something new; using a setlist.
With new songs comes new routines, and while a setlist may mean following some rules that didn’t exist in their world before, they still thrive on improvisation.
However, even when you’re making it up as you go, you have to start somewhere. The band agrees that its best to start with a bassline, while essentially trying to lock into a rhythm that syncs them all.
“In the past I’ve found that less talking is better. I like when it starts with the bass, the unsung hero of the whole thing. Everything is just creating a platform for everything else to exist on, so you can hear the bassline and just go off that, or a drum groove or whatever,” Fontenot said. “It’s all about the groove.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.