Junkyard Fieldtrip started out in 2014 as a purge. It was a focused endeavor to write songs whose fragmented existence was floating in the heads of founding members Mike Gladstone and Rob Smith.
It wasn't long, though, until the purge became an urge; the two wanted to develop things into a band and play around town. So Gladstone and Smith invited drummer Emmett Ientilucci and bassist Don Torpy aboard for the ride.
Junkyard Fieldtrip just released its debut, eponymous CD, starring the four at its core, plus featuring a pile of Rochester who's who. What's amazing here isn't the power under the hood of the all-star guest lineup, but rather its restraint. There is want, need, pain, and pleasure all executed in varying degrees of subtlety. This is due in large part to Gladstone's guitar mastery, found in passages like the heartbreaking finger-style opening to "Blind." The band does manage to kick into higher gear on songs like the exuberant pop-rock gem "Dusty Radio," but it never harshes the mellow.
Gladstone stopped by CITY to talk about the new album, collaborating, and being a bit of a control freak. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
CITY: This started as a vehicle to write songs?
Mike Gladstone: We started out as an acoustic duo in 2014, and we wanted to play out. As time went on, we got louder and kinda got to where it is now. It was rock 'n' roll, a little bit rootsy. I hate to use the word "Americana," but it was rock with a lot of acoustic instruments. As an influence, Rob likes artists like Jason Isbell and Ray LaMontagne. That being said, we've written a lot of hard rock tunes, some that didn't make it on the record.
How did you choose the material that landed on the album?
Well, there were two schools of thought: just throw everything in the pot and let it go, or find the songs that fit together, make it more coherent. We went that way.
As a duo, how did you flesh the songs out?
Some of the songs on the record are me playing everything. Our next record, I plan having everybody on and make it more collaborative. But some of these songs had been around for so long. I just wanted to get them out there.
Are you reluctant to collaborate?
No, not at all. I welcome it.
List some of your influences.
I'm a Beatles nut, which I think is probably something you get out of everybody you talk to. I throw in homages here and there. As a guitar player, I like David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Clapton, all those guys who tell a story with their playing.
What would you like accomplish with your playing?
I would love for someone to say my playing tells a story, especially in regards to soloing: making it a song unto itself and making you feel something.
You're quite a lyrical player.
I pride myself with that.
Is taking on the role of your own producer a wise choice?
I'm a bit of a control freak. I tend to overthink things a lot and do a lot of second guessing. But if I listen to it and like it, I'm happy. The easiest thing was bringing in all the local musicians to play on it, like Mike Edwards, Karen Flack, Linda Rutherford, Johnny Cummings, Elvio Fernandes, Greg Gefell, and Todd East — a lot of people I really admire.
What was the hard part?
Picking out songs that were cohesive. It all starts with a song. You've got to have a good song. The fun part for me is building on what the song dictates where it wants to go. You've just got to open your ears and listen for that and let it go where it's gonna go.