Larry and His Flask have been looking forward to a return gig in St. John’s, and now they have it, Thursday at Distortion. — Submitted photo
It was no surprise when Jesse Marshall and Ian Cook didn’t answer their phones.
Together they are one third of Oregon punk-bluegrass outfit Larry and His Flask, one of the most animated, dynamic bands you’ve probably never heard of.
The bassist and lead singer/guitarist were somewhere near Boston Sunday afternoon, fresh off a plane from Britain after wrapping up an extensive European tour and getting ready to play their only U.S. show before heading this way to kick off an extensive Canadian tour.
A couple hours after my failed attempts to touch base with the band, which plays Distortion in St. John’s this Thursday, I get a call-back from Marshall.
He doesn’t sound as tired as I thought he would.
The Flask, as they’re known to their fans, play with the kind of energy you might see in a young punk band. In fact, that’s what they were, and to an extent still are.
Marshall, his brother Jamin and Cook came together in Bend, a small city in Central Oregon, in 2003.
They spent their first four years together as an alternating three-to-four piece punk band that did short tours and liked to play and party more than anything else.
“Then we began to recalculate and started to play acoustic instruments,” Marshall recalls. “It took off and we hit the road hard about four years ago.
“Ian and I have always been into roots music, bluegrass and Celtic music, lots of country,” he continues. “And he and I were writing songs on the acoustic guitar and working on songs that were kind of on the side of what we were doing with the punk-rock stuff.
“We already kind of had almost an entire album written of this other style of music before we decided to change and take it on.”
Three “close friends” joined the band, says Marshall, after a revelatory jam of sorts.
“Andrew (Carew), our banjo player, had never played a banjo before in his life, and our mandolin player (Kirk Skatvold) had never played a mandolin before,” he says. “Andrew was a drummer and Kirk was an electric bass player.
“We were just jamming and playing songs for fun in our living room and they came over and found some instruments we had laying around and it kind of took off from there. We found our new places in the band and we’ve been learning ever since.”
In 2009 they opened for Irish-American punk rockers Dropkick Murphys, who then invited the band on tour with them.
“We learned a lot from them and their crew, like how a professional band works behind the scenes … and we’ve been learning ever since, learning as we go,” says Marshall.
“Our music is still constantly changing, we’re still trying to make it better and just add things. It’s always been a very progressive band — we’ve always wanted to keep learning about music and applying our knowledge to the band.”
They released “All That We Know” last year and hit the road again, their energy and band dynamic progressing with every gig.
They played the 2011 Vans Warped Tour and, by year’s end, earned a spot on the New York Times’ “Concert Highs of 2011” list.
The Flask and local acts Tall Tales, The Corroborators, LAHF and Be Alright play Distortion Thursday night. The 10 p.m. show is 19+ and cover is $10.
“We actually played Distortion (in 2008),” Marshall recalls. “It was amazing. We didn’t want to leave Newfoundland and ever since then we’ve been dying to get back.”