The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday December 5th


One Howlin' Brother explains the band's inspiration, style

The Howlin’ Brothers, a three-piece string band, released their latest album “HOWL” in March and performed at the ArtsCenter in August.

Lead singer and banjo and violin player Ben Plasse spoke with staff writer Elizabeth Baker about the group’s sound and origin.

Daily Tar Heel: Where did your interest in music stem from?

Ben Plasse: My mom always said when I got home from the hospital after being born, my dad started playing the piano and that was the first time I stopped crying. Music was just always around in my house. My mom and dad were both big music people. My dad was a really good piano player. Music’s always been a big part of my life.

DTH: Are you guys actually brothers?

BP: No, although we’ve lived together for quite some time, and we act like brothers.

DTH: Whose idea was the band, and how did it form?

BP: I think it was originally Ian’s idea. We were all at Ithaca College together — we were all music students. Towards the end of senior year, we all started getting into this style of music. I think there were a few chance things. I think Jared and Ian were going to stay at Ithaca and try to do it, but something didn’t work out with their lease. They decided to move to Nashville spontaneously, and I think that’s when The Howlin’ Brothers was truly formed as a “we’re going to do this” thing.

DTH: What are the group’s goals musically?

BP: I think it’s just to always be getting better and to write as much as we can and to play as much as we can. We are literally addicted to music, and if we don’t play often enough, we get almost physically and mentally ill. We really just need to be playing as often as possible and learning as many songs as we can and writing as many as we can — that’s the goal.

DTH: What inspires your music?

BP: All sorts of things. Love is a common theme, and I think we just try to keep writing songs in the styles of (the musicians) we really love and put our own spin on it. We try to write about things that are true. We try to keep it not political. We’re huge fans of Doc Watson and John Hartford. We’re all really big fans of the blues and lots of other styles too. We all really love Bob Marley. We try to take influence from everything that we can. I think we’re really lucky to live in a time when you can have that many influences.

DTH: How would you describe your music?

BP: It’s really positive and upbeat. We try to keep that edge where it feels like it might fall apart right at any second. It’s hanging on and pushing what we’re capable of.

DTH: What are your performances like?

BP: The Howlin’ Brothers shows are all about having fun. We try to encourage people to dance. We had a lady the other day — we were somewhere in Florida — and she was 85-years-old and she was talking all kinds of smack saying that she had the best 85-year-old legs in the room. We just try to keep it really fun and relaxed and get people grooving on it.

DTH: How did you come up with the band name?

BP: Jarod and I were both classical guitar majors under this great guy named Pablo Cohen who was from Argentina. He was an amazing guitar player and an amazing human. We talk about Pablo all the time and what a huge influence he was on us as people and musicians. My senior year, I did a recital, and at the end of it, I brought out Ian and Jared and we did a couple high-singing bluegrass songs. Pablo came up to us at the end and said, “I hear this music, and I say, ‘Who are these guys? The Howlin’ Brothers?’” And we said yeah!

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