Q&A: Koda Kerl of Chamomile and Whiskey talks thrift shopping and Virginia

Photo Credit: Rich Tarbell

Chamomile and Whiskey’s Koda Kerl sat down for a virtual interview with WTJU’s Chiara Brown to discuss the bands favorite performance spots, thrift shopping on tour and Evan Williams.

Inspired by the natural beauty of their home state Virginia and multiple genres of music, catch the band preforming live this Saturday, October 31st at the IX Art Park Levitt AMP Concert Series.

WTJU: Tell me a little bit about why you all chose the name Chamomile and Whiskey?

Koda Kerl: The name came when Marie (violin) and I had gotten back from traveling as a duo… we were having a conversation about starting a band.. she had just made us Chamomile tea, with a little honey and lemon and I added a shot of Evan Williams Whiskey. We thought it tasted like our music and it just kind of stuck.

WTJU: How has living in Virginia influenced the type of music that the band plays?

KK: Virginia is a major part of our sound. The James River, the Rockfish River, The Blue Ridge Mountains and Nelson County are mentioned in a number of our songs.. so the natural beauty is definitely a source of inspiration. But musically we are influenced by some of the rowdy old-time and Irish music that is played in the Blue Ridge as well as some of the great songwriters in the area.

WTJU: How did the band meet?

KK: Marie and I are from Nelson and when we set out looking for bandmates everything fell together perfectly. I met Lavin (banjo) in an Eastern Thinking class in College. We would drink whiskey and play John Prine songs after class. Marie brought in Brenning (Drums) from Crozet and I met our original bass player Tim at a party, although our current bass player Marsh grew up with Brenning.

WTJU: How would you say your sound has grown/changed if at all since the beginning of the band? 

KK: In the beginning we were kind of feeling it out, we had all been in bands, but none of them had been as serious as C and W. I think we have more rock in our sound now than when we started, but we’ve gotten comfortable existing in multiple genres. We let the song dictate the sound – there isn’t much that is pre-determined.

WTJU: I know the band was touring a lot last year—where was your favorite place to perform?

KK: This is a tough one. We’ve played 100+ shows on the road in each of the last 2 years, so there’s a lot to consider. Being the size band that we are, we play a lot of different types of venues. We had a wild late night set at Checkpoint Charlie’s in New Orleans. We played for a great “two-stepping” community in Taos, NM.  There was a show at Whitewater rafting center in Charlotte that was crazy. The Festivals that we have played have been great, most recently FloydFest and The Festy, and of course our beautiful Jefferson Theater – it’s always good to be home.

WTJU: Does the band have any traditions when it’s on the road?

KK: We have a lot of fun in the van. When we have the time, we love exploring the cities that we are in. If we can find a good thrift shop and a cool bar we are happy. We listen to a lot of music – recent favorites include Notorious B.I.G. and Strugill Simpson. A conversation in the van often includes screenplay ideas and an unhealthy amount of impressions.

WTJU: What is your song writing process like as a band? Does someone normally take the reins, or is it more of a collective effort?

KK: Generally speaking, Lavin and I write the songs individually, but once we bring them to the band they become very collaborative. We will just start playing the song and everyone will add parts and come up with ideas. Brenning might put in a breakdown or Marie will add a fiddle tune. We work well together in that regard.


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