I spoke with vocalist and frontwoman Andrea Belanger about how The Blind Woods combines touring with cause advocacy and volunteerism on their Action and Music Tour.
How did The Blind Woods form? Tell me about your sound.
As the story goes, The Blind Woods were formed in a disgusting basement below a Subway on Boylston St. in Boston, MA. I had won the opportunity to play at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival through an online competition on Sonicbids.com. Seeing it as the highlight of my musical career thus far, I knew I didn’t want to do it alone and composed a band of my closest friends. All of which are the best musicians I know.
Wilco is a huge inspiration of ours. Sometimes I like to refer to us as a “female fronted Wilco”. Maybe part of it’s wanting it to be more true than it is! But we really set out to pay attention to the SONG at the same time as the music. I think a lot of rock bands miss that. Lyrics are important to us, but crazy sounds and heavy Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath induced bridges and outros are vital too!
How did you get the idea to combine causes and a tour?
Good question. Speaking for Ryan and myself. Both of us grew up participating in varying degrees of volunteerism with our families.
As far as the other 2/3′s of the band. I know we’ve all had those late night conversations involving the rights and wrongs of the world. I vividly remember talking to the guys this past summer on our back porch about bridging music and action.
I think action is ingrained in a lot of musicians. Maybe it’s the passion or the rebellion aspect of it. I’m not sure. We’ve just always known we wanted to use our music as a vehicle for change. We want to try and find solutions to problems, and if we can introduce BW fans to these causes it’s a start.
In addition, we figure anyone who’s loyal to causes they care about will also be loyal to their favorite music and art.
Was it tough to get everyone on the same page, ideologically?
On our first trip to Bonnaroo we rented a veggie van through a company called GreenVans out of Boston. Due to lack of planning we weren’t able to utilize the vans green disposition, and so it drank regular diesel. But these are the types of things we think about. We’d love to tour in an eco-friendly vehicle if it were more plausible.
How do you find organizations to partner with?
Inside Planet Roo at Bonnaroo there are dozens of vendor tents devoted to amazing organizations. We made a few long lasting connections with the people we met during our last trip. Both summers we played the festival we played on the Solar Stage (run by solar power) in the middle of Planet Roo.
What organizations have you partnered with so far?
Tennessee Wild is a campaign of Wild South a cause devoted to protecting and preserving public land in the South. We got to hang out at Wild South headquarters in Asheville North Carolina and played a show at the locally famous Jack of the Wood, benefiting their organization.
In Tennessee, Tennessee Wild put us up, put together an intimate benefit show for about 25 people where we raised $250 for the cause and also got us a slot on Chattanooga’s NPR station. The next day we went out into the Chattanooga National Forrest and cleaned up 5 miles of trail!
Why environmental organizations?
All of us enjoy the outdoors and want to have a hand in protecting our planet. There are so many alternatives to pollution now and we want to be part of bringing that awareness.
It’s environmental organizations this time but it doesn’t mean we can’t team up with human rights organizations next time and something different after that.
We’re fighting for good, that means ALL kinds of good.
What kind of reaction do you get from audiences on this Action and Music tour?
It’s been nothing but positive. It draws its own attention in addition to the music. I think it allows people to create a more personal connection to us right away. They want to talk about the causes that are important to them or ask us about what’s next. I think they see our excitement and feed off of it.
It’s one thing to hear an artist’s music and draw conclusions about who they are from their songs, but it’s another thing to have an additional passion of theirs so easily accessible.
How has your existing fanbase reacted to aligning yourself with these causes?
Everyone has been extremely supportive. I think our existing fans really enjoy reading about these experiences in our blog. It’s something they’ve begun to look forward to.
It also probably wasn’t a surprise to any of our close friends, family and fans that we had the desire to get involved with these causes.
Your blog posts are great. They’re fun reads, and I feel like I know you much better as people after reading them.
What’s your process for writing a blog post?
We don’t exactly have a process or format that we stick to. Sometimes I write it, sometimes Ryan writes it, and sometimes we split one post half and half. We just try to be as personal and as honest as possible (sometimes not as honest as we’d like to be).
What’s next for The Blind Woods in 2013?
The tour we have planned for 2013 is going to be much bigger. It was hard (this winter) with the cold weather chasing us.
We’ve got a list of organizations about a mile long for what’s up next. We’re shooting to pair an organization with a show and volunteer day for each stop. As many as possible.
We’re even working on a bicycle powered generator for DIY electricity!
Thanks to Andrea of The Blind Woods for chatting with me. You can listen to The Blinds Woods’ post-folk rock EP, Fight the Fall, on Bandcamp. I highly recommend giving their blog a read. And while you’re at it, connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.