Interview: Carl Anderson & Greg Bell Talk With Nippertown about Eastbound Jesus and the Eastbound Throwdown
Eastbound Jesus recently celebrated over 10 years of being a band. Their fans are fiercely loyal, and their friends spread far and wide. Spending time with the band as the new lead guitarist, I began to realize that there is always a good chance of a surprise visit from a friend or two, or three. I got a chance to talk to Carl Anderson recently about the band, its history, and the festival they have created aptly named “Eastbound Throwdown.” Carl is the drummer for Eastbound Jesus and also the organizer and father of their homegrown music festival, which happens annually on the Irwin Family Farm in scenic and beautiful Salem, NY. First, I asked Carl to give a rundown on the band’s history.
Andrew Lynch: So, how did the group start?
Carl Anderson: Eastbound Jesus was formed almost 11 years ago in Greenwich, NY. We were just a group of buds that got together and immediately clicked as far as writing music together. We slowly picked up gigs and steam with drawing fans etc. and have been rocking out ever since.
AL: Where did the name come from?
CA: The name was kind of just a joke. Dave (bass player for EBJ) was describing being lost one time as being out in “east Jesus.” We thought Eastbound Jesus had a good ring to it. We were fully aware putting Jesus into our name was a bit odd but naming a band is really fricken’ hard and we just kept coming back to it. I think we agreed we could always change it after our first gig if we thought of something better. We went pretty hard at touring for a while and we were playing almost every weekend. We were driving to Boston, NYC, and around the northeast but we have definitely slowed down in the past 4 or 5 years. Marriage, kids, not being able to party till 3 am has slowed us down but I think now we make a point to pick our gigs and make them count. We would rather play 3 or 4 great gigs than 10 so-so ones. We also started putting on Eastbound Throwdown in the past 5 years, so that gets a lot of our focus. Right now we are coming off of some rest; COVID time I guess. We set up our practice space to actually be able to record an album so we had a lot of fun taking it easy and messing with the studio process. We also went through a line-up change this past winter and we now have a new lead guitar player, which has been super fun bringing in new energy and ideas into the band. It’s always great to give the EBJ classics almost a face-lift of sorts by having a new guitarist in the band. Plus he’s super cool and puts up with our bad jokes.
AL: That I do. Tell us, how long has the festival been going on, what is the idea behind starting it, and what’s the story about the event space itself?
CA: The festival has been going on since 2015. We put on a one-day Throwdown at a local Elks lodge on the softball field to start. It was cool but it lit the fire to put on a real deal multi-day, camping style festival that we could just invite all our favorite bands to come to be a part of it. We talked to the Irwin brothers, who have an amazing farm in Salem, about throwing it on their property and they were like “Sure! Sounds fun, let’s build a stage!” And so we did.
AL: What are some of the challenges you face putting on an event like this?
CA: Our festival’s challenges are probably the same that most festivals have – the behind the scenes challenges of insurance, staff, money. Stuff like that. Although a challenge we face every year is parking. Adam (lead singer for EBJ) and I set up the markers for the roads and every year the damn cows get out and make a point to knock every single one over! I think it’s something they look forward to every year.
AL: Everyone needs something to look forward to. So you built the stage- how did that go? How were you able to do that?
CA: We did. We built the stage in 2016 when we started the festival at Irwin Farm. Several of the band members are carpenters, so we had the skills to do it. John Irwin brought up his excavator and dug 12 holes for the posts in about 10 minutes and we went from there. For about 3 or 4 solid weekends we had a crew of guys up there working away. It’s a great stage and definitely adds to the coolness of the event.
AL: How would you describe your music and how has it developed over the last 10 years as a band?
CA: I would describe us as a blend of country, bluegrass, Americana, and rock of sorts. I think we have developed by just trying to push ourselves musically and still have fun. Ten years of playing together have let us get pretty in sync with each other as far as each member’s style and how we can compliment that. At this point, we just want to have fun with the music we’re playing and the live shows we put on.
AL: I see you have merch that says “Support Northern Rock”, can you tell us what that means to you?
CA: Northern Rock is a term we came up with to kind of describe our sound. We never felt we belonged too much in any category, so Northern Rock seemed to fit. We were hoping it was a term that would take off but that hasn’t happened yet. We still got time though to be pioneers of the northern rock genre.
AL: What can someone attending the festival expect from the experience and from the other bands?
CA: The experience of the Throwdown is great! It’s a laid back atmosphere where you know you are surrounded by good people who are there to enjoy live music. We always make sure to bring back festival favorites that a lot of people only see once a year, but we also make it a point to bring in new acts that will blow people away when they see them for the first time.
AL: Can you tell us a favorite memorable moment from a past Throwdown?
CA: My favorite experience isn’t one moment but one that happens every year. I love Saturday afternoon after the hustle and bustle of getting everyone in the gate on Friday is over and everyone just hangs out on the hill and listens to music. There are people spread out everywhere on blankets or chairs just drinking beers and relaxing to music.
AL: A shark, a bear, and an EBJ fan get into a bar fight. Who wins?
CA: The bear. The EBJ fan would probably be too intoxicated to put up much of a fight.
AL: How can we follow the band and what can we expect to see from you in the future?
CA: On our website eastboundjesus.com, Instagram (@eastboundjesus), and Facebook (@Eastbound Jesus) Not sure if we are on Twitter. Don’t know if bands do Twitter.
AL: What is a Twitter? Anyways, it wouldn’t be a complete interview without bringing up the pandemic. How has that affected the planning of the event and what should people know about it in relation to the Throwdown?
CA: We went into this year with the idea of keeping our attendance numbers down for safety reasons with COVID. We initially sold 500 camping tickets then went up to 750 with a few hundred Saturday day passes and we will keep it at that. We know the farm can hold more people but this gives everyone plenty of camping room to spread out and see the stage. We will follow NYS guidelines and stick to the rules, especially with this uptick with the Delta variant.
After talking with Carl, I got in touch with Eastbound Jesus’s manager, Greg Bell, to ask him a few questions about his work with the band and his own production company, Guthrie-Bell Productions, as well as a festival of his own.
AL: Greg congrats to you on your recent Eddie Award for the Best Promoter in the Capital Region. How has it been going for you lately with live music coming back?
Greg Bell: It has been extremely hectic. Going from doing almost nothing for 15-16 months to being swamped has been challenging. Every band on the planet is touring and looking for dates. I literally could do 5 shows a week from now through January and still be turning shows down. In some ways, it is a great position to be in and really exciting. In other ways, it’s frightening. Can the market handle all of the shows coming through the area? Are people going to be afraid to go to indoor shows? Is COVID going to force more shutdowns and cancelations? These are all questions that we won’t be able to answer until we go through it. Normally, I would be thrilled with the lineup I have coming up this fall. It’s the uncertainty that is driving me crazy.
AL: Can you tell us a bit about your festival Bellstock?
GB: Bellstock was started sort of as a goof on the 1994 Woodstock Anniversary shows that were scheduled for that summer. My family owned a beautiful piece of property in the Catskills which was perfect for an outdoor show. I had been working with bands for a couple of years at that point and decided to have a small party with a few bands and camping. It was for one day and night and was a fun time. The second year, it was extended to 3 days and got a little crazy. The Town Board passed the Greg Bell Mass Gathering Act that year. The next year, they put the Greg Bell Noise Ordinance in effect. Of course, they weren’t really named after me but Bellstock was definitely one of the main reasons they were set up. As the years went on, the Town Board realized that we were not causing any problems and as long as the music stopped at a reasonable time, they left us alone. At this point, there have been 22 Bellstocks – all without a fight, an arrest, an injury, property damage, etc. We really have had zero problems. I doubt many promoters can match that record. We have kept it small and haven’t tried to promote it outside of friends and families of myself and the bands. Everyone knows someone there and people take care of themselves and others. The Eastbound Throwdown has a very similar vibe.
AL: Eastbound Jesus is very fortunate to have you on their side. Can you tell us how long you have been representing them and why we should check them out?
GB: Eastbound Jesus drives me insane. They only want to play out occasionally. They turn down gigs that other bands would kill for and then will play a show at a local bar. They rarely listen to my advice and do whatever they want. They are also my favorite band out there right now. They put on an amazing live show and bring joy to everyone who goes to see them. While no one member of the band would be considered a virtuoso, together they have something special. When they are playing together, you can see how much fun they are having and that carries over to the audience. It is a rare sight to see anyone not dancing at their shows. They write great songs and they write a lot of them. They have great lead vocals as well as amazing harmonies. They can play all night and often I make them play longer because no one wants the show to end. You really need to go to one of their shows to really appreciate how good they are. Aside from them being a great band, they are funny f**king guys. They constantly make me laugh. They are not just a band that I supposedly manage, they are part of my family.
AL: What are some of your other projects you have been involved in recently?
GB: I have a ton of shows coming up. The Throwdown is basically the beginning of my season. Being a retired teacher, I still consider September to be the start of my year. You can go to facebook.com/guthriebell or www.guthriebellproductions.com for my complete schedule.
And there you have it! Hope to see you out there when EBJ hits Irwin Farm this Friday and Saturday, September 10th and 11th, and on the road going forward. Be safe out there, be good to your neighbor, and rock on. Go and check out our upcoming tour dates on Facebook, Instagram, or online at easboundjesus.com.