Folk Family Revival Interview
House of Rock, Corpus Christi TX
March 2, 2018
by Andrew C. Schlett
Folk Family Revival is a band that has earned their stripes both out on the road and in the studio as well. Their first album "Unfolding" was released in 2011 and their second, "Waterwalker" came out four years later in 2015. Their third effort, mostly in the can by now but as yet without a title or an anticipated release date, will mark the next step in the constantly evolving, growing, and shifting sound that is FFR. Based out of Magnolia, Texas, this four-piece jam-band comprised of three brothers and their friend (Mason Lankford, Barrett Lankford, Lincoln Lankford, and Caleb Pace) has achieved a reputation not only for the excellence of their performance but also the extensive scope of their touring schedule. They’ve touched virtually every corner of the Lone Star State, playing everything from small community crawfish festivals and backwoods dance halls to Willie Nelson’s Annual Family Picnic, and have been out on at least one radio tour of the great Midwest. They play what might be described as psychedelic-grunge country infused by threads of bluegrass on acid. The progression of their sound over the years, their approach to music, and their attitudes towards the occasional haircut all became topics in the following interview which was conducted in, of all places, the outdoor public parking lot across the street from House of Rock in Corpus Christi. There are many unforeseen obstacles to outdoor parking-lot interviews which I was not wholly prepared for. The wind that night, for example, was somewhat gusty and obscured some of FFR’s responses in my phone mic. The traffic noise on the adjacent street, a truck or a passing scooter, would sometimes drown out their answers. Not once but twice were we interrupted by random homeless guys walking up to ask for money and cigarettes. But we finally got it done! Caleb was not able to join in on this conversation, he was in the van taking a nap before the show, and so it was just me and the three Lankford brothers. I wish that the raw humor, the vibrant laughter we enjoyed was more translatable to this printed medium, because these guys are seriously entertaining on or off the stage. Their show that evening was rather small and intimate; the Family has not yet made serious inroads to the Corpus Christi market, but to a crowd of less than 50 people they put on a show that would have played just as well on any stage in the world. They did original songs from the new album as well as the previous two records and threw in a couple of outstanding covers, including Mason Lankford re-animating Jim Morrison for an almost eerie rendition of “Roadhouse Blues” and then later, for the first encore, he played a captivating solo acoustic cover of the old Ray Price classic “For the Good Times”. It was a long night, but a special evening, many Lone Stars were consumed (they didn’t have Southern Star at the House of Rock) and maybe a whiskey shot or two, but I was able to capture a cool interview, hang with cool musician friends, and take in a memorable show. It is my pleasure now to present Folk Family Revival:
Rivethead Magazine: All right. So we got the light, we got the band, and we’re here live with Folk Family Revival! Mason Lankford, Lincoln Lankford, Barrett Lankford. The three Lankford brothers.
Mason Lankford: Caleb is taking a nap.
RHM: Caleb is taking a nap?
Lincoln Lankford: Yeah, he’s tired. Poor guy, he deserves it, he words so hard…
Barrett Lankford: Well he is the only real musician in the group, after all.
(and so the laughter begins)
RHM: Okay, so first question: When I first met y’all something like five years ago, you all looked like you could have been extras out of a Grizzly Adams movie. Then you all shaved, got haircuts, and cleaned up. What happened there, and what, as a band, is your current approach or attitude toward manly personal grooming?
Barrett: I didn’t know there was such a thing.
Lincoln: Well for one, we smell better, that’s for sure!
Mason: I think I just grow it out until I can’t handle it anymore and then I just cut it off, you know? Lincoln keeps it pretty clean most of the time, and I’m actually about to cut all my hair off but the beard.
Barrett: I’ve got one person that always cuts my hair for like the last four years, and I wait until she calls me. Then I go get my hair cut.
Lincoln: I do stay pretty clean, though. I shower as much as I can.
Barrett: And we’ve got one of our buddies making a beard oil for us now. He’s using Mason’s bee’s wax and it’s like this special blend that he whipped up. So I’m wearing that all the time, and smelling kind of fresh…
RHM: The beard looks good, and you can put the FFR brand on the beard oil!
Lincoln: Yep! It’s what the Family wears, six-string elixir!
Barrett: And he used a hemp odor, like a floral blend…
Lincoln: Rosemary and Cannabis leaf…
Barrett: It’s called “Rosemary Jane” but it doesn’t smell like weed, though, so it’s not incriminating.
(Editor’s note: Rosemary Jane Beard Oil is available to the public. We’ll provide the link at the end of this interview article.)
RHM: No doubt Lincoln is the only one who actually manscapes.
Lincoln: Yeah. Sometimes. I kinda like to experiment, you know. I’ll do triangles, I like to do little hearts….
Barrett: I used to try, like I’d do arrows and things…
Mason: And I just don’t, you know, bend in that direction.
Lincoln: I’m very flexible!
RHM: All right. Now that we’ve gotten through that, on to the serious business. Bands always get asked to name their influences, but you all seem to take your influences not from specific artists or other bands, but from entire genres as a whole. Fair statement?
FFR: (general assent and agreement)
Barrett: I think usually there’s a primary band inside of that genre that kind of like spawns it, who opens that door. It’s kind of weird how we get into stuff, like for me personally I didn’t get into the Beatles until maybe six years ago. I was always like well that was my mom’s band, girl music or whatever. But we used to hang out in our parent’s garage and play ping-pong, and our old road manager Ryo, whenever I was playing ping-pong he’d put on the Beatles. Then one time he put on Abbey Road and I just fell in love. Same thing with the Doors, I just recently started getting into the Doors.
BECAUSE THE MUSIC MATTERS!!!
Folk Family Revival (from left): Lincoln Lankford (percussion) Caleb Pace (lead guitar/strings) Mason Lankford (vocals) and Barrett Lankford (bass)
RHM: So how would you say that your music has grown or evolved between the first record Unfolding, and then Waterwalker, and on to the new album.
Lincoln: Oh wow, holy crap. It’s changed … universally, I guess.
Mason: I think the first one was just us trying to work out how to do it, and then on Waterwalker we knew how to do it, and so we didn’t do it right. We kinda took too much control of the studio, and we wanted to do it like we knew how to do it, and I think the producer was just letting us do too much. Not that it ended up bad, it just ended up as a band trying to take control of the studio instead of the studio telling the band how to do it. On this new one we’ve kind of figured out those roles, and we went in and worked with John Evans who has been doing music for a long time in both worlds, as a performer and now he’s producing records. We trusted him a lot and showed him the songs, and he was like, cool man, go write the parts first instead of coming in and building them in the studio, so we did, and then we were able to come in and track live! Everything was live, instead of pulling it apart track by track, drums first, then bass, you know, kind of building it in the studio. We were able to come in and record it with ideas on how we wanted our vocal treatments on every song, and how we wanted the instruments to sound, and we worked it all out. He ended up changing a few things, harmonies and stuff, and it was great!
Barrett: We learned that hard lesson of what a producer is actually for. You know, there’s like that weird stigma, and it actually happens to a lot of bands, where there’s this evil producer who comes in and totally changes their music and comes out with this trashy whatever, but it’s just socially and commercially acceptable crap.
RHM: Can you spell Bob Rock?
Barrett: The basic idea with a producer is that they know their space. They know their gear, they know their studio, and you’ve got to find somebody who you trust, who isn’t going to change your music outside of what you kind of want anyway.
Mason: You still want them to put their “touch” on it.
Barrett: Yeah. And they have control over the room you’re using, and you rely on their knowledge to provide that service while you provide the music. That is collaboration, versus what we did on Waterwalker.
Lincoln: They still let us have a lot of liberties, though. They let us do a whole bunch of weird crap on vocals and synths, and drums.
(We were interrupted again here as a car drives the wrong way down the one-way street, gets honked at, figures it out and turns around.)
Mason: John Evans used to be a quarterback, and everything he did in the studio was really based on the team. Like, oh, you messed this up, run it again, and that kind of thing. He based everything on his experience playing football. Now, I don’t know a whole lot about sports, but I do understand the Coach’s position, and John was just good at all of that. It was nice being in the studio with another rock-n-roller, somebody that’s been out doing it instead of some guy who just owns a studio and isn’t in the music industry – not that he’s never been in it but he hasn’t had the same experiences that we have, being on the road, not showering, sleeping in parking lots and stuff like that. He knew just what we were about, he could communicate with us, and finally at some point he was like look, if you guys need me to rent you hookers, get you a bunch of cocaine, we can do that. Not that it ever happened, but just to know it was there….
(much more raucous laughter)
Barrett: Yeah! And we were just like, um, how about a hot shower and a place to sleep? We’ll take that!
Mason: But it was cool, you know. It was like, this is what the rock-n-roll lifestyle is, and then for us to actually be able to feel that way for once, it was like an eye-opener, like shit, this is who we are!
Lincoln: It was … inspiring!
Mason: Very inspiring, yes, in a lot of ways. Like a good coach, John tears you apart in a good way and makes you see your weaknesses, then builds them up in the best way and then lets you go. He doesn’t let you think too much about what you’re worried about, if you’re wondering if this is going to translate, and he’s like it sounds good to me, so stop fuckin’ worrying about it!
Lincoln: Yeah! Just confront it! You throw the ball, you catch it, and you score. That easy.
Barrett: Sometimes we got a little too hung up on the coach thing, though. He would give us speeches and stuff, and Patrick did the engineering work and kind of co-produced it, and he’d sometimes have to catch John in the middle of one of these speeches. We’re all into it and it’s like super-inspirational, we’re listening to everything he’s saying, and Patrick’s like dude! This isn’t a fucking football game, we’re recording a record here!
Mason: We would spend a whole day on John’s life story but that was actually one of my favorite parts of being in there, it was the best part. It was worth the whole experience because we’re huge John Evans fans. It was literally like getting to see one of your heroes telling you everything you ever wanted to know about his life. And you’re like, oh my god!
Lincoln: He just broke down for like 12 hours and told us his whole life story until it was like, all right, time to go home!
Barrett: That was the coolest part about getting into it, originally. Working with John. He had joked around previously at shows that we would play together, or whatever, and he was like “when are you going to come and make a good record with me?” But then we got to check out the studio one time, we went in there once when we were out in Austin just to check it out, and there’s John and a couple of the other guys and you’d see them in their bell-bottoms and looking like nine feet tall and shit, and you’re like dude, that’s fuckin’ John Evans!
Lincoln: So back to your question, there’s been a lot of progression to our music, a lot of different steps and elements have changed and grown. Mostly I think it’s our acceptance of who we are, growing into the role, but still being able to trust somebody in the studio with who we are.
Mason: Confidant without being cocky, I guess.
Lincoln: We actually wrote the record for a purpose before we went in this time. We knew the arrangements of songs, we knew who was playing what, who was singing what, how we were gonna make them work, and we came in with metronome timings timed out already. They ended up adjusting them a little bit here and there, sounds better faster, sounds better slower, and you need that from an independent ear and outside perspective. When you’re inside the song it sounds slower, or it sounds faster, and you need the producer to say to you that this sounds better slower, or sounds better faster, and they were able to do that for us. But just by having the foundation, because he told us to go figure the shit out before we came in, we were able to come in and track it in something like 12 days.
Barrett: Yeah, about 12 days. And like I said we got to track the whole thing live. We set up a four-piece band all in the same room and tracked the whole thing live. We didn’t do a single scratch track or anything.
Lincoln: I ended up coming in separately and laying on like different cymbals and shakers and stuff…
Barrett: I did some bass tracks, called them the “meat and potatoes”.
Lincoln: And all the kits! I used a bunch of different kits, almost a different kit for each song, but I did the cymbals separately from it so that there wasn’t all this crappy cymbal bleed. I just got to really pick out every single drum part for everybody’s thing instead of just sitting there playing drums, and I’d like to do it that way again next time for sure! I’ll probably use less kits, but I’ll always switch out between three or four kits and it’ll be good. It’s a good way to do it.
Barrett: And Patrick, he’s John’s drummer and he’s the engineer, and he has a wall of drum kits right there. It was cool because he has an ear for it; Lincoln could go grab a different drum set, and Patrick could re-mike it and have it toned in and sounding perfect within 20 minutes.
Lincoln: Usually, setting up one drum kit for the whole record will take you the whole day just to get it tuned in and miked right, and stuff, but this was like each day different drum kit, different song, sometimes two or three songs in a day with different drum kits, and he was on it.
Mason: It was just cool seeing different elements that we’re not used to, working together in such a very cohesive way.
RHM: Well that’s all very cool! My next question was going to be about the new album that you’re working on, but we’ve already covered that. So this one may be a little bit harder to answer, but what would you say is the real key to Folk Family Revival’s success?
Lincoln: Hey, we’re just leaving it open-ended and seeing where it goes.
Barrett: Seriously, though, there’s not much that we focus on more than music. We practice a lot, to the extent of taking time away from things that would otherwise be important. I mean they are important still, but you’re kind of sacrificing one for the other. Like losing jobs and girlfriends and all that kind of stuff, music has just always been the most important thing.
Lincoln: You really put yourself out of the way to make the songs sound good.
Mason: We like having some kind of integrity, with a message, but not trying to push it. We don’t write songs that are answers, they’re just like questions that are hard to ask, you know what I mean, and then just leaving it up to the people’s interpretation. We’ve definitely changed our way of thinking with the new album, dude. In the past we’ve just kind of shot around and did what we could, as much as we could, and now we’re trying to scope it in, like a sniper rifle technique instead of a shotgun.
Lincoln: Agreed. Instead of scattering it all out and seeing what happens, now we’re like honing in, here’s a goal, aim at that and try to get it. We’ve refined the sound we were looking for and now we know exactly where we want to go.
Barrett, Lincoln, Mason, and Caleb; laying down the funk
(here our interview was interrupted by a random homeless guy bumming cigarettes and money. He was polite, introduced himself and apologized for barging in. He explained his situation and we were able to help him out a little bit. Humanity, you know. )
RHM: Been there, done that, sad to say.
Lincoln: I have my wallet, but it’s on the drum set in there that the guy’s playing right now.
Barrett: There was a dude that came by earlier playing guitar. He didn’t even mention needing money, but you could tell that’s what he was up to. And I was just like, well cool, I can respect the hustle! Being willing to trade something for something, you know, and not just asking for it. I was standing by the van and he’s like can I play you a song? I said fuck yeah play me a song! He was like what do you want to hear? I said play me some blues, always love some blues, and he started playing that Stevie Ray Vaughn song “Pride and Joy”. He got like three chords into it and that’s when I noticed he was missing the G-string on his guitar. So I told him first of all, come on dude, play me a blues song. So he turned around and dropped his top string into D and played me a song that he had written himself, it was like hard strings and everything, bad ass song. So while he’s playing I’m digging around in the van and I’m like here you go dude, here’s a G-string, and I found a couple dollars.
Lincoln: We were in Colorado one time, I was driving, and we’d just hit one of the shops up there and I had a whole jar of … well, it’s Colorado, so you know it’s good, and this lady came up asking for money, and I was like oh, we just spent all our money over here. At that time we weren’t getting very much to live on per diem, we were having to go through the dollar menu at McDonald’s just so we could eat, but I was like here, this is what I got for the day, five singles. I pulled one out so I wouldn’t be totally broke and gave her the other four and her whole face just lit up, she was thrilled! When I have, I give. You share with your buddies on the corner over there, and you pass it around. Man, but that jar was good though!
RHM: We do seem to have gotten a little bit distracted here, so back to the interview. How big was the Southern Star sponsorship for the band; what doors has it opened for you, and what was it like the first time you saw your own picture on a beer can?
FFR: (as one) Pretty cool!!
Mason: I mean, if anything, we’ve got our picture on a beer can, for sure! That’s something you can take to the bank!
Barrett: When we first started up the band we were hanging out with them, we were already friends. We weren’t even old enough to drink, at least I wasn’t anyway. Lincoln was, he’s the oldest, I’m in the middle, and Mason is the youngest.
Mason: It’s really helped us out a lot, man. Aside from getting good shows at the brewery and other places, any time we need beer we can go over there and pick it up for free! It really has ended up being more of a friendship with the company than a sponsorship – even though it is one – and now they’re like hey, if you guys need beer don’t go to the store, come pick it up here. And we still do. Each and every album has been influenced by Southern Star beer.
Lincoln: We actually wrote our new album that we just finished recording at the house over at the brewery. They let us hole up there for like a month and write all the parts and everything.
Barrett: We had spent a week in Stanley, Idaho, we had a bunch of half-done songs and we worked out lyrical content and stuff, and then came back and spent a month over there at the Southern Star house.
Lincoln: And we took Southern Star beer with us to Stanley, Idaho!
Barrett: They sent us on a sponsored radio tour, paid for all the gas, they put a big sticker on the side of our trailer and put us on their can, and sent us out on this radio tour. We plugged Southern Star while we were out there gigging around and doing all the radio promo stuff.
Mason: We were able to find some bars where they’d do like a dollar a beer if you get a bucket, Southern Star, so we’ll hook up with that kind of thing too and pump it, get some people to come to the show. Do they have Southern Star here?
RHM: I don’t know for sure, but I would kind of doubt it. I don’t know if Southern Star has quite reached Corpus yet.
Mason: We need to work on that.
Barrett: You know it’s kinda weird, some of the places you can find their beer. Like, Roswell New Mexico has Southern Star, but here in Corpus Christi no?
RHM: It is kind of like a third-world country down here
Folk Family Revival onstage at the House of Rock in Corpus Christi
(Here our interview interrupted again due to another random homeless guy asking for money, and we had to explain that we’d already been hit up. The mood was broken, though, and show time was drawing closer, so it seemed sensible to bring things towards a wrap.)
RHM: And is there anything else y’all would like to add?
Lincoln: Drink Southern Star beer! Support local music!
Barrett: Pick up your trash and don’t litter, use your blinker, get your pets spayed or neutered!
RHM: Very last question, in one sentence or less and each of you one at a time, might as well start with you Mason. What would each of you be doing right now if you weren’t a musician?
Mason: Probably trying to save up to buy land to make some sort of like a little artist’s compound that would host musical gigs, just a place where musicians and artists could stay, and beyond that I’d probably be managing a band or selling merchandise, or driving the van for the band or something like that, something in music, or maybe a sound guy, but I’m not good at running sound. I’d probably be driving the van.
Lincoln: I’d have to say a lot of that same stuff, with a definite focus on agriculture! (here he offers a sly wink) I certainly do like plants, that’s for sure!
Barrett: Or you could be like these guys and just walk around asking people for money and cigarettes.
Lincoln: Well there’s always that, yeah. But I’d still say something to do with agriculture and a compound of some sort for musicians and artists.
Barrett: Aside from the band, I’ve spent like 10 years in construction and remodeling and stuff, and I think it’s like almost a necessary evil, because it’s hard to find a job that fits our schedule, but that’s the one that did so that’s why I’ve done it. Now, I can’t say for sure that that’s what I’d do, cause if I never swung a hammer again in my life I’d be happy, but I don’t know. I’d probably be like an 18-wheeler driver because as it turns out, I can drive a van for a really really long time…
(wry laughter here)
Barrett: But our parents, our mom and dad, they had a lot to do with it. The three of us were home-schooled for our entire schooling career, so we spent like our whole childhood travelling anyway, and it was like something from our childhood that being on the road was just part of life, you know? My dad, his job had him travelling all over the place, generally inside of the United States, and so if it wasn’t like too terribly far we’d all pile into the truck with him and that’s how we did our history lessons. We would go and see, for example, where Abraham Lincoln was born instead of just reading about it from a textbook. Dad was a music minister too, and that’s how we got our start playing music. We were his roadies at first, he drafted us to carry the gear and we just started dropping off in different places.
RHM: Smart man! Just like mowing the lawn, you don’t have to pay your own kids.
FFR: Oh we had to do that too!
Mason: Yeah, and we mowed the lawns for all the people at the church too.
Barrett: I was joking just the other day that when I was 16 and mowing lawns I made so much more money than I do now … sweet gig.
Lincoln: We spent like 14 years in the church, it really is how we all started playing music, and we were all ordained in some way at some point. I think our folks decided to start going to church right before they started having kids. But yeah, we were all ministers in some way, shape, form, or fashion for a while and then we got kicked out of church.
Mason: We got kicked out of church for being too rock-n-roll.
Barrett: Well, we were “released” to “do our ministry” without them.
Lincoln: “Released to do our ministry!” That was the best!
Barrett: Well like, when the lights would come on in the church after praise and worship we’d all have to put our sunglasses on….
Lincoln: Hung over as shit….
Mason: We weren’t hung over, man, we were just too cool. We liked our shade. Don’t like them fluorescents.
RHM: Well guys I really appreciate your taking this time with me and laying down this cool interview, and y’all have a really great show tonight!!
FFR: Absolutely we will!
Folk Family Revival continues to maintain a busy touring schedule, so chances are that they’ll be playing somewhere near to you soon, but in the meantime you can find them at their website, www.folkfamilyrevival.com where you can check their tour dates, listen to their music, read other press reviews and media notes, purchase band merch, and leave them a message if you would like. They invite and encourage everybody to become fans! Find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/folkfamilyrevival/ and they’re on Reverbnation at this link: https://www.reverbnation.com/folkfamilyrevival
Rosemary Jane Beard Wax and Oil direct link: www.sixstringelixers.com
Score the starter gift-set here: https://www.sixstringelixirs.com/RoseMary-Jane-Beard-Care-Gift-Set-p/rmj_set.htm
Rivethead Magazine’s previous review of FFR’s 2015 release “Waterwalker”: http://www.rivetheadmagazine.com/folk-family-revival---waterwalker.html
Headline photo courtesy FFR Facebook page. All other lame photos by Andrew C. Schlett
Rivethead Magazine Interviews -- Folk Family Revival