I interviewed Sam Eilertsen, a 19-year-old participator in the Providence folk-scene from North Kingstown, RI. Talking with him, I realized just how tight-knit this scene seems to be, not only among the audience but also among the audience and the bands. He also discussed how "folk" may not be the best word to describe the scene because many of the bands incorporate so many different genres into their musical style. However, the general quality all of the bands and performers seemed to possess was a focus on lyricism--the very quality that, according to Sam, seems to draw most of the members to this scene. Here is an excerpt from our interview, followed by a link to a sound recording of the interview in full.
[after Sam describes his music taste, which includes blues, jazz, folk, rock, rap, and classical]
Me: Do you think that that's typical of members of this scene or do you think that everyone else has differing music tastes from that of yourself?
Sam: ...A lot of my friends who are into that scene have similar music tastes to myself... You refer to it as a "folk" scene, but most of the bands involved in it aren't strictly folk. They have rock influences, they have blues influences, they have country influences... there's even some metal influences in there sometimes. So, I would say that it generally would attract a crowd with a wide range of music tastes.
Me: Going on with that--you were saying how it had lots of different influences--can you try to describe at all the music itself, like what that sounds like? [Considering that there] is such a broad [range] of genres included in this one scene, is there any one quality that you think a band has to have to be a part of it?
Sam: It's kind of tricky... I would say that there is a sort of sound to it and it's kind of hard to describe a sound with words, but... for the most part it's definitely folk-inspired--a lot of focus on lyricism more than instrumentals... On the other hand, it's not traditional folk. It's mostly electric, mostly a full band with drums--although there are some performers who just have a guitar.
Me: Going more back towards the scene then, do you think you could describe a typical member of the scene?
Sam: Well, I'd say it's mostly high school and college kids with some older people, but it's very rare to find someone over thirty at one of these shows... a lot of general music aficionados, but also a lot of the intellectual types. But there's also a certain element of a kind of social rebellion involved in the whole thing... There's certain ways people into this scene often dress, like you always see them wearing flannel shirts, often tighter jeans then you normally see on men... a lot of facial hair.
[Later in the interview]
Me: Why do you think that people are attracted to indie-folk and folk-rock?
Sam: For me, it's always been a focus on the lyricism. A lot of rock songs...the lyrics don't really mean that much... Folk songs often are very poetic, following [the old folk tradition] and also some of the newer stuff like Bob Dylan, who really brought it into the mainstream... So it has that element which I think attracts definitely a more intellectual crowd. It's also more critical of society in a more thoughtful way I think than a lot of modern, mainstream music--rap or rock or whatever. It's kind of all cliche what they have to say, for the most part, whereas I think folk still has originality to it. I think the scene in Providence--the way the artists have blended a lot of different genres and the songs they have written I think have kind of a new sound to them... it has kind of a freshness to it that accompanies the creation of a new musical genre or subgenre.