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Driftwood ready to ring in 2020 at the Haunt

Dec 28, 2019

Southern Tier favorites Driftwood will return to Ithaca next week for a pair of shows at the Haunt, including a New Year’s Eve show on Tuesday night.

Driftwood will return to the Haunt for shows on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Since 2015, the Americana band has been ending its year at the Haunt – a tradition of which the band members have grown fond.

“It feels great – there’s always so much energy,” said Driftwood singer-violinist Claire Byrne in a recent phone interview. “We really love doing two-night runs, and forming these traditions of doing something once a year. You feel like you’re building something each year, with the same people at the same venue in the same town. So it’s really nice to have that consistency every year – and Ithaca’s such a great place to do it.”

Of course, this year is a little different for the band: Byrne and her husband Brian Vollmer had their first baby, Leonard Brian, on Dec. 11.

“He came a little bit late – he was due on Dec. 2, and came last week,” she said. “It’s pretty crazy, but it’s going really good. It’s a big adjustment but everybody’s figuring it out. Everyday gets a little bit easier and we learn a little bit more about each other every day.”

The Haunt shows will be her first gigs since playing in Buffalo on Nov. 16.

“A lot of people are saying to me, ‘Are you really going to be able to do that?’ or ‘Do you know what you’re doing?” she said. “But I talked to my doctor and I talked to my husband and I talked to some women I know who have had babies and who played some shows not too long afterwards before I made these decisions (to play), and I feel like this is something I can do.”

“If it wasn’t something we do every year, and it was more than just 45 minutes from my house, I would’ve said no, but it feels very doable. I’m like the type of person who will be ready to get out and do things by then, anyways,” she said with a big laugh.

Earlier this year, Driftwood released their latest album, “Tree of Shade,” which they recorded in the fall of 2017 with producer Simone Felice at Sugar Mtn Studios in Palenville, N.Y.

“It was the first time that what we heard in our heads actually came out in the album,” Byrne said. “A lot of that actually had to do with song selection. Simone Felice had asked at the beginning of the process if we would let him choose the songs. So we all sent in demos of our songs, and he picked (11) songs that he thought fit together really well.

“When we got the list of songs, we were kind of like, ‘Oh, wow – this is not very up-tempo,’ and thought it was a little bit less of an upbeat Driftwood album. I think we would’ve picked different ones ourselves. But I think because of the tunes he chose, it was easier to translate them on to the album. They worked better for the album as a whole, and for the recording process – as opposed to a live process. And then we were able to take them and make them live Driftwood tunes. Which is an easier thing to do than to go the other way.

“A lot of our songs, we just play them out for so long and so often, and then to try to translate that energy on to an album is nearly impossible. But if we do it the other way around, it actually seems to work much better. This was the first time we did that. So I think that made a really big difference.”

Since Driftwood finished recording “Tree of Shade,” the band – which also includes Joey Arcuri (bass), Dan Forsyth (guitar), Joe Kollar (banjo and more) and Greg Evans (drums) – has continued to write more songs.

“We all have a lot of new material,” Byrne said. “We haven’t started recording yet, but we’re hoping to get an album out in 2020. We’ll see about that – it’s usually a bit of a lofty goal for us, but we’re hoping we can do it. And I think we might take the same approach to picking the tunes, not being afraid to choose songs that are a bit slower. It worked for ‘Tree of Shade,’ and people seemed to enjoy the album, so that gives us incentive to do it again.”

If You Go

On Monday, Driftwood will be joined by Western New York’s Uncle Ben’s Remedy, and on Tuesday, by Binghamton’s Milkweed. Tickets are available for each show, as are two-night passes. Each show starts at 9 p.m.

“We’ll be switching it up each night, but still playing a few of the same favorites at each show,” Byrne said. “But we have a lot of new material, and we’ll be playing a lot of the album as well. I don’t know if I’ll be getting down on the ground like I used to – I don’t think I’m that healed yet – but it’s going be a good time.”

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