Bluegrass band-turned-rockers embrace change, new challenges
Kenny Feinstein, the multi-instrumentalist, singer and sole remaining founding member of Water Tower Bucket Boys, has seen his share of changes occur in the band over the years. For example, their moniker has recently been shortened to Water Tower.
“We took ‘Bucket Boys’ off our name because we lost our banjo player and gained a drummer about a year and a half ago,” Feinstein explains. “We’ve started leaving bluegrass music behind to a certain extent, from a traditional standpoint, because we’re a lot more rockin’ now. So we changed the named to just Water Tower because Bucket Boys has that traditional sound to it and makes it sound like the Soggy Bottom Boys.”
Other changes include a shift in genre—at one point the band focused on traditional square dance music—and lineup. It’s been a bumpy ride at times, but Feinstein has learned to roll with the band’s evolution.
“We’ve probably got like 30 ex-members at this point,” Feinstein jokes. “We require a lot of time and have high standards, so sometimes we part ways with members because of a lack of improvement and sometimes it’s just hard to keep the same members together because people want to do different things. The guy I started the band with, for example, wanted to make guitars, so he’s off making guitars now.”
Throughout its history, Water Tower has been inspired by old-time bluegrass, jazz, pop and even punk music—as heard on the band’s varied discography—so its progression into a rock and roll-type band makes sense, in that its members never do the same thing twice. Still, tracks like the mournful Americana dirge “Meet Me Where the Crow Don’t Fly” and the rollicking bluegrass number “Walkin’ the Road,” both off 2011’s Where the Crow Don’t Fly, won’t go away.
“We’re moving in a slightly different direction, but it doesn’t feel like we’re starting over or anything because it’s the same songs and the same kind of vibe,” Feinstein says. “It’s really the same thing, it’s just that it’s a bit of a different rhythm section and we’re leaning more towards the rock direction now.”
Feinstein is hard at work on a new record, tentatively titled Secret Love Buzz, with a new lineup—featuring Heath Baron, Matthew Elliott, Patrick Norris and Peter Daggatt—and while he is keeping mum about the details at the moment, his enthusiasm for the project is palpable.
“I have never been this excited,” Feinstein says. “We have new musicians, we’re about to go out on the road. You don’t know what to expect with the new record, but it’s the most exciting time ever because we’re doing what we want to do and we get to do it together.”
No one knows what the future holds for Water Tower—more changes could be just around the corner for all Feinstein knows—but he is happy about how things are looking at the moment. A lot of this has to do with the fact that he is playing music with his friends these days, and that is what matters most to him.
“The touring band is going to be people who are my really close friends,” says Feinstein. “To me, the band is just about friendship and brotherhood and love, and that’s one of the main reasons why I just want to play music with my best friends. And for a touring group, you can tour with the best musicians in the world, but if you don’t get along then you’re not gonna be very happy.”
Water Tower will perform at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 12 at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $8. For more information, call 429-6994.