San Diego quartet The Silent Comedy make a habit out of finding a good time, whether boozing with fans onstage, slipping into one of their favorite pubs after hours, or rocking out in a trolley car. Founded by brothers Joshua and Jeremiah Zimmerman, the group takes pride in evading mainstream genres by manipulating folk instruments and blending musical traditions. Since the group's inception in 2006, their alternative brand of Americana has threaded through folk-pop, gospel, blues and rock and roll, resulting in a rough-and-tumble sound that resonates beyond the bar scene that initially embraced them. Amidst intermittent recording for a new album due out in Spring of 2014 and an appearance at this year's San Diego Music Thing on September 14th, The Silent Comedy continue to further their reputation as good-natured, musical outlaws.
OC Weekly (Heidi Darby): It's interesting that you're based in San Diego. Your music is more countryside and whiskey, versus surf and sand. Do you get that a lot?
Joshua Zimmerman: I think it's a product of what we grew up listening to. We listened to a lot of roots music, blues and gospel, and folk. We strive to have it be a little bit placeless. We do find that when we travel around the country there are areas that respond to it really well because it sounds like something from the South or other parts of the states. It is a little bit out of place in Southern California.
Your live shows have a reputation for being pretty wild. Is it safe to assume you're rowdy off stage as well?
We have a reputation for antics. It really depends on the town and what's going on. In San Francisco or Sacramento we have a lot of friends who own and run some of the best cocktail bars in the world. We have a habit of getting a little bit wild with those guys. We've been in bars that are closed to the public--you know, around four or five in the morning--dancing on the bar, sometimes with our clothes on, sometimes with our clothes off. That has been known to happen. We're a good time band.
You played in a trolley once, right?
We really take a lot of enjoyment performing in unique environments. The trolley sessions definitely live up to that. It's loud, it's constantly moving. You have to roll with the punches and figure out your environment... Just recently we were in Aspen, Colorado and did a session like that on a gondola in a ski resort. That was one of the coolest gigs we've done, but we've got one in the works to perform on a plane. That would probably take the cake.
What can you tell me about your upcoming gig at San Diego Music Thing?
Josh: I'm excited about it because it's put on by the San Diego Music Foundation, who also puts on the San Diego Music Awards. They do charity work with grade school children, providing them instruments in conjunction with Taylor Guitars because the funding is being cut in all the schools. It's really great and they're doing something positive. As far as the community goes, it's been cool to see San Diego Music Thing develop over the last couple of years, because San Diego historically has been a tough city for arts to do well in.
Why is that?
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People are so caught up in the beach and the resort culture there, it's a little hard to get people rallied around artistic causes. I really think the tide has been changing over the last couple of years. Events like San Diego Music Thing really aid in accelerating that process and it helps bring a lot of bands together who normally wouldn't play on the same bills, or didn't know each other before. It builds some bridges between different bands. This year and last year they started bringing in more national touring acts and that has it's own benefit... Last year we weren't able to be a part of it because we were on the road. This year we're really happy to be a part of it. They're setting up an outdoor stage and shutting down one of the streets in North Park. We're gonna play out there, and I think it's gonna be a really great party.
There's quite a variety of bands playing that event. It's interesting that people find it so difficult to pinpoint what genre your music belongs in.
That's something that we enjoy. We can't really figure out what genre it is, or what attracts people to it or [makes them] connect with it. That's part of the beauty of all art, really. We are grateful that people connect with it, and support it. There's a bit of mystery to it, there's not a formula. As we're making this new record that we're working on right now, we're exploring those avenues further. It's cool to see it evolve but it's getting even more confusing to try and put a genre label on it. As we move forward we're getting more gospel, more rock and roll, and becoming harder to define as the years go by. We feel that's a strength. Some people might not like the more country stuff, and some people might not like the more rock and roll stuff, but there's something for everyone.