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Love your art and play what you want and not what they want. There is also a big difference between a hobby and a lifestyle, decide for yourself. – The Members of Profane Sass
Neil Young is an enduring musician who has traveled the roads of song far and wide, on his own as well as while part of grand acts such as Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. His and Crazy Horse’s upcoming album Americana is a tribute to the land this Canadian troubadour loves dearly, and Neil entrusted Talenthouse with helping him find a splendid cover of one of the album’s tracks to usher in its release.
As luck and skill would have it, a medley of American and Canadian songsters by the name Profane Sass took it upon themselves to submit their gripping take on “Wayfaring Stranger” to the Invite, playing with such verve and spirit that Neil was moved to select that song as the bona fide Winner. We were fortunate to capture the band’s onscreen reaction upon being told that they’d gained Neil’s recognition in a big way. Having absorbed the good news, the members gathered themselves for a follow up interview. Read up on the story of each member finding their way into the band, how they keep their ecological footprint minimal, as well as the lengths they’re going to keep this association of musicians traveling strong.
TH: Could you give us a list of your names and which role each person has in the band? After the real responsibilities, it’s all right to add a random (possibly true) title or duty at the end.
Kiwi – Banjo
Tomas – Mandolin
Nico – Bass
Ben – Viola
Everyone – Total Babes that scream to the sky (duh)
TH: You’ve said that you enjoy playing traditional music non-traditionally. What musical elements, traditional or perhaps unexpected, were you exploring in your interpretation of “Wayfaring Stranger”?
Toe: I have always been inspired by this song because of the traveling aspect and moving lyrics, but I only have ever heard it played slowly so I wanted to speed it up and put more energy into it. This song is beautiful and I want people to have to listen when we sing it. Playing this song slow on the street, it is easy for people to pass by without giving it a second thought. Fast and loud and in your face captures peoples attention and makes them listen to a truly epic tune.
As a group we believe in leading simple lives. We as humans don’t need as much as we think we do and constant consumption is not a manageable or fulfilling
TH: How did you all meet and assemble into this band?
Kiwi: I met Tomas while I was traveling. We partied all week playing music making bank and having a time then went our separate ways. After a while we decided to have a band, met back up and started an indefinite tour playing everywhere we can, from streets to venues to basements. We got Nico, who is Toe’s brother to join us on our first fully booked tour in Feb. 2011. We met Ben at a drunken bonfire in New Orleans where he came out of nowhere and started shredding fiddle with us. The following day/night we convinced him to join our band. Since that tour in early 2011 that has been the standing line-up. We have done 2 US tours, and a Canadian tour since then.
TH: Please name and describe some of Profane Sass’s definitive songs at the moment. If you have links to your performances of them online, that would be swell as well.
“No Ticket” – This song was written while hitchhiking and its all about riding freight trains and getting around for free or just plain walking.
“No Borders” – This song expresses our frustration and anger towards borders, and the unjust treatment of good people based on social status.
“Rabinal” – This song is about a sacred place in Guatemala and how we need to reconnect with our natural roots.
We recently had a radio recording that is featuring some of our newly written songs – unfortunately Ben was not there, but on our upcoming album we will have fiddle there. You can hear it here on track 3 at 12:30.
We are planning on heading south into Mexico, but continuing to central and south america in our Veggie Oil bus we just built.
TH: What’s it like balancing your work as creative musicians with the needs of everyday life? Do you have any advice for those aiming to manage this juggling act?
PS: As a group we believe in leading simple lives. We as humans don’t need as much as we think we do and constant consumption is not a manageable or fulfilling lifestyle. Our cost of living is pretty low and we also take advantage of other people’s waste, i.e. dumpster diving, alternative fuels, foraging for food, and anything else that makes money less of a necessity. We also believe that the passion you put into your expression often provides you with all you need. We play everywhere we go and when we need money we put out a hat and busking pays the bills. In other words we live our music and everything else falls into place.
Our advice to help all these struggling musicians out there would be to cut back on unnecessary expenses, dump any ego in the trash (and look for tasty food while you’re in there), don’t expect to get rich, love your art and play what you want and not what they want. There is also a big difference between a hobby and a lifestyle, decide for yourself.
TH: What are your ambitions as a band, following this acknowledgment of your talent from Neil Young? I believe there was mention of a trip to Mexico?
PS: First of all we want to clear up legalities with our fiddle player who is currently denied entry into the states because of no work visa/he’s a broke musician. [Editor's note: Ben adds that "Like Neil, I was born in Toronto, and I am the token Canadian in the band."] We want to travel and tour the world, connect and share inspiration with people and artists everywhere. We want to write and record more original material, keep the energy high and our wings spread wide. We also want to upgrade our instruments.
We are planning on heading south into Mexico, but continuing to Central and South America in our Veggie Oil bus we just built. We want to explore Latin America and our Hispanic roots (Nico and Tomas’s father is from Chile). Then continue onto the next adventure.
Also, to meet Neil Young would be awesome! Thanks a lot for your time, this was such a great surprise for us! You rock, Neil!
We tip our hats to Profane Sass for this landmark achievement! Your band’s a paragon of resilient artistry and we hope you’ll keep the tunes coming.
Image of Neil Young from American Songwriter.
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