The Folk Duo And The One Man Band
“We’ll play in your house and give you a new song, every day, for free…”
This is the mission statement espoused by folksinger, Eric Kufs, while discussing his band, Common Rotation, and their ongoing Living Room Tour and free song download service: The Union Maid.
Growing up on the same block in Long Island, New York, band mates Adam Busch, Eric Kufs, and Jordan Katz can’t remember a time when they weren’t making music together. Fifteen years later, this sentiment is still true even though the venue has changed to Southern California.
With their melodic blend of acoustic guitar, trumpet, banjo, harmonica, and cajon, the very distinct voices of Common Rotation struggle to define the modern folksong, while also demanding relevancy from the pop music medium.
“It’s about getting the song out there—even if it is just a piece, a bit from the show the night before, some instrumental melody, a poem – just getting the music into the hands of anybody who wants it, anybody who will listen, and for as cheaply and quickly as possible”, Eric muses. “It seems to keep folks interested, and it keeps me writing.”
That said, a fan run website has been archiving The Union Maid for more than three years, and some have also made their way to some of the band’s albums and live records—others exist only in cyberspace, simply listed by the date they were created.
Eric adds, “When I can write a song after a gig in Chicago, throw it up on the site, and then watch folks singing along to it the next night in Detroit, it makes me feel like we’re getting closer. To what I don’t know, but closer.”
It was this search that brought Common Rotation back to their roots…and into people’s living rooms. “We just started playing in people’s homes to fill in the gaps between cities while out on tour as an opener for They Might Be Giants and David Crosby,” says Jordan Katz (banjo, trumpet, and guitar). In fact it wasn’t until documentary filmmaker, Peter Stass, convinced the band to allow him to bring some digital cameras and record their campaign that anyone realized the depth of the statement the band was making.
The resulting documentary, How To Lose, (slated for release winter 2006) follows the band as they play their way through an array of packed living rooms from Belfast to Kalamazoo asking the perennial question: Can you exist in a corporate world, and maintain artistic integrity at the same time?
“That’s the question, isn’t it,” says Adam Busch. “Can we sell records, while we give away music for free on our website? Can we play in a Clear Channel owned venue one night, and, essentially, play for free at some kid’s house in the same town the next?”
While Common Rotation work to subvert the music industry, they continue to produce their brand of modern folk music for a growing audience of dedicated fans. Building on the popularity of their last two releases, The Big Fear and The Clear Channel EP, Common Rotation hope to convert more acolytes with their third album, Common Rotation isalie released September ’06.
“Can a protest song be a love song? Can it call for change and still respect tradition? Can you go home to a place you’ve never been? These are the questions we’re asking,” says Adam. “You can stay on the road, on the outside. You can point. You can write, sing, play, and pick up where others left off. We don’t see any other options. This is the only way we know how.”