The Black Mountain Symphony will come to the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St, with its impeccably rendered, true fusion of genres - spanning the sphere of pop music and Phish-like jammy numbers - all with hints of classical music. The show starts at 8 p.m. on Oct. 23.
The band has morphed through a number of lineups and has had only two constant members over the years: Bear and Annie Campo, two siblings with a pile of training between them. Bear was kind enough to take time out of a tour for a phone interview.
APRIL LINE: How many years of classical training is the website talking about?
BEAR CAMPO: The violinist is actually my sister, so we've been playing many years together. I've been playing 18 years and I believe she's been playing 15. I actually took classical training till I was about 17, then I had the choice to be a classical pianist or to do my own thing. I chose my own thing. My sister, Annie, had her choice to do her own thing or to study with the first violinst of the Albany Symphony Orchestra. She chose not to become a classical violinist either.
AL: Are you working on a new album?
BC: We already have an album's worth of material. It's just the money: we're trying to raise the money. So I'm thinking we'll have an album probably by February or March. A lot of the newer stuff is more dancey, but dark and epic as well. We never have a straight sound. This is just what I've been noticing out of the material we've been producing.
AL: Is it dancey?
BC: Dance beats. In the past two or three years, a lot of these rock bands and indie bands use a lot of high-hat and snare in all the beats. We incorporate that, but we also try to fuse bluegrass with it and other elements. Something you can dance to. Some of our songs you can't dance to or maybe you could, but I don't know how.
AL: I see what you mean. For lack of a better label, I might call it jam-bandy?
BC: It's easy for us to play a jam band festival and sort of fit in. I really want to do a live recording. It really captures the energy. There's a lot more energy on stage than when you're in a studio.
AL: How much do you tour?
BC: The past year-and-a-half has been crazy. Usually, for winter, we try to take it easy, so like four [to] five gigs a month. This winter, we're really stepping back, so we can write more material. We've done a national tour [and] we've done East Coast tours down to Florida and back. We have gone to the Southwest and Midwest. This past year, we've been touring heavily in New England. We haven't played much in PA. This is our second time in the state.
AL: Since you defy classification, you have a lot of venues available to you. What's your favorite?
BC: It was this underground venue. We showed up in Colorado Springs. It had to be one of the sketchiest places I've ever booked. I talked to this guy and he said, "Well the owner's not going to be around, but I'll run it."
We wound up going there. It was a bring-your-own-alcohol situation and in a theater on the third floor, no elevator. [There were] awesome lights, awesome sound and all of the sudden, the place gets packed ... and we'd never played Colorado before. Come to find out the guy who was running things was one of the best promoters in Colorado Springs.
I like to play theaters. We've played The Egg in Albany. I think theater settings, for me, are kind of a favorite. People seem to understand when movements within songs change. We have a couple of songs where it gets really intense, then it stops and gets really chill again. People seem to clap and appreciate the little intricate things in the song instead of just drinking at a bar.
AL: How does your songwriting process work?
BC: Everybody has a different background, a different kind of music that they were raised with or trained in. All we do, as we're writing songs, is somebody presents something. I don't say, "Here's the sound we're looking for." I say, "Here's a song, do you like it? Play what you want to it." It shapes it into something that's not classifiable.
AL: I don't think it is.
BC: If you could classify it, as close as you could, how would you classify it?
AL: I don't know. I'd say bluegrass meets symphony? [This is a totally inadequate answer].
BC: Just to let you know, more than half of the members of the band hate country. Annie, the fiddle player, hates country.
AL: She doesn't handle the violin like a country fiddle.
BC: She has a custom bridge on her violin where she can use it as a fiddle or as a violin.
AL: Tell me about this "Gr8 2b Young" thing. It sounds terrific. Are you still doing it?
BC: The GR8 2b Young things ended in January. We were sponsored by a bank and what we did was we toured high schools and some colleges and we played some events within the Saratoga area and north country of New York, and just to - since all of us have very heavy backgrounds in music - talk about the music business, try to inspire kids to get into music. They got free download cards. We did a Q-and-A thing at the end and explained different elements while we were playing songs.
AL: You look pretty young in your press photos.
BC: We're all under 28. We're 28 and 26 and 27, and I started this group when I was 17, so it's been 10 years since I started this group. We used to have to lie to get my sister in to play with us. We'd show up at a club and we would show up and the people that ran the nightclub would say, "How old are you" and I'd say, "I'm 18. My sister's 18 as well." But once they heard us and that we were serious, they didn't care anymore.