They might be the best band you’ve never heard of, but this band, together nearly a decade, is legendary in Morgantown and among other college crowds, playing something like 100 shows a year.
I was recently turned on to these guys and, let me tell ya, this here’s the real deal.
Andy, Nathan and Ben gave me a little bit of insight into things like how they met, what West Virginia means to them, and how they plan to conquer the world ...
Graffiti: How did the Greens come to be? There’s gotta be a good story involved here.
Tuck: Well, it all started back in 1967. You see, we are actually much older than we appear. We were just getting ready to break into the big-time of the 60s rock revolution, but our tour bus slid off the road on the way to a gig in Alaska. We fell into an icy ravine, where we remained frozen until about 1999, when our bodies were discovered by an elderly Eskimo fisherman. This kind-hearted man unthawed us, and brought us back to life, using his Ancient Shaman’s techniques … we still owe him for that one … Anyway, we eventually found our way back to West Virginia and continued along the musical path we began way back in those good old magical days, while also adapting to the current times and blazing courageous trails of new and exciting rock music…
OR — Nathan Yoke and I met at the grocery store in Parkersburg where we were working, he noticed my BB King t-shirt, asked if I played music ... I did, and he did too, and some other guys that he knew did too, so we formed a band. We started off doing lots of Blues-based rock, but then we began doing original stuff, we called it The Greens. Right next to the Blues on the color-wheel, but different enough to be its own thing ... So it shall be ... Eventually we abducted Ben Sweeney from whatever he was doing before being in The Greens. And now we are pretty much set on being the Greatest Rock & Roll Band in all our lives ...
Graffiti: What kind of background do you all have as far as musical experience? Please tell me someone started out with accordion lessons at age 5 or something.
Yoke: No accordion lessons at age 5 for me, although my mom is quite the accordion player — she still has one at her house. I was born into a musical family. My grandparents, uncles and my mom all played and sang in a family country and western group called The Driftwoods.
Tuck: I began my musical adventures and experiences at age 15. I got put on probation for being naughty and wasn’t allowed to go running around with my friends, so I HAD to do SOMETHING to occupy my raging teenage energy and keep busy and/or sane. So it was my dad’s acoustic guitar, the five chords he showed me, and playing along with Nirvana tapes at first. After a good while of learning to listen and play by ear, I sort of graduated to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Hendrix, Cream … I played guitar every day throughout high school. As far as I know, Nathan has been playing drums since birth, and Ben is just good at lots of stuff, including the bass.
Graffiti: So when I look at the enormous list of artists who have influenced the band, I can definitely hear some similarities to Zeppelin, the Black Crowes, the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, among others. What draws you to this type of music?
Tuck: The classic rock influence, I don’t know why, it has just stuck with me. I have tried to get rid of it, but it’s embedded in my soul. I get into some crazy music, some really far-out stuff. But I always return to the rock. Some of the music from the 60s and 70s has this perennial quality — it may seem to fade out or get forgotten, but it always comes back like new, and every time it just feels good. Plus with rock music, it is an almost infinite genre. You can have jazz rock, soul rock, rap rock, folk rock, country rock, blues rock, funk rock, punk rock, hard rock, soft rock, moderate rock, pop rock, and so on, and I still don’t know exactly what alternative rock is ... I guess you have to call it something.
Graffiti: Who is the primary songwriter and where do you find the inspiration for your songs?
Tuck: As the main songwriter for The Greens, I just catch them when I can, when they decide to visit. It is a very mysterious process. Often it is when I am quiet in my mind, not even thinking about anything. They have come while driving or walking or eating or doing the dishes. It is never a set formula. Sometimes it starts with a lyric or a rhyme, or a guitar thingy. Sometimes it just arrives fully composed like “BLAM!” Those are rare though. Most always it takes mental and emotional and physical effort to create and craft a song satisfactorily. I think I have pretty high standards for myself. Nowadays, if I write a song, it has got to be a triumph. It has to be important. This is because it has become more difficult to find the time to write new songs, as I have grown up more and there are many things going on, besides art and music. Sigh. I used to crank them out in high school, college and my early twenties. As for inspiration, everything in life is fair game, as long as it is perceived and expressed in a creative way… I now have a 3-month-old daughter who is the most beautiful little creature I have even seen, so that’s very inspiring. Everything is new and interesting to her. I am trying to be like that, too. But somebody needs to tell her to stop being so needy all the time though. Daddy needs some new material! We’ve been playing some of these songs too long! Newness is a necessity. Necessity is the Mother of Invention. Invention is excitement, which is what The Greens is all about.
Graffiti: There seems to be an awful lot of pride for your home state projected in your songs. Why is that?
Tuck: You write about what you know. If I lived in Africa, I bet there would be songs about African life. I live in West Virginia. This is home. So, I write about life here, and it is my intention to get the music to people who can feel it, move to it, resonate with it, and take something of it with them wherever they go. And if you do that good enough with sincerity, then it has a transcendental element to it. It can reach across regional or national lines. Just making songs for people, that’s what we’re doing.
Yoke: We’re all from West Virginia. We are unashamed of our Appalachian heritage and love West Virginia and the good people living here, unconditionally. Some people on the outside of this state tend to have a negative image, a stereotype of West Virginians and Appalachians as a whole. People can say and think what they want, but we are always willing to challenge anybody’s misconceptions about the real West Virginia. That’s why we sing the songs we do, and carry our pride the way we do.
Graffiti: So this issue of Graffiti is all about environmental issues, how does a band called The Greens feel about these types of issues?
Sweeney: The Greens are all about renewable energy. Go Green with The Greens! Currently we are working on a chargeable battery system for our bus that will use wind energy to charge a battery network capable of powering our PA system and amplifiers. This would eliminate the need for generators at remote outdoor shows. In addition to this more traditional renewable energy application, we are also in the process of starting a non-profit organization called The Greens Acres. The primary function of this organization will be to help fund the development of self-sustaining communities. We would basically be fostering the planning and building of modern home communities (running water, electricity, etc.) with recycled materials and renewable resources. All communities would be completely self-sustained.