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    Philly Jam Scene: Striking while the iron is hot! An interview with Muskrat Flats

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    by Andrea F. Flohn. This is the premier article by Andrea F. Flohn here at LMNR.

    The long nights without live music are seemingly coming to an end for much of the East Coast but take heed that the bands you love have not been out of commission. Throughout quarantine, musicians within the jam scene have made tremendous efforts to maintain a connection to their fans through live streaming and other social media. But as many fans and musicians have expressed, it just isn’t enough; and as scheduling remains tentative, there has been little guarantee of a 2020 summer festival.

    Which is why a community of musicians from the Westchester, PA-Delaware area has teamed up to play Ohmfest at the end of August. The two-day festival, which has been capped at 250 attendees, will feature acoustic sets as well as headliners like The Mad Dabbers and Fragments of Greatness. Muskrat Flats, a Philadelphia-based jam band, will also headline the festival Saturday night with two sets. The band was forged by brothers Matthew (Matty) and Patrick (Patty) McCann in order to produce their first album Field of Rays in late 2018. Last week, I met with the two brothers to discuss Ohmfest, Field of Rays, and their plans to move the Muskrats toward the Gateway to the West.

    Andrea Flohn: During the time when Field of Rays was being produced, were you guys more interested in recording an album than touring?

    Matty McCann: Yeah, I think bands start in different places and I think this one in particular started because of the studio. The band existed, really, just to make that album, and then eventually to start doing some shows. We brought in some good guys who can do some studio work and then go out and play a bunch of shows, which we did.

    Andrea Flohn: With you two being brothers, was there any influence musically from your parents?

    Patty McCann: Oh yeah, our parents definitely influenced us big time with the music side of things. I always tell people that the best time listening to music for us was driving on vacations. It was usually several hours long, and back then there were these cassette tape boxes filled with cassettes with all of the jam stuff; The Grateful Dead, all that good stuff. But also, just a lot of tasteful, intentional-type music, and that was the best foundation we could have ever started from. We were always encouraged to play music and go to shows too.

    Andrea Flohn: How has that foundational music helped you guys?

    Patty McCann: For me, it’s about being able to explore once you know what the good things are and what the bad things are; learning what not to listen to. I think our parents put us in a good direction, and so it was like, “You know what, we can start making some of these good decisions based off of some of those fundamental bands.”

    Andrea Flohn: You guys are playing Ohmfest in Delaware come August. Did you think you’d actually be playing live music this summer?

    Matty McCann: The original date was at the end of April, and I am presently living in California. So, this is a year intended for us to branch out from playing original music. Most of what we’ve done has been on the East Coast, but what we really wanted to do was get out to the West Coast and the Midwest. In the short amount of time we’ve been doing this as Muskrat Flats, we’ve had a good response from people in places like Colorado and the Bay Area. So, hopefully everything goes as planned for a fall tour; we can get the boys out here and start that process!

    Andrea Flohn: Why do you think there has been such a great response in places like Colorado?

    Patty McCann: One of the reasons is because it’s one of the jam-band hubs, and it always sort of felt welcoming. Red Rocks has always felt like, ‘The Gateway to the West.’ And, there’s a huge centralization of people there, it seems like more by the second, specifically in Colorado.

    Andrea Flohn: Who have you guys enjoyed seeing at Red Rocks?

    The brothers laugh and Patty says, “I think Matt’s got the best ones.”

    Matty McCann: I’m trying to think if all of them were accidental. I was gifted tickets to see Radiohead at Red Rocks, The Dead when they were just the Dead, and what was the third one..?

    Patty McCann: Primus?

    Matty McCann: Yeah! I think it was Primus.

    Patty McCann: It was, I was super jealous!

    Matty McCann: I think my favorite part about it is just walking around the entire property for hours before the show, because you can just get lost; you can go out on your own and it feels like you’re in the middle of the desert. And then, all the sudden, you’re sitting with your ancestors. You’re in a place that’s just timeless, it hasn’t been carved out and rebuilt like Philadelphia.

    Andrea Flohn: What is the best experience you guys have had playing live music so far?

    Patty McCann: For me, it was the first show at probably one of the bigger venues we’ve ever played at. There wasn’t a lot ‘riding on the line’, but it was, ‘preparation meets opportunity’, and that, to me, was super special. We had the house packed with all of our crew, and people who were there for the headliners were like, “Hey, who are these guys?”, and by the end of the night, we felt like a fixture of the venue.

    Andrea Flohn: So, it was just about being part of that ‘bigger something’.

    Patty McCann: Absolutely. It’s been a lot of years since Matty and I have been bouncing ideas back and forth, and to have a lot of people buy into it or feel the same way, you don’t discount that at all. It’s really special that people want to be involved in a cool project like that.

    Matty McCann: We’re so lucky to be part of this huge group of musicians who have helped each other. And that’s a big part of what we do: try to help to some other bands, just as we have been fortunate to have some great mentors come down and help us over the years.

    Andrea Flohn: Since the band is working from a distance at the moment, what has everyone been up to?

    Patty McCann: During the quarantine, a lot of our guys have been doing solo work. Our new piano player, David Koster, put out an entire improv album, and it seems like a great tool for him to keep working; keep creating. I was also able to put out my first two debut EP and album of some solo house music, dance-y stuff. It was all based off of a challenge from Matt where he said, “You won’t do it” and I just said, “Watch me.” And sure enough, I have about eight songs out there now and I’m expecting a third EP to kind of complete the trilogy, and that’s under PY McCann.

    Matty McCann: We also just got done shooting a video for a cover of ‘Touch of Grey’. We all kind of recorded remotely from our own home studios and that’s being finished now and that will be available on all platforms as well. And I have a single coming out this summer called ‘Grow’, so I’m super excited about that. Lots of things going on.

    Andrea Flohn: When did David join the band officially or unofficially?

    Patty McCann: David actually came along as a reference from our cousin, Bill McCann. It’s McCann heavy here. He works for a marketing company and he goes, “Hey you know my buddy, his son, seems like he’s a pretty good musician. Maybe you guys could give him some pointers. And then, one text message turned into 30 emails, turned into a whole discussion and then, we were just like, “You know what, if this kid is picking up on everything even after one rehearsal, we can decide if this is something we wanna stick with.” And [David] just showed up with an arsenal of prerequisite knowledge; he learned every song on the album, he learned every lyric on the album. He did the most justice we ever could have asked for our songs, it was really touching.

    Matty McCann: Yeah, really talented musician. His last album, he was basically the one-man band who put it all together, recorded it, the whole nine yards. We heard his music and we said, “We need to talk to him, we gotta get him out to the studio with the guys here.” And once venues actually start booking again, these guys had a little summer tour that they were doing, minus me, with the band Stable Genius. So, they had David come in and do a little jam and I remember Patrick called me on the phone and said, “Yeah I think he’s in.”

    Patty McCann: And by the way he’s 19 years old. The youngest person in the band by far.

    Andrea Flohn: Muskrat Flats describes its music as “Hot to Trot”, could you give a little insight on that?

    Matty McCann: That’s a really weak attempt at some young musicians to try to sound classic. I don’t know if there’s an Allman Brother’s Hotlanta vibe in there, or…I don’t know.

    Patty McCann: It’s just sort of part of our vocabulary now.

    Matty McCann: I think if you listen to the album there’s a lot of that stuff and we don’t mail it in with the lyrics either. Our lyrics are a lot of fun and I would hope that they would take people on a journey.

    Patty McCann: And a goofy fun experience is also something we bring to the live scene. We hope you have fun cause we’re having fun.

    Drop us a line at lmnandr@gmail.com with your live music news, show review, or concert memory.