Juggling the musical sensibilities, influences, ideas and egos of a band can be challenging with four or five members -- let alone nine.
But that is precisely the challenge awaiting the members of Asheville reggae/ska ensemble Common Foundation each time they head into their practice space, a recording studio or step on stage, as they will do July 5 and 6 at The Smokehouse on Hilton Head Island.
"It's hard sometimes because everyone has their own ideas of what they want to do or how they think we should sound," vocalist Ave Rosen said. "But I think we're good at making a concerted effort to feature everybody in the band and highlight their particular talent. It's important to us that everyone in the band is musically satiated."
In addition to playing shows in and around Asheville and throughout the region, Common Foundation is halfway through recording the follow-up to their debut album, "All the Birds."
Rosen discusses writing a record with a nine-piece band, intergroup romances and their upcoming shows on Hilton Head.
Question. I would imagine writing songs with nine people can be a bit overwhelming, how do you all approach songwriting?
Answer. (Vocalist and band co-founder Andy Link) is usually the point person on songwriting. He will sometimes bring in a fully written song, and we'll just go from there, which is great because he is one of the most brilliant songwriters I know, but a lot of our songs are born out of jams. Whether we're warming up during practice or practicing for a show, you never know what's going to come up and we're always busting out our iPhones during practice to play for each other something we've thought up.
Q. How different do you think your new album will be from "All The Birds?"
A. I think the songs on this album are a lot more about relationships and are a lot more grown up. I think our first record was more like, "Life Lessons with Common Foundation."
Q. The members of the band are guys and girls, ages 23 to 27, has there been any inter-Common Foundation fraternizing?
A. (laughs) Who have you been talking to? We recently instituted a "No fishing off the company pier" policy. Andy and I were actually high school sweethearts, and we broke up when he went away to college ... and a couple of years ago, we were in this band together and thought it'd be a great idea to start dating again. It wasn't a great idea, and the band was not real happy with all of the drama. We ended up calling it quits after a while. I guess it depends on who you ask but since I'm the one singing it, I've always thought of "All the Birds" as being a song about us breaking up.
Q. Asheville is a city increasingly known for its bluegrass and Americana music scene, what has it been like being a ska or reggae band in that city?
A. I can honestly say that we have gotten nothing but unconditional love and support from other musicians in Asheville. We've actually had musicians move to the city from Nashville, and they've talked about how much more competitive the scene is there. That's not how it is here. There are always collaborations between people from different bands, and you're always going out to see another band's show to show your support.
Q. Have you all played on Hilton Head before and what can audiences expect?
A. We've never played down there but ... we're going to be pulling out all the stops since we're doing two nights and a three-hour set each night. We're going to be playing all of our originals and a lot of our new material as well. We have eight finished songs and two unfinished songs, so I would imagine those will make their way into the set. We do some random covers like "All That She Wants" by Ace of Base, and we love The Skatalites so we do some of their instrumental stuff as well. You kind of have to do some Bob Marley and maybe some Bunny Wailer. Playing original stuff is really great but there's something fun and grounding about having an audience go, "Hey, I know that song."
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.
VIDEO FOR COMMON FOUNDATION'S "What You Say"
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