Q & A: Kevin Kniebel of Pert Near Sandstone

Pert Near Sandstone

Tomorrow, Minneapolis modern bluegrass favorites Pert Near Sandstone will take the stage at On Tap @ Mystic. You can still get tickets to the festival, which will pair over 30 breweries with music from Pert Near and The Dan Band.

We spoke with Pert Near banjoist Kevin Kniebel about their new album and craft beer around the country.

The Growler: You released an album [The Hardest Part of Leaving] in April. It’s been three years since Paradise Hop – tell me about getting back in the studio and what you hoped to accomplish with the new material.

Kevin Kniebel: We got back into the studio some time in early 2013 and, with the touring schedule, it took a while to finish it. We’d done a lot of writing, and there was stuff that carried over from Paradise Hop that didn’t quite fit that album. It was really fun to get back in and hear the sound evolve. The direction was still traditional, rooted in the instrumentation of old-time music, but being able to push those boundaries a little more and get into songs with a pretty broad, eclectic feel to them as well. We’re three different songwriters, evenly spread with who contributes to the album, so you can hear the different voices within a consistent vibe that defines our music.

The Growler: If your new album were a specific beer, or type of beer, what would it be and why?

KK: That’s a good question. I guess Paradise Hop would have been a fresh hopped IPA. You know, I want to answer this correctly because there are few things I’m passionate about in life more than beer. I guess it would be a flight of craft IPAs from local breweries. We really love this local brewing community that’s sprung up in the last four years or so. On our rider, it says “12 ice-cold beers, IPAs preferred.” So I think it would be a hoppy mix, for sure.

The Growler: What do you love seeing in that cold bucket of IPAs? What are you jonesing for when you finish a set?

KK: We travel the country, and the real nice thing is we get to sample the local IPA. There was a time when we first started touring, 10 years or so ago, when we’d go out to the Pacific Northwest and think it was just Shangri-La for beer lovers. We love the real hop-forward beer and they had such good variety. Now, we’re proud to say that we’re every bit as Shangri-La as the Pacific Northwest was back then.

Being travelers, as we are, we get to see how these scenes shape themselves. And there fewer communities that are more entwined than the beer industry and the music industry. A lot of people don’t see that. We’re good friends with a lot of the breweries around, but especially close with the guys at Fulton. I always like to joke with those guys and say that we know a thing or two about the beer business.

The Growler: Which cities, in your mind, that are the great beer cities to play in?

KK: Now, this is unquestionably one of them. But Portland is strong, and has been for a long time. Colorado, as well. We’ve spent many a night at the Mountain Sun in Boulder sampling all their wonderful taps. One of our earliest shows that we played away from home was there. They didn’t pay well, but they did pay in all the liquid currency you could handle. Man, it was like we’d died and gone to heaven.

On Tap @ Mystic Logo

The Growler: You’ve been touring since the album’s release. What’s your summer been like?

KK: We just got back from RockyGrass – which is one of the premiere acoustic festivals, out in Colorado. We do a lot of stuff around the region in summer, and pick a couple festivals to travel to here and there. But for the most part, over the next month or two, we’ll be doing regional festivals, and we’re excited for a show at First Avenue in late October.

The Growler: How did you become involved with the Mystic Lake event?

KK: They probably heard we were huge fans of craft beer. I can’t think of a better place for me to be on Saturday.

About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.

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