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KahBang: Q&A with Grace Potter of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

AP Photo/Matt Sayles | BDN
AP Photo/Matt Sayles | BDN
In this Feb. 4, 2011 photo, musician Grace Potter, center, from the band Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, poses for a portrait with her band, background from left, Catherine Popper, Scott Tournet, Matt Burr, and Benny Yurco in Los Angeles.
By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are scheduled to perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, at the KahBang Festival You Stage on the Bangor waterfront.

In the past year, the Vermont-based band has transformed to the next big thing in the national music scene with their third album “Grace Potter and the Nocturnals,” 2010, appropriately self-titled because the band found themselves and had a “stylistic epiphany,” said Potter, while making the album. Because of their ready acceptance on the U.S. touring circuit, they were able to regularly play as many as 200 shows a year.

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon before their performance, lead singer and songwriter Grace Potter answered the following questions:

As your band has grown over the past few years, what did it take for you to finally find your sound/style?

Grace Potter: “I think it was probably mostly just playing together, playing out in front of live audiences and watching the audience react to the sound. The best way to figure out what kind of music you want to play is figure out if you want to make people dance or cry. We wanted to do both.”

Now that you feel that your music is where you want it to be, what have you to offer the Bangor audience tonight? Is there anything the audience should be particularly excited about?

Grace Potter: “Our show is a full thing, its not just one thing. When people ask me that, I never really know how to answer because I don’t know either. Every night is different. We can pride ourselves in the fact that when we show up, we adjust our creative prowess on stage and to match what audience needs at that moment …. For the most part, I like to write my set like a movie so that people can come to a concert and feel like they are jumping into our world for a little but. There will be a big opening moment, then it will dip down in the middle and get kind of mellow to open the audience’s ears to the music, and we always like to end it with a big bang, no pun intended (laughter) KahBang.”

Do you have any history or experiences with the state of Maine?

Grace Potter: “We have a live record that we made in Maine up in Skowhegan. We love Maine. We’re from Vermont, and the drive is easy and beautiful. We love, love coming up to Maine. We’ve played in Portland so many times … Maybe 7 years ago, we played a gig in Unity, Maine, in that beautiful theater, and I remember the electricity went out in the middle of the show and we had to play an acoustic show in the middle of a snowstorm. We’ve climbed to the highest peak and the lowest valley in Maine … Music and Maine go hand and hand, and I’m just happy to be one of the bands on the stage.”

What have you heard about KahBang and the Bangor crowd?

Grace Potter: “We know nothing. I intentionally don’t like to be told what to expect at the festival. It’s a new environment and it’s something we have to adjust to the best we can… We came up through the festival scene in a big way. Our most comfortable is probably onstage at a festival. We’ve spent years and years at festivals and really honed our sound. I’m looking forward to tonight.”

Since you’re not trying to peg yourself as any particular genre — how would you define your sound? Could you make up a genre name to describe your kind of music?

Grace Potter: “Oh my god. I would say that we’re … um … have you ever [eaten] our chocolate? Grace Under Fire? If there was a genre to describe our sound, it would be the flavor of that bar. It’s dark chocolate, red pepper flakes and pistachio … chocolate is an aphrodisiac. I like to note that while talking about my chocolate. We’re a pretty sassy, sexy band. Then the dry roasted pistachio are crunchy and delicious. That grounds the chocolate bar, put the band’s feet on the ground … and the very end, after you take the bite, you start to feel the burn — little pockets of spice. That’s like our music. There are spicy moments, but it’s not all spice, not an overwhelming taste. And there’s obviously a lot of sweetness to what we do … I’m always trying to associate food with rock ‘n’ roll … We keep reflecting on our sound. There’s no name for our sound. We actually invented the chocolate that is our genre. We have so many different influences. Sometimes I just say rock ‘n’ roll, but there’s blues, soul, rockabilly, surf, psychedelic — the influence of the 60s and 70s are obviously very prominent to us in the band … a lot of country influence. We find ourselves joining the masses at a blues concert and stepping on stage at a Kenny Chesney concert just as easily. There are no rules with us.”

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