The band from Portland known as The Builders and the Butchers has more in common with Alaska than most would think. In fact, four out of five of the band members call Alaska home sweet home. The members Ryan Sollee (lead singer, guitar), Harvey Tumbleson (mandolin, banjo), Alex Ellis (bass), and Ray Rude (snare drum) can all claim roots in Alaska, but Paul Seely, their bass drum and trumpet player, might not be from Alaska, but he is still an important aspect to the band and their unique sound.
Trying to describe the sound of this band would be difficult. It is a fusion of all sorts of noises and instruments, but the end result is boisterous and fun to move along to. The Builders and the Butchers recently came up to Alaska for a few concerts across the state. Band members Sollee and Tumbleson sat down to have a few words before their performance in the UAA Student Union. The Northern Light interviewed them Friday, October 17.
Q: Was the band formed back when you (Sollee) were going to UAA from 1998-99?
A: (Sollee) No, no. This was long before. The band I had back then was called Nowhere Fast and we played a lot in a place called Gigs in Anchorage back in the day. So we played a lot there and then formed a different band called The Born Losers. And we moved to Portland and broke up and formed this band so it’s been a long period of time.
Q: Does the band have a new CD coming out?
A: (Sollee) Hopefully, it is. We’re saying it’s going to come out February but we’re not 100 percent sure it’s going to happen then.
Q: Where did the name “The Builders and the Butchers” come from?
A: (Tumbleson) I don’t think there’s anything spectacularly deep about the name but I don’t know. Did you come up with it?
(Sollee) I did, but it was just like a number of ones that I said one day and everybody was like, ‘Yeah, that one’s okay.'”
(Tumbleson) We were going by The Funeral Band for a while, but that wasn’t the name of the band. The songs were darkly themed.
Q: Do any of your songs or lyrics have an Alaskan influence in them?
A: (Sollee): Not in a direct way, not like singing about Alaska specifically but definitely influenced by growing up here and being in the dark a lot and that kind of stuff but nothing particularly Alaskan.
Q: What is one of the crazier things that have happened on the road?
A: (Tumbleson) We drank some spirits one time and climbed trains. That was pretty great. There was an empty train yard behind the place we were staying, so we climbed on top of them. Yeah, that was probably stupid in retrospect.
(Sollee) We’re not crazy though. I mean, there’s been some poor judgment when it comes to drinking but nothing like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we didn’t die,’ or anything like that.
(Tumbleson) But we had fun.
Q: What is the biggest band you have performed with?
A: (Tumbleson) Nas, we played for Nas. He’s the hip-hop guy. He’s great. That was at an arena in Michigan.
Q: Do you have a favorite song out of your set?
A: (Tumbleson) Usually the newest song is the most fun song for us to play because they get old quick. So whatever is the newest song is like, wow, this song is totally fun and then that’s it.