IT MOVES LIKE BERLIN

This time we discovered the band St. Beaufort for you - Three young, good looking, fun musicians from different parts of the world, who found each other and their very own sound in Berlin. Derek Ullenboom, Henric Hungerhoff, Joe Jakubczyk are playing in a traditional style and trying to bridge a gap between the past and the present. We have to say that they are managing that gap quite well. We asked them some questions, and we are now happy to present you their answers and introduce them to the Banjo & Elfe community.




The three of you are from USA, Canada, and Germany and the first question that comes to my mind is: How did you meet and how long do you know each other?

Joe: I met Henric in the Summer of 2013, while I was visiting Berlin. After a week I started itching to meet musicians, and found out that Henric and his band were playing a concert and needed a band to open for them. I responded too late-they already had someone-but I had listened to some of their music and suggested that a banjo might work well with their sound. Henric quickly took me up on the offer. I practiced with them a few days later and that same evening we played the concert together. We played a number of concerts and recorded an EP, but then my tourist visa was up and I returned to Arizona.

Derek: And that's when I jumped aboard.

Joe: Yep, while I was gone, Henric met Derek who played banjo and mandolin during the band's first tour that Fall. When I got back in January of 2014, I took over the banjo again, but Derek stayed on, playing the mandolin.

Henric: So, the three of us have been playing together for about a year and a half. Derek and Joe began adding their own songs to the repertoire and over time the project condensed into a core trio. After a tour through western Germany and Switzerland we decided to change the name in order to reflect the way the concept of the band had developed.

Since you are from different parts of the World, I have to ask: Why are you living in Berlin?

Henric: I came here in 2010, but even before I somehow always knew that Berlin was the city where I wanted to live. Anything goes. There are so many great things about this city. The people, the atmosphere, its history, the creativity, the freedom that you feel just walking down a bustling street. There is no other place in Germany where I could have met Joe and Derek.

Joe: I had been going back and forth to Europe for almost two years (I walked the Jakobsweg through France and Spain, spent a month in Rome, two seasons in a ski rental shop in the Alps, taught and busked in Salzburg) before providence brought me to Berlin. I quickly realized what a great city it was for meeting musicians, and had already made plans to study here. Joining a band proved much quicker than gaining acceptance to the university...I was touring Europe long before I was finally enrolled and hitting the books.

Derek: My grandparents immigrated to Canada from Germany, so I initially came back to meet my relatives, and sort of rediscover my roots. I knew that Berlin had a great music scene and after visiting the city, it became one of my goals to build a musical bridge between Berlin and Toronto, where I studied music and began my musical career.

How would you describe your music?

Joe: It sounds like folk, feels like Bluegrass, tastes like Americana, smells like Country, looks like old-time, and moves like Berlin!

But in all seriousness, it's difficult to assign a genre to it. We play acoustic instruments, traditionally associated with folk music, but we are different than the typical conception of folk. Country brings up associations of modern Nashville product, cowboy hats and huge belt buckles. That's not us either. Bluegrass is getting closer, but we're doing something a bit different than traditional bluegrass. We're new eyes looking at old ideas. And we're trying to discover where these old ideas survive and continue to influence and inspire us.



Is the fact that you are all from different countries an important part for you when you are making music or are these differences not important and only the love for music counts?

Derek: Being from different countries definitely plays a role in our music and performance. This style that we are playing has its roots in a continent populated by immigrants of diverse nationalities, and I think it's important that the music is not an 'American' thing or a 'Canadian' thing, or a 'German' thing...it is really a combination of the three.

Joe: The way that Henric plays the accordion, inherited from his great aunt reflects his German heritage.

Henric: And you can feel the way Derek's voice could cut across the plains of Manitoba.

Joe: Of course the love of music is what binds us, but our personal stories say something about where that love comes from, and why we are passionate about this music.


Is there more than music that connects the 3 of you?

Henric: We all hang out together apart from the band. One of the great things is that we're friends, which allows a level of honesty and unity in the music. We appreciate normal things: coffee, whiskey, discussing and evaluating different beers. We all love to travel, to meet new people, and to eat great food.

Joe: I think we also share a love for great conversations, serious or silly discussions, and we've had our share of both, in every realm from literature and politics to theology and philosophy. Maybe most importantly, we have a shared interest (which materializes in our music to a degree) in authentic experiences, in simplicity, in living a real life. We find joy in the genuine thing, be it a steaming on a cold winter morning, or a live acoustic concert at the edge of a forest, on a warm summer night.

Where does your inspiration come from?
Joe: Sometimes, if you open yourself to be inspired, you find it flowing in from the strangest places. I once felt inclined to write a song about a single cobblestone on the way to the train. Why? Because this stone was unique, unappreciated, neglected and trampled by thousands of people every day. There's something about things that don't get noticed, and even the asking whether they deserve notice suddenly makes this thing important.

Derek: Experiences are like that too. When you experience sadness or anger, maybe you feel alone, but when you write a song about it, you find yourself in a tradition that stretches thousands of years. You feel the embrace of the entire history of humanity. Suddenly a story about getting lost, being afraid, or leaving the known becomes a gift of self and a sharing of truth.

Joe: And then there is this truth...there's something about music that allows you to share truth, to experience it together, with a band and an audience. We're inspired by stories and legends, by poetry and nature. Truth often gets passed down from generation to generation through poetic and mythological stories. This may seem contradictory but I think it was Chesterton who said he believed in fairy tales not because they say dragons exist, but because they say dragons can be beaten. We draw inspiration from this expression of truth, through seemingly fantastic stories, which somehow we have all experienced in our lives.

Henric: Yeah, we're faced with these giants, mountains, and stormy seas daily. How do we respond to our personal struggles, do we see them for what they are? Discovering wonder, uncovering adventure in the everyday experience...that inspires us too.


How important is Berlin to you? What role does it play in all of your lives?
Henric: Like I said before, this city has a special spirit and is very important to us. It's where we met and without the scene here, we wouldn't have been able to build up to where we are.

Joe: Also the relatively low cost of living has helped us a lot to survive and continue working on the project even when money is tight. The international population means there is a bigger audience that may find interest in our music. And the presence of so much nature despite the size and population of the city is great.

Derek: Yeah, the fact that you can move from a crammed Neukölln street to the vast openness of Tempelhoferfeld in ten minutes, or quickly leave the tourism of Mitte for the peace of Tiergarten is so refreshing and really rejuvenating for creativity. The city is full of so much variety, in every aspect, and I think this also helps feed our desire to tell stories. I think as we grow as a band, Berlin will continue to contribute to our music, both as an influence and a thematic presence. If only there were mountains...


This is your first album. How would each one of you describe it in only 3 words?

Joe: barefoot, dusty, fireside. Derek: urban farm music. Henric: live, wood, handmade.


We think those guys are great and very inspiring and we hope you enjoyed the interview as much as we did. 
Listen in to the album “St. Beaufort” by St. Beaufort.



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