Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Email Flathead Valley lawmakers have put forth a wide range of bills at the 63rd Legislative Session, dealing with everything from staple issues like education funding and the business equipment tax to more obscure matters like canned food and beehives.Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, is the primary sponsor of a critical joint resolution that establishes an official estimate of the state’s general fund revenue for fiscal year 2013. The Senate and House taxation committees met Jan. 10 to discuss the resolution and are scheduled to hold another hearing on Jan. 17. The legislative session began on Jan. 7.Tutvedt, a farmer, is also introducing a bill to revise apiary laws and eliminate classifications for apiary sites, while revising registration procedures and fees. Senate Bill 95 also provides rulemaking authority.As of Jan. 14, Tutvedt had over a dozen other pieces of legislation at various points in the bill draft process, including measures to revise tort reform laws, lower the business equipment tax and revise election laws.Veteran lawmaker Dee Brown, a Republican senator from Hungry Horse, had a bill scheduled for hearing on Jan. 15 that revises laws on exchanges involving home canners and gardeners. Senate Bill 94 seeks to exempt certain foods and beverages from food safety regulations.Brown is also the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 100, which stipulates that 25 percent of new natural resource development revenue goes to fund education. She is also requesting measures to establish a workers’ compensation holiday for employers with new hires and establish a Canada trade center.Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, had four bills as of Jan. 14 slated for hearings. On Jan. 23, the state administration committee will take a look at Regier’s House Bill 78 clarifying break-in-service requirements for post-retirement employment under the teachers’ retirement system and House Bill 159 revising the Montana administrative procedure act.There were also hearings scheduled for Regier’s House Bill 188 that revises laws for small power-production facilities and House Bill 104 that creates criminal offenses for the “death of an unborn child.”Freshman legislator Rep. Ed Lieser, the Flathead’s only Democrat from Whitefish, has come out of the gates with a heavy slate of bill requests, including House Bill 52, which received a Jan. 11 hearing in the education committee. It renames “agriculture” in the Montana schools program account as “agriculture literacy.”Lieser is also the primary sponsor of House Bill 94, which recognizes naturopathic physicians as licensed and practicing health care providers for unemployment insurance purposes. Among his other requested bills are measures requiring a septic inspection before a property transfer, providing tax incentives for landowner fire fuels reduction and revising fines for lakeshore protection violations.Rep. Steve Lavin, R-Kalispell, is the primary sponsor of seven bills, including three that have received hearings. House Bill 80 authorizes the Department of Corrections to appoint criminal investigators as peace officers. House Bill 45 requires a copy of the Environmental Quality Council’s eminent domain handbook to be included in a condemnation complaint. And House Bill 43 requires the Department of Public Health and Human Services to establish a jail suicide prevention program.Sen. Jon Sonju, R-Kalispell, is introducing a measure – Senate Bill 117 – ensuring that federally qualified higher education savings plans from other states have the same tax advantages as allowed for the Montana family education savings plan.Sonju’s other requested bills include revising automobile dealer franchise laws and clarifying which parties are entitled to protest additional franchise locations.Rep. Scott Reichner, R-Bigfork, has requested 20 bills and is the sponsor of House Bill 82 that clarifies workers’ compensation extraterritorial applicability in regards to other states, specifically applying to the construction industry. He has also requested bills to revise campaign finance laws, repeal same-day voter registration, revise property tax laws and revise Medicaid laws.Rep. Mark Blasdel, R-Somers, the newly elected speaker of the house, has requested a number of bills, including revisions to motor carrier laws, state land cabin site laws, aquatic species laws and workers’ compensation laws.Sen. Verdell Jackson, R-Kalispell, has requested measures to revise water planning laws, provide funding for water planning, extend the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission and authorize a Montana state bank, among others.Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, is seeking to establish a “one-stop-shop” process for permits and revise workforce drug testing laws.Among the bills requested by Rep. Randy Brodehl are measures prohibiting state employee testimony on policy matters before legislative committees, revising laws related to public employee unions and revising laws related to pawn shop stolen-gun procedures.Sen. Jerry O’Neil, R-Columbia Falls, has requested measures to eliminate minimum wage for high school dropouts, allow defendants to bargain for corporal punishment and provide immunity to solid waste managers from civil action related to salvaging by the public.O’Neil is the primary sponsor of House Joint Resolution 3, urging a U.S. constitutional amendment limiting Congress’ power to regulate commerce.
Yonder Mountain String Band‘s bassist Ben Kaufmann has been enjoying a sense of renewal and rebirth for the last year and a half, as new additions Jacob Jolliff and Allie Kral have changed the group’s live dynamic. Added to Dave Johnston‘s plucky banjo and Adam Aijala‘s soulful guitar strumming, the five-piece is creating a fuller, more nuanced version of the band that is only now starting to hint at the incredible future they have as an ensemble.Our own Rex Thomson caught up with Kaufmann, talking with him about how the new line up is progressing, the importance of social media in music, and pushing the boundaries of their sound into new, exciting directions. Read on for the exclusive conversation.Live For Live Music: It looks like you had some fun ringing in the new year, especially with the different cover theme nights. How was the process of learning all those songs for you?Ben Kaufmann: It was awesome. It was a lot of work. We ended up doing 18 new songs that we learned over those days. So we were either rehearsing or playing for like three to five hours a day before playing. Also we had the guests, so we had to basically teach them, basically, the show. So we played a lot. But it was a really good idea. We go to play a bunch of songs we either had always really loved or in some cases songs that will be staying in rotation. We thought outside the box. There are some songs that we pulled off that…I don’t know…they really made me think that maybe there’s other ways to write music for us to play. It’s sort of inspiring to think of writing songs in the vein of the Smashing Pumpkins song we played that weekend.Yonder Mountain Covers Bowie, Stones, Dead & More At 70s Themed NYEL4LM: Like a creative filter in a way?BK: Yeah, or just sort of “Oh. I didn’t know we could play a song in that style and have it feel so good.” It’s different. It’s not bluegrass. It didn’t feel any thing like bluegrass to play it. It just worked though. I don’t know if it was because it was SO outside of the box, but it worked.It’s just another one of those quiet reminders that you don’t have to put any kind of restraints on. You don’t have to put yourself inside of a box. It’s just a good reminder that creativity is more wide open than you think it is. L4LM: Your fans, The Kinfolk, are always up to see you push the boundaries. Is this part of the material you’re getting ready for the new tour?BK: Yeah, I definitely think that it is. When we were gearing up to head out on this tour, we were talking about what songs we were gonna keep in rotation. We just got out of the studio right before we left, and we’re definitely experimenting with different sounds and plans. So those New Year’s shows did help start this conversation, musically.L4LM: A lot of bands who tour as extensively as you guys do seem to use the road as a proving ground for the new material. Will fans at these shows be getting sneak peeks to the new album?BK: Let me think. Nothing that we played over the New Years run will be on the new record. With the last record we did, Black Sheep, the majority of that was stuff that we wrote but not anything we played live.Yonder Shares Pro-Shot Video From Amazing Red Rocks PerformanceWe really kind of got off on that. I think we are gonna do our very best to approach the new record in the same way…rather than work them out onstage. So that, when it’s released, people will have ten new songs to have a first experience with. It sorta seems like a surprise that way. Like a Christmas morning.L4LM: In this age of spoilers, that seems kinda refreshing.BK: I like it. We wanna do it that way. The songs take a life of their own onstage anyway. We learned something, doing it that way, with Black Sheep. The songs take on a life of their own and you learn things about them. Sometimes after playing a song for a year, you start to rethink how you might have recorded them different.You think “Huh. Maybe we shoulda done this instead.” That’s the joy of playing in a live band. Songs can continue to grow, as you play them, and the way they are next year is not necessarily the way it’s gonna be now.L4LM: You seem like you’re due for like a live project, like a live record.BK: We’re workin’ on that. We’re gettin’ regular email requests for us to put together a list of what songs we’d want to feature. But think about it. Every show is available to any fan. Is there really any place for a specific live album any more?L4LM: Maybe not so much a show…maybe something more like a video.BK: Yeah, I think that’s where it’s at. I think that’s an area where Yonder could improve. I think it’s also a part of when we started, as a band. What you had to do, back then, is way different than what you have to do now, as far as generating content. It’s not enough anymore to let your fans tape and trade your shows, every night. You have to be constantly making videos and stuff to update your YouTube account. A band’s social media is the modern day equivalent of 15 radio station performances wrapped together in a day.You can generate more interest with one video than with thousands of interviews and on the air appearances. It’s simply a matter of time management. And having to wear different hats creatively. In this iteration of Yonder, we’re still running a lot of material for that night or new music. That takes up a lot of time, and that makes carving out some time to go do something interesting with the GoPro cameras…there’s only so many hours in the day.We can all play music…and I did go to film school…but that was twenty years ago. And wearing the creative hat, with visuals…That’s not something we’re particularly great at. We can’t exactly hire Steven Spielberg to come on tour with us…yet. It’s time consuming, but it’s important I think. It’s an area where we could improve people’s experience of us.L4LM: A lot of folks don’t look at this from a bigger picture. Yonder is more than a band, you’re a business based around traveling that employees several people. Beyond that, you’ve got wives and children back home. You HAVE to keep going. How hard is the balancing act?BK: Well..it helps that this way is the only way I’ve ever really known. I live on the tour bus six months out of the year, I live at home six months a year. To me…this IS life. This is what life looks like. Six months I get to see my son, six months I get to see my son on Skype. It depends on the day you catch me. Some days I’m just heart broken that I don’t get to see my son. Because of the way our tours work, every year I’m on the road on his birthday. I wish there was another way, but it is one of the weeks we’re working. It’s just the only way, logistically. On days like that, it’s heart breaking.At the same time, this is what I do, it’s what I’ve always done. Maybe eventually something will have to change. Maybe eventually something will happen is that makes a change necessary. But this is the only life I know. We ARE in the business of music. It’s never not being talked about. If we’re not on tour, we’re just taking a couple weeks off.I don’t know what I’d do if we took like a year off. I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t know if I would be making music or writing music like I am now. But I do know that I’m not going to have to worry about that, because it’s not going to happen. We’re always gonna be out there. This is something we’re all really enjoying. This is the way it’s gonna be.L4LM: You guys work with and host a couple festivals a year…Strings & Sol and the Northwest String Summit. Maybe part of the answer is to bring the families to those kinds of events, kill two birds with one stone.BK: Festivals are a great way to bring the families out. I’m often asked by people who’ve never seen the inside of a tour bus “Do you ever bring your family on the road with you?” I wanna ask them back “Are you fucking crazy?” A tour bus is no place for a child. Or a wife. Maybe for a day…but on tour? No, that’s insane.Strings & Sol, that one screams family vacation. String Summit as well. String Summit is one of the most family friendly events in the country. But again, something like that…it’s a great opportunity for family to show up…but we’re still working. We are going over music for hours, we’re working with our guests, we’re playing our side sets. It is still a workday for me and the rest of the musicians. The families can come out, but it still ends up being mom’s job to watch the kids, ’cause daddy has some work to do. Home is the place for hanging out with the family.L4LM: You’re well past the “New and Dangerous” stage with Allie and Jake. Has anything surprised you musically as you’ve gelled with them?BK: The things that I saw or identified about them early on that were sort of my instincts about them have just been solidified. Like Jacob. The first time I ever heard him play music I could identify that he was one of the best mandolin players on the planet. I could see folks like David Grisman and Sam Bush in quiet conversation like school girls talking about Jacob and how amazing he is. And how not only does he have the right technique, about how he plays it right. To see two of the modern masters of the instrument basically gushing over how good he is…yeah…I feel like that just sorta solidifies what I thought. He’s one of the best ever.And Allie…the thing that I’ve felt from the very beginning…from over the course of YEARS… she has something that I don’t know if you can develop. She just has this thing…you’re born with it. She’s the type of person, of personality, of performer…where it’s her turn to play a solo, and she hasn’t even played a note yet…and the audience is going crazy. They’re totally invested in her, in what she’s gonna do. I see it happen every night with her. She hasn’t even played a note yet, and the audience is going crazy.Something about her resonates with the audience. It’s something about her, about her talent, that’s just so rare. It’s an X factor I don’t have. It’s something to puzzle over. It’s something way more than “What note is she gonna play?” It’s an energy. She is operating at a different level than technique or style. I am in awe. It’s something ever so slighty divine.It’s something I can’t understand with my brain…It’s something I understand with my heart. That in Allie is as impressive to me as Jacob’s technical ability and creativity on the mandolin. Maybe you can learn to be as good as them, by practicing endlessly. You have to have been playing like that since you were seven. You gotta be inspired to never stop playing, to keep working at it. But then again, with Allie…she has obviously put in all the time in the world, but then she has that whole other thing.So there’s one answer to your question. The other surprises have been watching them find their home in Yonder Mountain, and what Yonder does. It was rough. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, what they saw when they joined the band. All of a sudden Allie and Jake come in. I knew they were gonna catch a lot of hell. It’s a tough gig to step into.In that situation, I’d recommend to not read anything on the internet ever again. Stay away from the web then, ’cause people can be fucking awful. We’re all for the most part pretty sensitive beings. Whatever creative thing you’re trying to do, you don’t want it pissed all over. But watching them find a home, musically speaking, in this project, has been really good.L4LM: From the very beginning, Yonder brought a jam band aesthetic to your bluegrass sound. Is that still the mission statement of Yonder 2.0?BK: I’m in a band that’s like fifteen or sixteen years old, but also only like a year and a half old. It’s a weird sort of place to be in. I started trying to imagine the first iteration of Yonder, and what we were doing in the first part of our existence. I realized…we were just starting to experiment what it meant to be a jam band that was trying to be a bluegrass band. When we started out, we were just playing bluegrass. We were writing stuff that sounded like bluegrass. That was very much what we were trying to do. We were trying to be a bluegrass band. That was the starting point. That was the common language.And now, flash forward…this version of Yonder is a very much a new thing. But again, we began with bluegrass. That’s the common ground we are starting from again. As we started again, that’s the parallel I found. The whole styles are shifting towards the bluegrass. It’s only after you log miles together, when you play all these shows and you play these songs ten or fifteen times that the improvisation really begins. You learn each others styles, their intentions. You learn to trust and anticipate how they’ll respond when you suggest something musically. That’s something that develops over time.It’s a good thing for me to remind myself of, because if you just think “I’m gonna take these two new pieces, get them in the band and presto! We’ll be jamming” It doesn’t work that way. It simply doesn’t. It takes more time than that, it takes repetition. More learning about each other so I know what they’re gonna do when I throw that weird rhythm in. What are their instincts when we really go out on a limb. Jamming…you never know what’s going to happen next. You are on the razors edge, musically, and that’s the most exciting place, musically.Anything can happen and there’s no safety net. I’m gonna throw this in there and we’ll see how everyone reacts. It’s awesome when it works, but it’s also scary. That’s when the train can crash. That’s something I am reminding myself…the really compelling jam bands have been doing this together for a while. And even they aren’t as fluid as they will be ten years from now. And that’s an exciting thing to realize. That means there’s this huge area that we’re gonna get to be a part of. That’s there’s this huge area of development in our future. And that’s exciting to me.L4LM: So I guess each new tour is a source of anticipation for you, musically.BK: It’s awesome. We can’t wait to see where the music takes us.L4LM: Well, thanks for taking some time form the tour to chat with us! Can’t wait to see you out there!BK: Thank you. See ya soon!Catch Yonder out on the road at any or all of the shows to come! You won’t be disappointed!