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Five questions with Josh Erwin of the Packway Handle Band
1015Questions-Packway
The Athens-based Packway Handle Band performs Saturday night at The Crimson Moon in Dahlonega.

Packway Handle Band

When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Crimson Moon Cafe, 24 Park St., Dahlonega
How much: $14 advance, $16 day of show
More info: 706-864-3982

For a band with multiple stringed instruments and five touring members, the Packway Handle Band doesn't take up a whole lot of room on the stage.

But that's a good thing — it is because the band's unique performance style keeps them in a semi-circle around a center microphone, harmonizing and picking bluegrass tunes.

Now close to completing their fourth full-length album, Athens-based band members enjoy the interactive style that having just one microphone gives them.

We spoke with Josh Erwin, guitarist and vocalist for the band, about making a deadline with the new album and how the 1980s band Devo influences their stage presence. Other bandmembers are Tom Baker (banjo, vocals), Andrew Heaton (fiddle, vocals), Zach McCoy (bass) and Michael Paynter (mandolin, vocals).

Question: Can we expect a new album anytime soon?

Answer: We're actually working on our fourth full-length album right now. The deadline we've set for ourselves — which we've reset — the original goal was to get this done by the end of summer. But when the semester starts (at the University of Georgia in Athens), we didn't get our responsibilities in gear.

And also, trying to run around and tour makes it difficult to be productive. Also, we've set a date to finish recording by the end of this month and release it by early December.

Q: Will we hear any of the new songs in your Crimson Moon set?

A: We're writing songs as we're on the road and adding them to the set, and then we have to bring them back into the studio. We actually have a whole backlog of songs.

Q: Then, how do you decide what songs to put on a new album?

A: Reaction (by the crowd) is a good way to go. We do use some of that. Or, other times we'll have a good idea for a song we want, and we'll sit down and do a rough cut of it. And we'll say, "Oh my gosh, there's no way we can put this down and record it."

Q: Does that affect your writing process?

A: There's three of us who write songs. Michael Paynter, the mandolin player, and Andrew Heaton, the fiddle player, and I write a lot. So - and this is how everybody kind of does it — you'll have a finished song and bring it to the band and the rest will say, "Oh, the harmony should go right here," or maybe suggest, "Maybe flip this part around here." The kind of ornaments of a song.

Q: So, are your influences more bluegrass-based, or did you all come from a rock background?

A: We've been playing together since 2001, and it was a lot of fun to just learn some bluegrass covers. And then some more influences came in. None of us grew up listening to bluegrass.

I really enjoy watching a good stage show, and our stage show, I guess, we use the single mic and I think that's way more entertaining to watch. Devo is something we talk about a lot — if you watch a performance of them, they do some silly choreography and it's really interesting to watch. That's a big influence to us.

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