by Daniel Emberg
Potatoes is a hard rocking outfit comprised of a bunch of longtime Winnipeg musicians: Sean Ceretti (guitar/vocals) had a band by the same name many moons ago, and is now joined by Aaron Goss (electric mandolin), Gareth Wesley (bass), and Ted Simm (drums).
Their new release is entitled Cut, and Potatoes are throwing a big bash at the Windsor on Saturday to celebrate. Stylus had the chance to speak with Goss earlier this week and find out a little more.
Stylus: For anyone who has never seen Potatoes play before, can you give a little of the band’s back story?
Aaron Goss: A curious thing is this is the second band of the name Potatoes that features (guitarist/singer) Sean Ceretti. There was a version of the band about 12 years ago that just played a few shows and got put on the back burner until this new band was recruited over the last few years.
Stylus: How did you get involved?
AG: My bluegrass band (The D. Rangers) was going on hiatus or breaking up and I was trying to figure out what I was gonna do. I’ve been friends with Sean for years and one day he just came by and said, “Can I ask you an oddball question?” He knew I’d been playing electric mandolin and asked if I wanted to try playing some crazy rock. I’ve always loved the music and it seemed like the perfect time, it gave me something else to focus on.
Stylus: Electric mandolin isn’t something most people would expect to see with a hard rocking band like Potatoes.
AG: Yeah, as far as I know I’m the only guy doing it like this. Well, Warren Ellis does some similar things in Grinderman—when they’re happening—he does mandola and stuff, but I don’t know of anyone else doing mandolin in this kind of noisy context.
Stylus: At shows you must have people coming up all the time going, “Hey man, what’s that?”
AG: [laughs] Yeah, I get a lot of “What is with that little guitar?” It’s funny though, with a lot of the more hardcore and punk guys it’s surprising how many people like seeing the mandolin up there and know about it.
Stylus: What can you tell me about Cut, this new record you’ve got coming out?
AG: It’s an eight-track EP we recorded just over a year ago with our friend Dino D’Ottavio. It’s eight songs, 21 minutes, and a lot of diversity for our genre, which is that’s one of the things I’m happiest about. It’s just a bunch of songs we’ve written over the past few years. We originally recorded 13 songs, then whittled it down to eight that we were happy with both the songwriting and the performance we got. That’s part of the reason for the name Cut. [laughs]. That’s also our approach to songwriting. If there’s something we’re just not sure about, our first instinct is to cut it. We don’t want to wear out our welcome in any sense.
Stylus: I guess if you have to talk yourselves into it, you’re really going to have to sell a listener, right?
AG: Yeah, exactly. If we’re in doubt: CUT!
Stylus: I notice you keep using the word “we” when you’re talking about the songwriting. Is that to say Potatoes are a pretty collaborative group?
AG: A couple of the songs on Cut are old songs Sean had from the first version of Potatoes. The rest is stuff that was either written completely in the jam space, or they start with someone bringing just a kernel of an idea to the group and we bang it out. Some of those songs took about three months to write, just because every time we think we’re done somebody gets an idea to start changing up the arrangement. [laughs]
Stylus: When you talk about the stylistic range that you cover, do you think it’s a product of the band members having diverse musical backgrounds?
AG: Oh, I would say we definitely do! There’s a lot of common points, but beyond that we all bring stuff from our own diverse backgrounds. Sean’s a rock guy, Ted’s a more straight-up noisy punk…like Big Black, Shellac, Jesus Lizard kind of stuff, I’ve got this bluegrass background, and Gareth has done some blues and punk stuff…so we’re a little bit all over the map.
Stylus: In what formats will Cut be available?
AG: It’s just gonna be CD and digital. Hopefully the next thing we do can be on vinyl, I’d like to do that but right now it’s just time and cost prohibitive. So hopefully this one makes us enough money to do something on vinyl next time.
Stylus: Cool. So there are already plans for more work in the future?
AG: Actually, this release will probably be our last show until about September. Over the summer we’re gonna be working on recording a follow-up.
Stylus: Wow. Right back on it, eh?
AG: Well we’ve got the stuff written so we might as well stick with it!
Stylus: For the Cut release show you have a couple of other bands playing with you. Care to say a few words about them?
AG: Chicka Boom Boom features the fabulous Joanne Rodriguez and Alana Mercer. I haven’t seen them yet but I’ve seen a bunch of their other bands and they’re super entertaining, fun rock ‘n’ roll so I’m really looking forward to that. Then there’s Baby Nebula, it’s their very first show. I haven’t heard them but I know all the guys, it’s our old drummer Russell Morden, then Kelly Castle who has been in a ton of other bands and has this really skewed musical sensibility. They also have Rob Barteaux, who is the bass player in Stagmummer and was also in the first version of Potatoes all those years ago. They’ve been working on their material for a really long time and we’ve been bugging them to play a show with us for about a year now. We got tired of waiting to see them play so we finally booked them! [laughs]
Potatoes, Chicka Boom Boom, and Baby Nebula play tonight at the Windsor (187 Garry St), Tickets are $10 at the door, but bring a few extra bucks if you can to scoop a copy of Cut as it is a fun, upbeat rocker of a disc!