Colorado outfit the Copper Children come off like time-traveling refugees from the last days of the 1960s, with their shaggy heads and ill-kept facial hair, their communitarian peace-and-love shop talk and their penchant for playing earthy, rural-tinged hippie rock a la Jerry and co. and wearing colorful dashikis up on stage. But credit where it’s due, the boys are so invested in their particular schtick, they do it so damn well that you’d almost believe they really did slip through a wormhole from the acid haze of ’69 into the cool mountain air of Denver in current year.
“We all share a deep romanticism about the road, and the classic era of the Grateful Dead,” admits CC singer-guitarist Zea Stallings. “We love the idea of these wild kinds of characters who want to adventure and to make that adventuring and playing music their whole life.”
Drummer Christopher Morgan tells that he first met Stallings three or four years back at a local open mic. Sometime thereafter, Stallings needed a backing band for a one-time show; he and Morgan managed to find bassist/guitarist Andy Babb and percussionist Elijah Jarosh for the performance, and before anyone could say “Sugar Magnolia,” the would-be one-off had taken on a life of its own.
“Yeah, it turned out to be a lot bigger than that,” Morgan says. “We had a moment on stage together, and it felt so good. The music was so powerful, and it needed to be explored.”
“Energetically, we knew we could go somewhere after that,” says Stallings.
There’s also a tragic side to this whole affair — though Stallings and Morgan say it ultimately helped bear out the fact that their potent connection represented something more than just the externals of four-guys-playing-hippie-rock-in-dashikis. It happened early in the band’s career, when Jarosh’s brother Caleb died back in his native Georgia, and the whole band accompanied him back home for services.
“We made our first record as a story about his life, and about us going through the experience of his death together,” Stallings says. “It was not so much a plan to do that, as it just happened. As we were writing and recording the songs, we suddenly realized that’s what this album needed to be about. The record just formed around him. And it became increasingly apparent that we needed to be together as a foursome.”
Now roughly four years into their own musical adventure, The Copper Children are an interesting conundrum, inasmuch as they’re willing to place themselves somewhere along the jam-band continuum, while having recorded two albums worth of catchy, succinct folk-inflected rock — maybe not so far removed from some of the Dead’s more country- and folk-flavored songwriting efforts, but far and away from Dark Star-level improvisational fodder.
For his part, Stallings sees the apparent dichotomy as a necessary and natural function of the band’s diversely inclined principals, rather than a set of competing ends. “Chris and I are jazz freaks, so improvisation is a big part of our show,” Stallings says. “We’ve been put in the same category with other jam bands. At the same time, we’re a song-based band. We want to deliver songs in the best way possible, while still being open to improve at any moment.
“Having a drummer as well as a percussionist, having that deep rhythm section has led us in the direction of a lot of jam bands. You naturally stretch the songs out, kind of get that train going. Because when we get going, that’s what we’re like; a train going down the track, putting off psychedelic clouds of smoke. It’s a rainbow train, and it just keeps chugging.”
The Copper Children will play Preservation Pub Sunday, April 15 at 9 p.m.