By Andrew D. Parker
Che Apalache is bringing its blend of Appalachian bluegrass and Latin music to Round Hill’s B Chord Brewing Company on Saturday.
Led by Joe Troop, the four-piece band stops in Loudoun with momentum at its back leading into next month’s release of a new album, Rearrange My Heart, that was recorded and produced by banjo icon Bela Fleck, who is best known for his bluegrass jams with New Grass Revival and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.
Summer tour stop at B Chord Brewing in Round Hill to feature music from the band’s new album, Rearrange My Heart, produced by Bela Fleck.
Troop describes Che Apalache’s musical fusion as an “interesting look at the globalized world through a bluegrass lens.”
Raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains before travelling across Europe then living in Japan, Troop immigrated to Argentina in 2010 and began teaching bluegrass music. Nine years later, he’s part of an up-and-coming band that features three Latin American musicians—Franco Martino on guitar, Martin Bobrick on mandolin and Pau Barjau on banjo. Bobrick and Martino are from Argentina, and Barjau is from Mexico.
Early this year, Che Apalache recorded the new album with Fleck at the controls, followed by a spring tour along the East Coast, through the Midwest and out to California. The B Chord Brewing Company show on July 14 is part of the band’s summer tour, with shows mostly in the Mid-Atlantic and stops in Kansas, Missouri and Colorado before commemorating the official release of the new album Aug. 9 in Sandpoint, ID, opening for the Avett Brothers.
“There’s some good stuff happening as far as big stages and big festivals this summer,” Troop said. The performance at B Chord will include new songs, including from Rearrange My Heart, he noted. “We’re still producing new material, too. A lot of the stuff we’re doing hasn’t been heard by audiences yet.”
It’s a special experience working with a luminary such as Fleck, who Troop described as a “childhood hero,” adding that while many people know of Fleck’s accomplishments as a musician, “first and foremost, he’s a masterful producer.”
The first time he met Fleck was an unbelievable experience for Troop and Che Apalache band members. “It quickly becomes a new reality, and in that new reality we learned a lot of tricks of the trade, and got some good advice,” he said.
Troop praised Fleck’s leadership during the recording and pre-production stages. “He understood the timeline,” Troop said. “We had to work our butts off and he was crucial in organizing how we went through the process.”
The band also appreciated how Fleck gave thoughtful insights on where to polish up the songs without trying to over-influence the music or steer it in a different direction. “He didn’t make any drastic changes, but he made a lot of subtle changes and suggestions,” Troop said. “He knows how to lead a band and he knows how to get a band sounding good.”
Fleck “left his mark on the music,” Troop said. “He would never give answers or say, ‘Here’s what you need to do,’ instead he’d say, ‘Why don’t you try this?’ He led us in interesting ways, and that’s reflected in the album.”
The members of Che Apalache and Fleck are equally invested in the success of the end product, Troop said. “We’re all equally excited to see what’s going to happen with this album,” he said. “He’s happy with it from the production standpoint, and we as musicians are really happy about it.”
Musical Melting Pot
While most of the band originates from outside the U.S., Troop has ties to Virginia, growing up in Galax and meeting people from Loudoun in his early years. Free Dirt Records, the record label releasing Rearrange My Heart, is based in Washington, DC, and the band’s most-visited area in the states is the capital region, in part because Baltimore-Washington Airport offers the cheapest rates on flights from Argentina.
Living together in Buenos Aires has helped the band keep the ideas fresh and flowing. Troop described the band’s creative process, which involves a lot of throwing ideas out onto tables. “When we rehearse it sounds like a bunch of grunting and confusion, until we somehow just get it all together,” he said. Band members will bounce ideas around and Troop will guide the composition, a process that has gotten much less laborious after playing together and touring for years.
“The real trick is being able to keep it cool on a personal level so that we can work artistically,” he said. “It’s just getting along with each other and checking your ego at the door. Because everyone’s got one. We all know we’re assholes. If there’s one member of the band that doesn’t know that, we’re going to have problems.”
Over the years, the bonds have grown stronger, he said. “We’ve cultivated a lot more respect for one another, and that’s really cool. On a human level, that’s one of the most amazing accomplishments of this band is how we’ve grown to understand one another as people. And if there’s an effort to do that, the music will have a nice quality about it.”
A band code develops from treating each other like family, Troop added. “We’re all people and we’re all going to have good days and bad days—that’s so important to keeping the band together. It’s like a code of loyalty and understanding, and empathy and forgiving.”
Bluegrass with a Twist
By the time each performance is over, Che Apalache hopes they provided audiences with an “entertaining show,” Troop said. “We’re showmen. Our goal is to make people go through a wide range of emotions. We try to make them cry, make them laugh, make them shout.”
The band’s material also includes traditional southern mountain gospel acapella singing. “It’s a bluegrass ensemble but we’re doing contemporary world music,” Troop said. “A lot of people are surprised by the kinds of audiences we get, people from a lot of different cultures. We draw from a lot of different sects of humanity.”