Alter Bridge are like the fly-over state of rock bands. Without the help of the mainstream music media, they have amassed a large fan base that is unaware, or unimpressed, by what youth are listening to in the big cities. But that doesn’t mean that the guys in the band aren’t in tune with at least one critically adored indie-folk act, as we learned when we sat guitarist Mark Tremonti and singer/guitarist Myles Kennedy down for What’s That Song. They were promoting their latest album, Fortress, an album that they’ll be touring for well into next year.
Of course, we didn’t spend the entire time listening to indie bands: We started out with a few bands that they had one degree of separation from.
Van Halen – “Stay Frosty”
Like nearly every other guitarist who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, Mark Tremonti worships at the alter of Eddie Van Halen. Coincidentally, there’s a “Van Halen” in Mark’s solo band, Tremonti, Wolfgang Van Halen, who holds it down on bass. Wolfie, of course, also plays bass in his dad’s band these days, so Tremonti was treated to a V.I.P. preview of Van Halen’s reunion with David Lee Roth: 2012’s A Different Kind Of Truth. “It was amazing sitting in a room and watching Van Halen, minus Roth, play their whole new record.” He adds, “It’s kind of surreal to know him [Eddie] now.” Myles Kennedy says simply, “I heard ‘Eruption’ and I wanted to learn to play guitar.”
Gov’t Mule – “Blind Man In The Dark”
Myles Kennedy guests on a bonus track on the new Mule record, Shout!, so we played an earlier Mule classic from their 1998 album Dose. Kennedy says of the band’s frontman Warren Haynes: “He’s like Eric Clapton on steroids. He’ll play for three hours and his phrasing is always perfect.” Noting the fact that Haynes, an icon of the jam band scene, improvises in a way that is more similar to what jazz musicians do than their rock counterparts, “But he always lands on his feet.”
Them Crooked Vultures – “New Fang”
After Led Zeppelin‘s fabled reunion gig in 2007, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones tried to keep the band together for a tour. Unfortunately, Robert Plant wasn’t having any of it. Page and Jones, along with drummer Jason Bonham did some rehearsals with Myles Kennedy on vocals, although they ended up scratching the project. But Kennedy and Jones remained friends, and when Jones’ next project – Them Crooked Vultures (which also featured Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age) toured, he invited Kennedy to the show. “It was amazing to see them all up there in this supergroup of supergroups,” he recalls.
Bon Iver – “Holocene”
We’ll admit to being surprised that Kennedy geeked out over Bon Iver; he identified the song in less than three seconds. “I used to look for new music on MySpace, and I stumbled upon the Bloodbank EP, I was just immediately drawn to it. It’s so melancholy but beautiful, and the fact that he recorded it in the woods in Wisconsin, that’s really cool.” It’s not just Kennedy though: Tremonti name drops Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love.” Ponder this: with at least half of Alter Bridge fans of the beardy folk group, maybe they’ll blow minds in 2014 if they drop a Bon Iver cover or two into their sets.