If you go into any major city, there’s a pretty high chance you’ll see someone playing music on the street. Whether that’s a man sitting cross legged in the subway station with an old beat up guitar or a full on drum circle complete with trombones and digeridoos, chances are you’re going to a dose of (sometimes shitty, but never unwelcoming) street music.
This type of music is called (as many of you probably already know) busking; playing or singing music for tips. This act has been around for literally centuries, and has had a mild mainstream bump of late with acts like Too Many Zooz or MAD NOISE gaining popularity, recording albums and playing live shows.
Another artist bringing busking to the stage is Bay Area’s own Reisender, who gave us (along with all the of the beautiful SF Critic readers out there) a sneak peek at his new album, and will be playing at The Neck of The Woods this Thursday (get your tickets here). You may have seen him – “him” being Paul Conroy – busking on Market Street. Or maybe on 9th and Irving. Or on Castro Street. Or in one of 14 other countries where he’s busked. Reisender is the German word for “traveler,” which makes a lot of sense for this band.
Conroy has had an interesting musical career – buying his first mandolin after busking on the streets of Germany, dropping just about every penny he had. “I started busking because I actually really needed some extra money. I was studying, trying to get my degree… but it really gets you together with some interesting characters,” said Conroy. “Evenings hanging out with other musicians, or even strangers asking you to come to a party. One time a girl asked me to come play in the women’s bathroom while they were washing dishes in this huge industrial sink.” (Side note: this sounds incredibly German to me, I’m not quite sure why).
These early days of busking helped Conroy finance other trips across Europe, where he took to the streets to busk to in-turn pay for the next leg of his trip. Playing, to travel, to play, to travel. Pretty amazing concept.
Reisender’s debut five-song EP, New Year, officially was released today, but many of you might know him from other groups he’s played with, most recently bluegrass / folk band Sugar Pines. After playing different instruments (mainly drums) in other bands, Conroy decided it was time to finally make the music that he’d been writing for years. “For New Year, I wrote most of these songs while I was living in Germany. I moved back to the states, got a job, got married… some of these songs are as old as five or six years. That’s kind of what New Year, it’s these older songs that have turned into a new embodiment of the same thing.”
For the album, Conroy teamed up with the folks at The Canvas Group, a production house in Concord, CA, to record the EP, but live Reisender sets have a rotating backing cast. “It’s more of a collective – I co-op with a lot of Bay Area artists, and I do it under the Reisender moniker because I don’t see Reisender as a one track project. It kind of splinters into a of of things because it’s really a reflection of who I am and the kind of music I like to work with.”
Check out the full Reisender EP below, and stop by Neck of the Woods this Thursday if you’re out and drunk after Saint Paddy’s Day, or out and hiding from Saint Paddy’s day. Either way, it’s a win.