Listen to this article

When The Pound Ridge Partnership asked us if we’d like to interview Blues Traveler guitarist Chandler Kinchla (who goes by Chan), we said yes, of course. But what can you ask a band who has no secrets? In true Katonah Connect style, we created a dozen unconventional questions, and Chan happily played along. Forty minutes later, we’d covered everything from The Simpsons and sumo wrestling to pita chips and pop stars. And then, Kinchla took over for Dear John and gave us a tour of their bus (head to our YouTube channel for the video). We all had a blast!

Katonah Connect: Have you ever heard of Pound Ridge?

Chan Kinchla: I sure have! Who hasn’t been to Pound Town? Wait, do you actually call it Pound Town? Is that the local vernacular?

KC: No, but we may just have to start!

CK: I might just grab the mic from John at the beginning of the show and say, ‘it’s so great to be here in Pound Town!’

KC: What do you imagine Pound Ridge is like?

CK: I’m imagining some kind of bucolic forest and a kind of hilly vibe because there’s a ridge involved. And, of course, there’s lots of pounding.

KC: Moving on, we want to officially congratulate you on your 35th anniversary! We did a little research and learned that the Simpsons began in 1987 as well – they started as a short on The Tracey Ullman Show. So, we were wondering, which Simpsons character is the most like Blues Traveler?

CK: It’s got to be Homer because we always win in the end, but we just kind of pedal along. Sometimes we don’t care that much, but we keep on trucking.

KC: This year, The Harvest Festival will include sumo wrestling, a goat petting station, tie die and Euro bungee. Where will we find you before the show?

CK: Well, if I was gonna do anything, I would like to do the sumo. But I might try and do it without the suit because I’m a very large human. And gosh, one of the things I miss most about getting older is I can’t like tackle people and laugh it off anymore. It would either hurt me or I’d be sued. So, I’d definitely do the sumo.

KC: We hear the town supervisor is looking for someone to wrestle…

CK: On the show day? That’s too dangerous. I have to watch out for my hands.

KC: What’s in your rider before a show? Are you a “blue M&M’s only” type of group?

CK: You know, we learned a long time ago that all the stuff in your rider actually costs you money. You’re buying it. It’s the huge foible. If you get all this fancy stuff backstage, someone somewhere is charging you for that. Over the years we’ve realized that 90 percent of the stuff just gets left there, so we’ve stripped it down to the bare essentials, which are chocolate almonds, whiskey, Frosted Mini Wheats and some beer.

KC: All at once? Do you mix them all together?

CK: Well, on some days…you never know.

KC: We get it. Every time we eat Frosted Mini Wheats, we think to ourselves, ‘this needs some whiskey.’

CK: Okay, perhaps we have some milk back there as well. But honestly, as long as we’ve got the chocolate covered almonds, we’re good.

KC: You’re touring with Train and Jewel this summer, who seem like perfect musical companions, even though you each have your own style.

CK: Yeah, that’s what is fun about it. It’s all very different styles. It’s nice when a package isn’t all the same. We complement each other well.

KC: Do you share your Frosted Mini Wheats with them?

CK: Yeah, we do, but they’ve got a lot more expensive stuff on their rider. I’m not sure if anyone told them that they’re actually paying for it. Maybe I’ll tell them at the end of tour.

KC: So just ride their rider until the end.

CK: Surprisingly, even the expensive stuff gets old when you have the same rider every night. That stuff really piles up. We have bags and bags of pita chips now. We don’t we don’t need any more pita chips, ever.

KC: Got it. We’ll make sure to tell The Harvest Fest folks to stock your room full of pita chips.

KC: Switching gears, we dug up this old Los Angeles Times article from 1991 where they interviewed a 24-year-old John Popper. He described the band like this: “It’s our garage band attempt at our appreciation of jazz improvisation through the reality of rock ‘n’ roll.”

CK: I remember when that was his go-to phrase. We were a basement band, but we loved all different kinds of music. We started out with blues, but a couple of the guys went to New School in New York, which has a big jazz program, so we also played jazz. And we were huge fans of classic rock – The Allman Brothers, Santana, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead and Eric Clapton, who all improvised a lot. That’s what was kind of interesting. We took all those influences, along with punk and new wave, mashed them together and kind of jammed on them while also being influenced by the improvisational style of rock and roll.

KC: Do you think that description from 1991 still holds true today?

CK: One hundred percent.

KC: In that same article, Popper said he originally wanted to be a comedian, but he wasn’t funny enough. We know you’re all funny guys, but…

CK: What’s so funny about me? There’s nothing funny about me! Sorry, go ahead.

KC: No. Definitely not. But who is the funniest bandmate?

CK: Everyone’s got their style. I’m kind of the aggressive, inappropriate one-liners guy. Tad is more of the snarky aside guy. Ben is a big goofy guy. John is kind of the wacky, ‘where did that come from’ guy. And Brandon is kind of the slow burn Irishman whose got that wonky English sense of humor.

KC: You sound like our type of people. So, John doesn’t steal the show when it comes to the humor? It’s the whole band?

CK: Yeah, you can’t survive out here if you take yourself too seriously. I guess that’s what has kept us together for 35 years.

KC: We have the same approach to work and life, especially in our neck of the woods – we need a little humor sometimes.

CK: I’m from Princeton. I know of which you speak.

KC: Your last album, Traveler’s Blues, was all covers, why? Did you run out of things to say?

CK: We’d considered doing a blues record for years. We were a blues band in high school, but we quickly devolved, or evolved, into what we are today because of all those different influences. But everyone always asked us, ‘why Blues Traveler?’ And it’s because we actually started out as a blues band. So, we always wanted to show people we could actually play blues, and that’s kind of how it came about.

KC: We read it was actually quite difficult for you to make the album because you had to practice restraint. What was that like?

CK: Yeah, all the covers are classic blues songs from way, way back. I have to give credit to our fearless producer Matt Rollings for getting us to simplify and actually stick to the form because our instinct is to always play more and add cool parts to this and that. But it was a good learning process for us to strip it down. And perhaps, when we next go into the studio to do an original record, whenever that may be, we’ll take some of our music and strip it down.

KC: Please keep the blues going. We think it’s great that you’re focusing on that, and we hope you can help bring some of that music back.

CK: Hey, we got nominated for a Grammy for that album! We all went to the Grammys and hung out with all the little pop superstars. It was pretty hilarious.

KC: They could use a little Muddy Waters in their life.

CK: Yeah, they definitely could. But they can sing, though. All those little kids can sing their tails off.

KC: Who was your favorite collaborator on Traveler’s Blues?

CK: You know who really surprised me? The two voices behind The War and Treaty. They were super cool. And I just love them as an outfit. They have some smooth voices, and they’re talented musicians all around.

KC: What we really like about your music is that most blues artists get better with age, but your old stuff is just as good as your newer stuff.

CK: You’re right, the blues playing does get better with age. But I think we’ve also gotten better. During our first decade, when we miraculously got some pop hits – which was the last thing we expected, we were just going on energy. It was great, but you can’t really go on like that forever, especially when you’re punk rock hippies. But we’ve definitely improved, and I do really enjoy that. I’m always working on stuff with the guitar. And as a musician, I’m looking forward to getting better in the future, and so are the guys in the band. One of the great things our music is that it’s something you can build on.

KC: What can we expect next? Did Traveler’s Blues inspire you to work on more classic blues music? Or something totally different?

CK: We’re actually going to do an R&B covers album next. It’ll be with that same crew that we did the blues one with. We’re continuing to work through our roots because we had such a fun time doing it and it worked out great. Playing all these great songs and reinterpreting them in our in our voice has been really fun. We’ll start on that in February.

Head to our website for some behind the scenes footage of our interview with Kinchla. And check out the entire band at Harvest Fest on October 1.

This article was published in the September/October 2022 print edition of Katonah Connect.

Editor-in-Chief at Connect to Northern Westchester | Website | + posts

Gia Miller is an award-winning journalist and the editor-in-chief/co-publisher of Connect to Northern Westchester. She has a magazine journalism degree (yes, that's a real thing) from the University of Georgia and has written for countless national publications, ranging from SELF to The Washington Post. Gia desperately wishes schools still taught grammar. Also, she wants everyone to know they can delete the word "that" from about 90% of their sentences, and there's no such thing as "first annual." When she's not running her media empire, Gia enjoys spending quality time with friends and family, laughing at her crazy dog and listening to a good podcast. She thanks multiple alarms, fermented grapes and her amazing husband for helping her get through each day. Her love languages are food and humor.