Recently, SheBomb had the opportunity to speak with the members of Railyard
Conspiracy – a band of five Amherst College students who have been playing parties
and releasing some great tunes recently. Thanks to the band for meeting with us!
Joe Taff ’13, hailing from Boston, MA, undertaking a double major in Music and
History, on lead guitar, and harmonica.
Daniel Webber ’14, out of Minneapolis, MN, is undeclared, and sings lead vocals, plays rhythm and lead guitar, bass
Conrad Karsten ’14, from Annapolis, MD, a potential Russian/History major on drums.
Ian Stahl ’14 lives in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and sings lead vocals and plays rhythm
guitar all while working on a Music major.
Ben Muller ’14 is from Chevy Chase, MD, and is a Music major on saxophone and
Here’s what they had to answer to our questions:
SB: How did the band form? What motivated you to start playing together? How
did you know each other?
RC: We considered calling ourselves ‘Five-Legged Elephant” briefly. Joe, of course,
is the 5th leg. Ian, Ben, and Joe were in a jazz combo, and Ian, Ben, and Conrad lived in James
together last year. We also all really liked hearing each other play at Marsh Coffee
Haus – we realized that with our instrumental versatility we could do quite a bit as a
SB: Do you have an album out?
RC: Our most recent release was our four-track EP, Won’t Settle Down, recorded in
Florida over the summer. As of this interview, we don’t have any plans for a new
album but we have been writing and playing new things. Part of the fun for us is
in running with the ideas we each bring to the table – but sometimes there is some
constructive criticism involved.
SB: We are poor college students. I hope the EP is free.
RC: It is! You can find it on http://railyardconspiracy.bandcamp.com/.
SB: Wouldn’t you rather make money from sales?
RC: Sure. But we have to get our name out there somehow. Won’t Settle Down is a
promotional album – hopefully people listen and enjoy it, and that will translate into
larger audiences at our shows. Eventually, we’d like to sell CDs and merchandise at
SC: Well, at least it won’t get downloaded illegally this way.
RC: We are pretty torn about this. It’s hard to look at illegal downloading from a
black-or-white perspective. We aren’t necessarily fans, but that doesn’t mean we
haven’t downloaded a few songs shadily. If you are downloading something by a
band that’s got lots of money, maybe it’s okay. But groups like us, who live paycheck
to paycheck, you’d be taking away a good chunk of our income every time you didn’t
pay us for a song. Dave Matthews Band allows taping of their shows – maybe that’s
a solution. But it’s such a complicated issue with so many people involved that a
solution probably isn’t that simple.
SB: What went into the creation of Won’t Settle Down?
RC: It was quite the undertaking. A four-song EP might sound easy, but it was far
from it. We recorded the songs on our own, using Ian’s pool house as a makeshift
studio, over the course of a week. We worked from 9 am to 3 am every day – when
we weren’t recording, we were mixing and mastering on our laptops using Logic
Pro. Oh, and we were shirtless the whole time.
SB: How about the songs themselves?
RC: Settle Down is definitely a party song. It’s about drinking. So that’s that. Debt
Collector is our oldest original song, so we had to include it here. Eric’s Song is about
a real person, actually – and it provides a nice acoustic sound in the mix. The last
three songs, ending with Right at Home, are more reflective than the first. But all
four are still works in progress – we are constantly making changes and additions.
SB: Is one of you the primary writer?
RC: We treat the development process very collaboratively. All of us write our own
parts, and Ian or Dan will write a song with complete lyrics. We’ll play together and
workshop what we have. There’s been a shift in our mentality from ‘king of your
song’ to ‘band’s song’ when it comes to writing and sharing – there’s a lot of support
for each other in the band.
SB: Do you write about any recurring themes?
RC: With all of our songs, we take lyric writing very seriously. We try to tell stories
(occasionally autobiographical) and pay attention to the world as we write. The
more sensitive you are to the world around you, the more incentive you have
to write. There’s also one word in every song that you might not use in regular
SB: Does anyone or anything influence you in particular?
RC: I’d say we are a cross-genre, genre-transcending, bluesy, folky progressive rock
band with a hint of classic rock and post ’95 rock and pop woven in. Oh, and Billy
Joel is pretty good, too.
SB: We’d love to see you perform. Do you play shows here?
RC: We play all the time – at Marsh parties, on the Hill, and recently on the Freshmen quad. We are trying to attract an audience that bridges
the Five Colleges. We played a great show at Hampshire in September, and hope to keep widening out audience. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for upcoming shows.
SB: What do you guys do when you aren’t playing music together?
RC: Ian has a 3rd degree blackbelt – and Conrad collects belt buckles. Dan plays on
the Ultimate Frisbee team and Joe is a huge baseball guy. Joe’s also got a great beard
to take care of. And Ben? He’s an aspiring magician with an affinity for Mike’s Hard
and Shirley Temples. Can’t fault him there. We enjoy the occasional cheap cigars,
Blue Moon, and champagne together, too.
SB: Thank you so much for meeting with us–it sounds like you are one of the few groups on campus that has managed to take advantage of the wealth of passion and talent we have here at Amherst.
Be inspired Amherst College–someone is walking across the quad RIGHT NOW who might be your collaborative partner-to-be. Here is a vid of the live show performed at Marsh Coffee Haus last spring–enjoy!
*Thanks to the the band for meeting with us, and to HuckleKat for transcribing.