For The Probables, Authenticity, Creativity Keys To Success

The Probables, from left, are Tom Hodges, Dylan Derby, Steve Johnson and Matt Gronquist. Submitted photo

When listening to “Cumberland Line,” the new release from The Probables, one would think that the band members recorded the songs in one room.

If you close your eyes, and either put on a pair of headphones or listen through a nice pair of speakers, it would feel as if you are in the same room watching the band play live while the songs are being recorded in another room.

Sonically, it’s authentic.

And that’s how Steve Johnson, vocals and guitar, wants it to sound.

“We tried to get the most authentic sounds from our instruments,” Johnson said of the new release.

“We tried to get as many people playing live as possible. It’s hard to do it all because you have to have some separation. We all were a part of everything. Even if we weren’t playing, we were right next to the person playing,” he added.

“Cumberland Line” took about six months to produce, but it was worth the effort. Johnson said he is the main songwriter in the band, and he brings a basic structure of the songs to the band. Parts of “Cumberland Line” were recorded in Buffalo at drummer Corey Kertzie’s house and the other parts were recorded at Graphite Sound Studio in Warren, Pa.

“I had the main songs done, but none of the arrangements, and not any of the feel of the songs. We worked those (arrangements) out in the studio. I have the lyrics, the chord structure down, but after that we kind play, and listen for a vibe,” Johnson said.

As for song ideas, Johnson likes to keep it simple. He said he already has enough material for another release and would like to go back into the studio in the winter. As in other bands Johnson has played with, he wrote many songs, but did not record any. He wants to take the opposite approach with The Probables. “I want to get the music out there, so it doesn’t get lost,” he said.

The members of The Probables come from different backgrounds. Some members come from a blue-grass background while Johnson comes from a folk-rock background. The different backgrounds are what make the band more cohesive as a unit.

“Everybody has a role in the band. That’s what I love about this band: everybody loves their role that they play,” Johnson said.

Having cohesiveness is not always easy for a band. Sometimes everyone has a role in the band where some members bring tension while other members argue with everyone because they may feel their roles are diminished, or maybe they want a different role.

This is not the case with The Probables.

“Everybody’s comfortable where they are. It makes things run so smooth and everyone gives 100 percent to what they know. And when they are rolling, it is awesome,” Johnson said.

The band started as a duo and progressively added more members. Johnson wanted a drummer in the band, and it grew to five members. The core members are Johnson; Tom Hodges, vocals, mandolin and dobro; Matt Gronquist, vocals, fiddle, and accordion; and Dylan Derby, bass. The drummer on “Cumberland Line” is Kertzie. Johnson, Hodges, and Kertzie played with Big Leg Emma while Derby played with the Derbines, and Gronquist played with The Naked Apes.

Johnson said the drummer is a revolving member. “There is no one steady drummer. We use who we know in different things. We like it like that.”

The band now is touring and stretching its boundaries. Johnson said besides Western New York, The Probables are gaining visibility in Ohio, West Virginia, Central New York and Western Pennsylvania.

“We found our sound. We like it and we’re rolling with it. We’re starting to turn heads,” he said.