Before 2020, Adam Aijala and his bandmates hadn’t spent more than two months home in 20 years.
Then, come the coronavirus pandemic, the founding member of the hugely popular jamgrass band Yonder Mountain String Band found himself in quarantine with “no inspiration whatsoever.”
But inspiration seems to be a default setting for Yonder Mountain String Band, which has been known since the 1990s for pushing boundaries with its blend of modern rock and traditional bluegrass.
Guitarist-singer Aijala, 48, found new methods to turn on the band and get back to a productive baseline: Google drive collabs, Zoom jam sessions and what he calls “Brady-Bunch-style” music videos, now ubiquitous in lockdown productions.
If plans hold through the latest wave of COVID-19, the Center for the Arts will host Yonder Mountain on Jan. 19, just ahead of the band’s release of its new studio album, “Get Yourself Outside,” available Feb. 25.
Time spent cooped up in Zoom boxes might have made the band better than ever.
“I just used to wing it all the time in the studio,” Aijala told the News&Guide last week. “I would go in, have no idea what I would play if I had a solo, I wouldn’t think about it. … [This] was the most prepared we ever were for going into the studio. We actually had the time. A lot of people do pre-production for every record. We never have.”
Across their previous five albums, the secret to Yonder Mountain’s longevity, comes down to two principles, Aijala said.
“We were never doing 200 shows a year,” he said. “We were always cognisant of ‘Don’t take every opportunity.’ Because we need home time and we need to kind of recharge.”
“That coupled with the musical side of it — always having new ideas and new songs and new material — there’s always stuff to keep us interested,” he said.
Aijala creates most of the band’s set lists and knows long-time fans need to be just as engaged as first-time concert-goers.
“[We’re] taking a page out of the Grateful Dead’s book of doing different shows every night,” Aijala said. “Basically just keep it high energy.”
Fresh blood helps too.
New York native Nick Piccininni was just 9 years old when Yonder Mountain String Band formed. He joined the band January 2020 and is featured heavily on “Get Yourself Outside.”
“[Nick] has a lot of cool ideas. He’s super talented.” Aijala said. “He plays every instrument. His energy off and on stage, we feel that. It affects us.”
Tickets remain for Yonder Mountain at the Center Theater. They cost $39-$59, with a $3 processing fee, and can be bought online at JHCenterForTheArts.org, over the phone at 733-4900 or in person at the box office at 265 S. Cache St. ￼
“[We’re] taking a page out of the Grateful Dead’s book. ... Basically just keep it high energy.” — Adam Aijala Yonder Mountain String Band