fb-pixel Skip to main content

Damn Tall Buildings: from busking to a national tour

Joe Barnard

Ages: 22 to 23

Hometown: Boston

Think of: The Carter Family for the millennial generation. Old Crow Medicine Show meets Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros meets Flatt & Scruggs meets Nickel Creek, with a dash of Avett Brothers and a sprinkle of Johnny Cash. The band coined the term “guerrilla roots” to describe its sound, which draws on early-20th-century Americana/bluegrass music, “repurposed for a modern audience.”

What caught our eye: Damn Tall Buildings — Max Capistran on guitar and vocals, Sasha Dubyk on upright bass and vocals, Avery “Montana” Ballotta on fiddle and vocals, and Jordan Alleman on banjo, cello, and vocals — sold out Club Passim in Cambridge for a July release show celebrating their eponymous EP of originals.


Light bulb moment: The friends met while studying at Berklee College of Music and have busked Boston streets for the past few years. “We were busking on Newbury Street one winter day in 2013, and this lady came up to us and said, ‘I want to put you on my music blog!’ and we thought, ‘I guess we should be a band now, since we’re going to be on the Internet,’ ” said Capistran with a laugh.

Biggest thrill: Hitting the road this summer for their first national tour. “We’re like a little family; we spend a lot of time on the road, seeing a lot of parts of the country, and we really get to make a connection with people,” said Capistran. Another thrill? “We just bought a minivan, so that’s pretty cool.”

Biggest surprise: “How much time you can spend in a car together and still get along,” he said.

Inspired by: Flatt & Scruggs, John Hartford, Bela Fleck, James Taylor, Miley Cyrus.

Aspire to: “We want to continue what we’re doing but on a bigger scale — to continue traveling and playing music in a real way, to continue to be genuine and honest, keeping a connection with the audience,” said Capistran. Eventually, they’d like to “set up music therapy programs, make music an active part in communities,” he said. They also want to keep donating to charity. After winning Berkleefest in 2014, they donated $1,000 to Horizons for Homeless Children. “From busking on the streets, we’ve made a lot of strong connections to homeless people. Music can be used as therapy; we’ve seen it. People sit and listen to us,” Capistran said.


For good luck: “Nothing really. Have a beer,” he said with a laugh.

What people should know: “That our dynamic off-stage is pretty much identical to onstage. We’re very, very honest — sometimes too honest. What you see is what you get. We love what we do. We have so much fun.”

Coming soon: They play a free show at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge as part of the weekly Bluegrass Pickin’ Party on Sept. 29. Their New England tour starts in late September.

Link: www.damntallbuildings.com

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.