Music News & Reviews

Fans rewarded by sticking by Tempest

Tempest, led by Leif Sorbye, right, will perform its blend of Celtic rock and folk music Saturday at Fairytale Town.
Tempest, led by Leif Sorbye, right, will perform its blend of Celtic rock and folk music Saturday at Fairytale Town. Courtesy of Magna Carta Records

Fans of the East Bay-based Celtic rock/folk group Tempest have stuck by the band through long lapses between albums. The group’s “The Tracks We Leave,” released in February, has proved all good things come to those who wait.

For nearly three decades, singer and guitarist Leif Sorbye has led Tempest in more than 2,000 shows across the East Coast, Midwest and up and down the West Coast. Today the band is rounded out by longtime drummer Adolfo Lazo, bassist Josh Fossgreen, guitar-vocalist Greg Jones, and singer-fiddle player Kathy Buys. Tempest has been on the Magna Carta label for 20 years.

Sorbye spoke by phone from his home in Oakland, which also serves as a rehearsal room and band headquarters.

Q. Your multi-generational followers have been waiting patiently since “Another Dawn,” your last record, which came out in 2010. Why the extra long wait?

A. There were a couple of different things holding us up. The lineup from “Another Dawn” has changed since then. Once more, I don’t want to go into the studio unless we have something new to say. I was holding off on purpose, believe it or not. We were scheduled a year before to start recording but eventually canceled. We like to “road test’’ our material for a while. By doing so, you have the benefit of playing the material so all the musicians can lock in and songs can gel. Also, our new bassist, Josh Fossgreen, just started at the end of the last year. We ended up keeping our previous bass player to finish out last year’s season.

Q. How do you plan out each successive record and, similarly, choose an able producer?

A. Because we tour a lot, we need to set aside time to record. We record the old-fashioned way by blocking off a period in time and locking down the studio with the producer and the record company. Our producer’s name is Robert Berry, and we consider him like a sixth member of the band. He was chosen by our label when we released our “Turn of the Wheel” album, the first for Magna Carta. Since then, we haven’t wanted to work with anybody else. The more we work together with him, the better the result. With Robert, we feel like we don’t have to start over from scratch when introducing new songs.

Q. The industry has changed immensely since the band’s inception. Explain how that affects you and your members’ bottom line.

A. The one thing I have learned about the music industry is that’s it’s very unpredictable. Since we’ve been around so long, our fans are older, and we need to cater to them by playing earlier shows (sometimes over by 9 p.m.). Our most successful shows usually have higher ticket prices and start well before traditional show times. Additionally, our festival season gets longer because we don’t have the revenue streams we did earlier on from record store sales. Now, we sell at shows and do very well selling all types of merchandise.

Q. Is Tempest a full-time job for everybody?

A. These days, my members do other things as well besides the band. They also teach music as well. Tempest is their main source of money, of course. However, I stopped letting Tempest be the only source of their income because it was too much pressure on me to line up enough shows and have enough work. I believe true success is being able to do what you love to do. And believe me, I do.

Q. Your next show … is at Fairytale Town. How are those gigs?

A. We played Fairytale Town in 2012 and did it twice that year. It’s actually quite wonderful since you experience the innocence and naivete of children. The front of the stage is usually packed with little kids and playing for them is a really good way to test since your music is only as good as it communicates to others.

Tempest

  • What All-ages show at “A Midsummer Night’s Dream & Crystal Ice Cream Fantasy”
  • When: 5 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Fairytale Town, 3901 Land Park Drive, Sacramento
  • Cost: $7-$20
  • Information: (916) 808-7462, www.fairytaletown.org

This report was changed at 9:24 a.m. Friday to correct the cost of the tickets.

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