A hot, dry, summer wind blew Paul Doffing and Greg Tambornino up the Bitter Root Mountain range towards Hamilton, Montana one July day in 2012. They’d been pedaling touring bicycles west for about a month, playing pre-arranged shows on Paul’s first ever bicycle-music tour as they made their way from Minneapolis towards Portland.
Months before leaving they’d played their last gig in their longtime Minneapolis based rock project, Citizen Sage, whose successful debut album had hit the CMJ Charts. So, with a long-time project now ended, in the openness of not really knowing what came next, Greg and Paul found themselves taking deep breaths of mountain air; wrapped up in the warmth and possibility of the Montana summer.
After Paul’s show that evening show in the Bitter Root Valley, they had a run-in with a tall, good natured Michigander named Jon Brown. He’d enjoyed one of Paul’s more atypical tunes- a cover of an indian raga from an old Davey Graham album. He elaborated that he was an orchestral percussionist who’d come to Hamilton to house-sit and to work on his tabla and triangle playing. Greg and Paul, amazed by the coincidence, happy to kill time, tempted by his promises of free MRE’s for the road (from a box in the garage), and eager to hear this tabla playing rode over to hang out and jam.
Fast forward two years: Jon is touring with a powerful Michigan folk act called the Ragbirds, Paul has a new album out and is continuing to tour by bicycle, and Greg is setting routes at a climbing gym in Minneapolis. They’ve been sharing idea’s online, collaborating and overdubbing parts to each other’s compositions. There are a ten days free in August. Could they tour? Record? Actually have a band? In August 2014, after 5 shows on the road, Men on Horseback set up shop in a house in Ames, IA and layed down 5 tracks in two days. A fairly primitive recording process was utilized, as the group had no recording budget available.
The songs are widely variant, from bright and hard-hitting to dark, plodding and noisey. The amalgamation of influences blend un-acknowledged in the playing. Three guys doing what comes naturally. No reason or goal.
Who ever needed a reason to play, anyway?
Isn’t that what playing is: doing something for no reason at all?
ALL PHOTOS: JORDAN ANGELL