Chamomile and Whiskey
Gig Seeker Pro

Chamomile and Whiskey

Charlottesville, Virginia, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE

Charlottesville, Virginia, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Americana Celtic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Chamomile and Whiskey play with proportions on Sweet Afton"

Central Virginia folk rock group Chamomile and Whiskey released their debut album, Wandering Boots, in 2013. After four years, they’ve returned with Sweet Afton, a slick sophomore follow-up boasting a cleaner production quality and an older, wiser set of players. It’s a mature, unhurried outing, and it gives the impression of a band that has put in the time in to explore its aesthetic potential.

The founding trio of singer/guitarist Koda Kerl, singer/fiddler Marie Borgman, and singer/banjo player Ryan Lavin are joined by bassist Marsh Mahon and drummer Stuart Gunter. There are other friends of the band mixed in on steel guitar, flute, tin whistle—whatever makes the arrangement pop.

And more often than not, pop it does, particularly on the record’s potent batch of mid-tempo party songs. “Good as it Could Be” is a natural standout, with its tongue-in-cheek, something-is-better-than-nothing attitude. It’s grounded in a friendly sing-along chorus, but between the flute melodies and the phase-modulated banjo, it also holds some of the record’s bolder sonic experiments.

With multiple singers and songwriters in a band, the boundaries between each member’s influences are often more pronounced, and the rule holds true for Chamomile and Whiskey.

Lavin’s contributions tend to draw from Celtic folk. On “Thalia,” an earthy, stripped-down guitar ballad, his voice practically drips with Irish mountain mist. Cello accompaniment and drum accents subtly shape its emotional peaks and valleys. On “Come Along,” he wonders if he’ll ever go back to Galway, giving the record another upbeat, danceable number in the process. It’s topped off with fiddle/tin whistle unisons, more unmistakable fingerprints of Irish influence.

Kerl’s songs point to more contemporary folk rock. Consider the album’s lead single, “Gone,” a poignant reflection on loss, deploying pedal steel and bowed bass on a familiar pop progression. There’s also “Sleepless Nights,” which foregrounds the drum kit and a straight-up electric guitar solo. It’s a pleasant surprise, but it’s also one moment where juggling many elements risks obscuring the production’s most interesting features.

The groups greatest successes are somewhere between the two poles. With its bluegrass bass line, plus one of Borgman’s catchiest fiddle hooks, “Solomon’s Reel” situates itself at the midpoint of Ireland and Appalachia. Here, Chamomile and Whiskey (along with producer Rob Evans) show they know how to make the most of the tools at their disposal. They craft a dynamic arrangement, with group vocals and nimbly woven instrumental breaks.

The word “deliberate” comes to mind with Sweet Afton. It’s not often lacking in liveliness, but it’s an evenly-paced record, a little less rowdy and a little less rough around the edges than its predecessor. Making a record is like mixing drinks, where different proportions—of influences, of instruments, of energy levels— can yield different, but equally pleasing, results. Sweet Afton is a touch more chamomile than whiskey, and the studio shine helps it go down nice and smooth. - The All Scene Eye

"First Listen - Chamomile and Whiskey - Sweet Afton"

Sweet Afton is the second full-length album from Chamomile and Whiskey, a band that grew from the duo of Koda Kerl and Marie Borgman who grew up together in the Blue Ridge Mountains town of Nelson County, Virginia. The band name, taken from an earthy tea and a bourbon kick, epitomises their sound – a high-energy mix of bluegrass melodies and traditional Irish rhythms. Over the years, they added some members — Marsh Mahon on bass, drummer Stuart Gunter, lead guitarist Drew Kimball, and banjo player/supporting vocalist Ryan Lavin who was raised in Galway, Ireland. At the heart of Sweet Afton, there is a real warmth that drew me in on first listen.

From the party feel of As Good As It Could Be (think early Waterboys) to the more sombre southern gothic-tinged Sleepless Nights, this is an album to savour – over your tiple of choice of course: tea or whiskey…

Little did Koda Kerl and Marie Borgman know they would one day tour as a musical duo when they met as children in Nelson County, Va. Years later, after playing together as a side project, the two sat down to talk about forming a band. Borgman made chamomile tea and Kerl brought a fifth of Evan Williams.

“We have some serious material — some songs are lighthearted, some are serious and even sad. But at the end of the day, we really try to have a good time,” Kerl said. “We’re a very energetic band and anytime we have a show, we want it to be a party.”

Sweet Afton has plenty of rollicking banjo, lively fiddle and high-energy percussion as well as flute, cello and even a tin whistle. The album’s title is derived from a few inspirations — Nelson County’s well-known Afton Mountain acted as the backdrop for many songs on the album and served as fiddle player Borgman’s previous home. Sweet Aftons were also the cheap, unfiltered cigarettes of choice for banjoist Ryan Lavin in his native Galway, Ireland.

“Gone,” the album’s first single, offers Kerl’s tribute to his father, one of his biggest musical influences.Sweet Afton also has the first studio recording of “Good As It Could Be.” The song is a fan-favourite party anthem during live shows, a personification of how the band sees themselves. Their relationship to their roots is reflected on “Nelson County,” for which they gathered their favourite local musicians, a cooler of beer and a couple of microphones for an intimate, live-recording feel.

Along with banjo player/supporting vocalist Ryan Lavin, Chamomile and Whiskey released a four-song debut EP titled The Barn Sessions in 2012, and focused heavily on touring. In 2013, they released their first full-length album, Wandering Boots.

Beyond the skill that lies within each player of Chamomile and Whiskey is the band’s overall goal: to genuinely engage and have fun with the audience. They will tour throughout the US, with an East Coast tour this fall, and the West Coast in the spring. - Folk Radio UK

"Song Premiere "Gone""

Loss leaves an empty space that’s either filled with regret, joy, anger, hope, or left unoccupied to grow and stretch as a remembrance of everything that will never again be complete. We carry loss with us, longing at once to get beyond its ache and mourning and at the same time we're never to be able to live with it. Chamomile and Whiskey’s new single “Gone,” from their new album Sweet Afton (October 27), captures the sweet raggedness of loss in a spare, mournful ballad that opens with a soulful duet of guitar and fiddle. An aching pedal steel delivers the singer and his thoughts across the song’s bridge, as he contemplates life after the he’s lost someone close to him: “Now I lay here/try to quiet my mind/chase my thoughts in circles/and evaporate in time/but these nights they just seem to grow more long/I don’t want to get used to you being gone.”

Lead singer Koda Kerl says, "I wrote this song after my father died. I've found over time that songs like this can change meaning or impact depending of what is going on in your life in that moment... he was a songwriter and I think he'd appreciate that about this one."

“Gone” is a just right blend of the burning of regret and the sweetness of love, much like you’d expect from a cup of chamomile tea laced with a shot of whiskey. - No Depression

"A Tasty Bluegrass/Janglerock/Irish Blend from Chamomile & Whiskey"

Central Virginia band Chamomile & Whiskey play a unique mix of newgrass, high-voltage Irish folk music and jangly rock. Their album Wandering Boots is streaming at their Reverbnation page; they’re at Rock Shop on Jan 24 at 11 PM for a $10 cover,

The album’s opening track, Blue Ridge Girl is a briskly pulsing electric bluegrass tune with incisive mandolin and a surprisingly austere solo from fiddlet Marie Borgman. Dirty Sea veers back and forth between a darkly lively Irish reel with fiddle and whistle, and a backbeat country anthem. It’s cool to hear those sounds together, considering how much of a source one is for the other.

Impressions. another clanging electric bluegrass shuffle, has a similarly gorgeous, lush blend of electric guitars, banjo and fiddle. Long Day works a two-chord Just My Imagination vamp that rises on the chorus with more sweeeping strings, frontman Ryan Lavin channeling mid-60s Dylan with a brooding unease. Buckfast Tuesday is sort of an acoustic You Can’t Always Get What You Want – except that in this crazy tale, the band of burglars does.

The alhum’s title track makes fiery, anthemic punkgrass out of a doomed, minor-key country blues theme. They keep the edgy intensity going with the bitter anthem Sara Beth, which might be about a murder, or just a metaphorical one. Inverness, a purposeful, propulsive train song, sets Lavin’s surreal narrative over eerie, muted, staccato fiddle and more delicious layers of guitar: “Saw your face on a train, over on a seat by the windowpane, you were bettng races on the beads of rain.” he intones, and it just gets more surreal from there. The album winds up with the ominous, minor-key, swaying noir blues Second Lullaby, a booze-drenched singalong. This band has so much going for it: smart original tunesmithing, interesting cross-genre pollination and richly textured sonics that should come across well through Rock Shop’s excellent PA. - New York Music Daily

"Music, chemistry and history at the heart of Chamomile and Whiskey"

Before Marie Borgman and Koda Kerl founded the Virginia-based Old Time outfit Chamomile and Whiskey, they gave their partnership a test run.

They were both veterans of other bands and hit the road to perform as a duo; it worked out so well that upon returning home, they put together a group that veers as nimbly as a Formula One driver from Old Time barnburners to stomping country rock to Celtic fiddle tunes. Now, however, with the band on a break, they’re getting back to their roots — literally and figuratively, Kerl told The Daily Times this week.

“The band is almost done with a record we’ve been recording, and our banjo player, who is from Ireland, wanted to go back home for a month,” he said. “We knew we were going to have some free time from the band, so we decided to pull out some songs we don’t play with the band and some older songs and do a short tour. We just had a really wonderful show in Baton Rouge, La., and we had a great crowd and a great reception.

“It’s definitely different. With the full band, we’re used to jumping around and getting more rowdy, because we’re going for a dancing, fun vibe. With the duo, the vibe is more serious and meant for low-key shows and listening rooms. It’s also a lot of fun, but we talk more about the songs and tell stories and dial it in a little.”

Saturday night, Kerl and Borgman bring their duo tour to Barley’s Maryville, and the chemistry between the two on the stage is one born out of a childhood friendship. They grew up together outside of Charlottesville, Va., Kerl said. She was in an Irish bluegrass band that enjoyed modest regional success; not long after, Kerl began to sing and play, and when he was asked to play a wedding, the planner wanted him to bring along a violin player. Borgman agreed, and the connection was an immediate one. With Chamomile and Whiskey, they’ve forged a band that sounds like “Titanic”-era Gaelic Storm, a band that’s most at home in the wild environs of a steerage party on a trans-Atlantic steamer, playing to flushed and sweating faces who won’t stop dancing until the strings break or the liquor runs out.

That freedom of spirit is exactly the sort of thing that keeps Kerl going with the band, and a reason he wanted to get back on the road during the unit’s downtime, he said.

“One of the things for me personally was realizing I was cut out for being on the road,” he said. “I really liked traveling, and playing music was a fun way to travel and meet people. Early on, musically, we realized some of the stuff we were playing as a duo could be fleshed out nicely into a fuller, rocking sound, so when we got back, we started inviting people to sit in with us. We found people that stuck, and the band was born.”

Each member brings another subtle influence to the sound, he added, and there’s never an end goal in mind as to what Chamomile and Whiskey should sound like. The members encourage one another to put their individual musical stamps on the end product, and part of the excitement for Kerl is watching how songs arise from such an organic experiment.

“We’ve played something like 700 or 800 shows in the last five years, so I think we’re a lot more comfortable playing together, being on stage and putting on a show,” he said. “It’s just an understanding you have with someone you’ve played with for a while. When you get to a venue, you’re able to see pretty quickly what the room is like and then tailor your set to fit well with the room.”

And as much as the band can bend the will of an audience to its collective musical vision, Kerl is looking forward to the next Chamomile and Whiskey studio record, which he hopes to have out next spring. The band used the studio as a laboratory, he said, and brought in a number of guest musicians to contribute to a sound that’s as complex and layered as anything the band has done.

“It’s interesting; our first record was more rowdy, and we get rowdy on this one, too, but there’s a lot of slower stuff as well,” he said. “I think it shows the way we’ve evolved in the studio more than anything. We’re definitely excited about it.” - The Daily Times

"Charlottesville band Chamomile and Whiskey raise a glass to folk rock"

What starts out as a fairly straightforward promotional trailer for Chamomile and Whiskey’s debut album, “Wandering Boots,” quickly turns into a cleverly crafted reminder of the perks of being a rock star.

At first, the roughly five-minute clip on the group’s website shows band members casually hanging out on a street corner in Charlottesville, their home base. But it’s not long before they happen upon a conveniently parked stretch-limousine that whisks them away to a red-carpet event characteristic of a Hollywood premiere.

The paparazzi and a crowd of enthusiastic admirers wait patiently for singer/guitarist Koda Kerl, fiddle player Marie Borgman, drummer Brenning Greenfield, all 23, banjo player/vocalist Ryan Lavin, 24, and upright bassist Tim Deibler, 29, to arrive at the venue, where they perform a rousing rendition of the title track off their new record.

“I’ve been astray for too long to refuse/This tired soul and my wandering boots/A floor to lay my head and a drink would do me right/I am just a vagabond staying here tonight,” Kerl earnestly intones, as the crowd frenetically dances and the chorus trails off into a raucous jam of screaming fiddle, frenzied banjo and accelerated drums.

The whole sequence is a stylized fantasy of sorts, but one that clearly aligns itself with an up-and-coming band’s aspirations to make their mark. And the video offers a glimpse into the rather playfully creative minds of Kerl and company, who seem perfectly capable of putting their own revved-up spin on the nu-folk invasion that’s dominated the airwaves of popular music as of late.

Perhaps most curiously, given the electronic dance craze that surrounds bands like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers on radio station playlists around the country, is that the brand of string-based hootenanny they debuted with a couple of years ago has tapped into many modern hearts, resulting in both being described as the most banjo-centric groups to ever dent U.S. charts.

While there are folkier echoes in the Chamomile and Whiskey repertoire, the real vestige of rapture rests in the energy and attitude the band brings to the table, particularly when they're playing live, which the quintet will do Friday at The Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville to celebrate the release of their LP. The group also will perform at The Stoney Badger Saturday.

“I think one of the things I love about performing is connecting with the audience,” Kerl says while sitting in a flea market-style chair at Rapunzel's Coffee and Books in Lovingston, a place that’s fostered the band’s development since they used its stage as a launching pad for their rock ‘n’ roll pilgrimage two years ago.

“I know, for me, the most joy that I ever get in my life right now — some of it’s been right here in this room — is when I’m playing a song with all these people that I love onstage, and I just see people dancing and singing along. It’s one of the coolest feelings you could ever experience.”

Three of the five band members made the trip to Nelson County for the interview.

Kerl, a gregarious guy accustomed to holding court, is wearing a dark-gray blazer over a long sleeve shirt with snap buttons, gray corduroys and scuffed, brown cowboy boots. Close on his heels are Lavin and Borgman (Kerl’s girlfriend).

They too share a similar taste in fashion: Lavin also is sporting cowboy boots, a vest, a rustic blue shirt, blue jeans, a long, thick beard and curly hair that hangs to his shoulders. Borgman resembles a free-spirited hippie chick, with flowing locks and a laid-back, almost shy demeanor — the twinkle of her nose ring occasionally visible beneath the lights.

She waits patiently for her chance to chime in, while Kerl seems more game for chitchat, and Lavin tries to measure his words with a sense of intent.

“People know when they hear something that’s not genuine,” Lavin says. “They can pick up on that. And I just want to keep creating and building relationships and doing it right.”

The collection of tracks Chamomile and Whiskey has put together on “Wandering Boots” certainly attest to their depth and focus as a decidedly driven group of musicians whose expectations seem to far outweigh the possibility of them burning out before they’ve had a chance to leave the starting gate.

From the foot-stomping fiddling of the enlivened "Dirty Sea" to the countrified electric guitar strums of the Dylan-esque "Impressions" to the bittersweet musings of the ruminative "Long Day," Chamomile and Whiskey’s disc delivers nine tunes that, as the title hints, find the outfit wandering through the rich history of the American songbook.

It’s an approach to writing music that Kerl picked up while immersing himself in the sounds of The Hackensaw Boys, who formed in Charlottesville in the late 1990s and became something of a local institution before garnering a national and international audience for their traditional yet distinct blend of folk and country.

Accentuated by rapid-fire finger-picking, baritone harmonies and bluegrass-tinged punk rock, the diversity of the band’s catalog is an obvious inspiration for Kerl, specifically the stylings of former Hackensaw Boy and founding member Bobby St. Ours.

“Bobby is, to me personally, one of the biggest musical influences of my life and a great friend,” Kerl says. “He’s an incredible musician.”

Lavin also succeeds in adding another dimension to the band’s sound with his versatility as a banjo player and guitarist, as well as a singer/songwriter, which seems especially apparent on the three tracks — “Inverness,” “Buckfast Tuesday” and “Dirty Sea” — the Irish-bred picker penned for the album.

“Inverness” — a tune Lavin confesses was the only thing that came out of a failed attempt at studying fine art at a college in Ireland before he permanently settled in the States a few years ago — is a raw, full-throttled exercise that captures the incessant drive of early Neil Young and Crazy Horse, minus the rugged distortion.

Instead, some restrained guitar chords and a stormy surge of banjo serve as the rhythm section’s central aesthetic, something that washes away any trace of a folk sing-along and, suddenly, evolves into a lighting-fast melody of intensity and grit.

“Well, it’s been three whole days/Since I filled myself with cigarette haze/When we live our lives a spark but not a blaze/And needless to say/Like an actress in a silent play/She can live her life beneath a muted gaze,” Lavin croons in a guttural yet soulful delivery, just before Borgman finesses her fiddle for a solo that bridges the gap between the hook and next verse.

“It’s an impressionistic-based, imagery kind of a thing,” Lavin says of the track. “That sort of poetic way of writing songs without actually having a proper meaning to it, so that people can pick up what they want from it.”

Fantasizing about the possibilities, even those that seem rather extreme, comes with the territory. Transporting the listener is at the core of what it means to be a divergent and prolific songwriter, a challenge the band accepts and hopes to tackle by showcasing their range and storytelling style.

“‘Buckfast Tuesday’ is slower, but it still sounds like Chamomile and Whiskey, obviously,” Borgman says. “It’s just another slower one where we rock in a different way. The second one on the album, ‘Dirty Sea,’ that’s a song I think would represent our Celtic rock. And the last one on the album, ‘Second Lullaby,’ is a really gypsy, pirate sounding song. So it’s pretty cool. And that’s why I’m really excited about this album.”

But, more than anything, it’s the glare of a venue’s marquee, which lights the way to a stage primed for an epic performance, that beckons Chamomile and Whiskey to unlock their inner roar and push the envelope on a brand of music they’re committed to for the long haul.

“I didn’t have a proper show until I moved to America and had one with these lads,” Lavin says in his thick Irish brogue. “But being entertainers and doing that, entertaining people, first and foremost, is our goal. And this is what I’m doing for the rest of my life. I have no plan B.” - The News and Advance


Still working on that hot first release.



Growing up in Nelson County, Virginia, a small town along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Koda Kerl and Marie Borgman met each other in elementary school. Little did they know then that one day they would be touring with each other as a musical duo. While both considered the duo as a side project in the beginning, they eventually decided that it was time to sit down, formulate a band, and officially start making music. Marie made chamomile tea and luckily, Koda happened to bring a fifth of Evan Williams. They instantly decided that mix -- of earthy tea and a strong, warm kick of bourbon -- embodied the exact sound they were working toward.

In that moment, Chamomile and Whiskey was born.

The band started playing bigger venues around the nearby city of Charlottesville and eventually landed a record deal with a small, local indie label called County Line Records. In 2012, they put out a four-song debut EP titled The Barn Sessions while continuing to focus on touring. The following year, they released their first full-length album, Wandering Boots. Over the years, they added some members -- Marsh Mahon on bass, drummer Stuart Gunter, lead guitarist Drew Kimball, and banjo player/supporting vocalist Ryan Lavin (commonly referred to as just Lavin). They’ve toured nationally and played along giant acts at notable festivals like Floyd Fest and Festy. And in the beginning of 2016, they started working with producer Rob Evans on their second studio album, Sweet Afton.

Chamomile and Whiskey make connections between people -- they did it with their name, and they’re doing it with their new album, Sweet Afton. Lavin, who was raised in Galway, Ireland, used to smoke Sweet Aftons, the cheap, unfiltered, and now defunct brand of Irish cigarettes. Coincidentally, fiddle player Marie grew up on Nelson County’s well-known Afton Mountain, which also happened to be the backdrop for many of the songs from the record. Between the bluegrass fiddle melodies and traditional Irish rhythms, it’s easy to hear both of these childhood connections and inspirations in Sweet Afton.

Fittingly enough, the record begins with an ode to their roots, “Nelson County”. The band loaded up a cooler of beer, invited a group their favorite local musicians, and all gathered around just a couple of mics to give the track an intimate, live recording feel. The album also features the first studio recording of “Good As It Could Be”, one of the band’s most notable songs and a fan favorite. “Lavin wrote it years ago and it’s become our ‘party anthem’ at shows. It’s got a good energy to it, it kind of personifies who we are as a band,” says lead singer and guitar player Koda. But the band isn’t afraid to dig deeper -- Koda wrote the record’s first single, “Gone”, after the passing of his father, who was one of his biggest musical influences growing up. The emotional storytelling and sentimentality of the song is coupled with the perfect amount of pedal steel, which is one of the many instruments you can hear on the album; others include flute, cello, and a tin whistle.

In the past, the band has been dubbed “mountainous folk rock”, but their combination of complex rhythmic patterns, varied influence of cultural music, and multi-utilization of instruments makes them unique, yet relatable, to a number of different genres. But beyond the skill that lies within each player of Chamomile and Whiskey is the band’s ultimate goal: to genuinely engage and have fun with the audience. “We have some serious material -- some songs are lighthearted, some are serious and even sad. But at the end of the day, we really try to have a good time. We’re a very energetic band and any time we have a show, we want it to be a party.” Whether you’re listening to Chamomile and Whiskey live or tapping your foot along at home, Sweet Afton is the unprecedented masterpiece where tradition and innovation meet.