The Fall Risk
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The Fall Risk

San Francisco, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

San Francisco, California, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Americana Rock

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This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Feb
01
The Fall Risk @ Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse

Berkeley, California, United States

Berkeley, California, United States

Dec
21
The Fall Risk @ Slim's

San Francisco, California, United States

San Francisco, California, United States

Dec
14
The Fall Risk @ Auburn Event Center

Auburn, California, United States

Auburn, California, United States

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Although some Jambands.com readers likely first heard Jeff Pehrson’s name when he joined Furthur as a vocalist back in 2010, others have been following his career for a few decades now. Pehrson first gained notoriety in the mid-90s as the co-founder of Box Set (the group was featured in my 1998 book Jam Bands). Pehrson and Jim Brunberg were the vocalists and songwriters for the group, which signed with Capricorn Records and released a well-received album before the sale of the label’s parent company threw them off course. From there the two continued to record and perform, often as a duo, touring nationally until, as Perhson explains, “around 2008 or so, Jim and I both turned 40 and we had both been doing this since we were 22. So we decided to see what life’s like without being on the road constantly. I guess it was kind of a midlife crisis.” Brunberg now lives in Oregon where he is one of the founders of Mississippi Studios (“It’s a great venue and he’s got a little restaurant next door.”). As for Pehrson, he took some time away from music before resurfacing with a new group, The Fall Risk, and not so long afterwards, received a phone call that altered his path.

Beyond his role in Furthur, Pehrson is a longtime Deadhead with more than 100 shows to his name. As a result, it’s quite fitting that today The Fall Risk release their debut CD, Volume No. 1. The group is also touring through the East Coast from August 2-6, including stops at Bear’s Picnic on Friday and Brooklyn Bowl on Monday. In the conversation that follows, Pehrson talks about all of these subjects and offers his thoughts on Jerry Garcia as well.

So let’s start with your transition from Box Set to the Fall Risk. How did that come about?

I ended up taking a year off to get my head together and think about what I wanted to do. I realized that I went to college at one time (laughs), so I sent out a bunch of résumés downtown just looking for a new experience and see what it was like to have a straight job. I ended up getting a marketing job at a mergers and acquisitions firm, of all things. I was good it because it’s basically being a bullshit artist but after a year of it I was getting pretty burnt out and wanted to do music again. So I called Mark Abbott who was the drummer in Box Set and said, “Hey, let’s get something together. I’m tired of not playing music.” So we started a little band called The Fall Risk, which at first was just Mark and I and a bass player I knew from college, who’s no longer in the band. These were just guys I went to college with that I used to jam with way back and we started playing little gigs. It was never meant to be anything other than an outlet for fun.
And then around that time I got a call from a guy named J.C. Flyer. Years ago he wrote for Relix and he used to do this column called Bay Area Bits. He loved Box Set and he had since gone on to work with Furthur. So he called me one day out of the blue and said, “Hey man, what are the best lead vocals you think you ever did on a Box Set CD?” I thought it was an odd question but I gave him my answers and I said, “Do I even want to know why you’re asking me this?” (laughs). And he said, “No, you don’t want to know.” So I said, “Fine” and about another three weeks go by, then he calls me up and basically offered me the gig in Furthur. I guess he took these tracks and played them for Phil.
Bob was aware of who we were because Box Set opened for RatDog a couple times and he used to pop in and see us at the old Sweetwater in Mill Valley. In fact, the day after Jerry died when he flew home, he came to Sweetwater where we were playing, not to see us but to see Jeannie [Patterson] the owner of the original Sweetwater who was a very dear friend of his.
So I think between J.C. and Bob knowing who I was and J.C. turning on Phil to what we did, that’s kind of how I got the gig.
The other strange thing is Sunshine [Becker] is the sister of Box Set’s longtime roadie (Laughs). I had known Sunshine since she was 17 or 18 years old. She sings some harmony vocals on the very first Box Set CD.

Were you uncomfortable at first singing without a guitar in front of you?

Did that take some time getting used to?Absolutely. It was actually quite harrowing for me. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I still don’t know what to do with my hands, which is why a lot of time on stage I’ll just put them in my back pocket. You knew especially being a big dude I feel goofy dancing up there and I don’t want to draw attention to myself because it’s not about me, Furthur is Bob and Phil’s band. So when I first joined the band I used to wear a hat and hide my face and try to be invisible and then I saw some video of myself where I was dancing around pumping my fists and I said, “You look like an idiot and you’re drawing attention to yourself, so put on some black clothes, stand back there and just sing.” People aren’t there to see me they’re there to see Bob and Phil because those guys are incredible.

Were you a Grateful Dead fan back in the day?

I saw well over 100 Grateful Dead shows. In the late 80s, early 90s over a six year period I saw about 100 shows.

Is there one that stands out for you?

I think my very first show is the one that sticks out to this day. I grew up a big progressive rock fan. Rush is still one of my favorite bands so I was used to the whole rock show thing: the opening band plays 45 minutes and then the next band come on and plays an hour and a half straight and then they leave and that’s the night.
My very first Grateful Dead show was at Henry J. Kaiser and it was 1987 Mardi Gras [3/3/87]. I was in college and a friend of mine brought me over. It was a lot of fun. There was a park across the street where the whole shakedown happened and in those days they just let you sleep in the park because In The Dark hadn’t come out yet and it wasn’t this mob scene like it became. So, we dosed, saw the show and I remember they opened with “Quinn the Eskimo.” At the time the only thing I knew about the Grateful Dead was “Casey Jones” and “Truckin’.” So they opened with Quinn and I thought, “Oh cool, Dylan.” Then the acid kind of kicked in and all of a sudden there’s this this parade going down the venue with all the Mardi Gras floats and beads. So we got in line, went up to the front of the stage, they did “Terrapin” and I was hooked. It completely melted my face. As Deadheads like to say either you get it or don’t. I got it immediately and I was never the same (laughs). It opened up an entire window into how different music can be and where you can take it and what you can do with it and how you can put on a show. It was just so uplifting and so wonderful to be moved like that. And when I ended being in a band later with Phil and Bob it just blew my mind.

What was it like then, your first rehearsal or performance with Furthur?

It was terrifying. We did rehearsal shows at the Seafood Peddler which later became Terrapin Crossroads. Basically it was trial by fire and that’s exactly how it was described to me. “We roughly do about 300 songs. Here they are, good luck.”

How do the vocal arrangements shake out?

It shakes out like this: you find a part. Sunshine bless her heart, I went to her house because she had been with Furthur for one tour before I joined. And she said, “Here are the parts I sing.” It’s a matter of finding the parts that aren’t overly taken and it also depends on when Phil wants to sing and when Bob wants to sing. So when Phil sings I usually change parts to double Bob and when Phil is not singing I usually do the part that he would sing. So you’re constantly on your toes trying to find parts that are not completely overdone. It was an incredible challenge. I’ve never been challenged so much musically and it was incredible. I feel like I’ve grown so much and I have them to thank for it. - Jambands.com


The Fall Risk

'Volume No. 1'

Jeff Pehrson, a backup singer with Furthur, featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, makes the 20-foot walk to the front of the stage with "Volume No. 1," a striking debut album from his new folk-rock band, the Fall Risk.

Pehrson may be most familiar to Marin music fans as the co-founder of the popular 1990s band Box Set. In this larger aggregation, he continues in the same acoustic-electric, modern Americana vein, but with the benefit of years of hard-won experience and considerably more firepower.

Hard strumming acoustic guitars and singing with the confident tenor of a working professional, he gives the feeling that he's releasing years of pent-up creative energy on "Volume No. 1." He and his accomplished seven-piece band — lead guitarist Phil Savell, drummer-percussionist Mark Abbott, organist-accordion-player Sammy Johnston, slide guitarist Rich Goldstein, pianist Matt Twain and bassist Mike Sugar — tear through his nine originals with controlled abandon.

The opening track, "Cross My Heart," with its memorable melody and natural hook, has the earmarks of a country music hit. It sets the tone for the excellence that follows. Marin newcomer and "Weir Here" regular Jason Crosby adds a sweet fiddle solo on the loping ballad "Angeline," and Tony Furtado guests on banjo and bottleneck slide guitar on another up tempo love song, "Le Claire."

Pehrson, born in Haight Ashbury in 1967, the Summer of Love, proves with "Volume No. 1" that he came into the world with the San Francisco Sound singing in his soul.

And this assured, finely produced debut, recorded at TRI Studios and Salamander Sound, is a reminder that he's more than a backup singer. Much, much more.

Buy it: "Volume No. 1," the Fall Risk, TRI, www.thefallrisk.com, $12.99 CD, download

— Paul Liberatore - Marin Independent Journal


Day One

Once upon a time, when multi-tracking and isolation meant something very different in Recording Studio Land than they do today, I spent some time in that particular environment. I’ve been in some world-class studios: Wally Heider Studio C, the Record Plant (Sausalito edition). I have some fond memories, of the making of some legendary albums. Hot Tuna’s “Burgers” is a particular favourite. We're talking about the early seventies, here.

When Jeff Pehrson invited me to observe during the sessions his band, The Fall Risk, is doing for their 6-song EP (all songs are Pherson originals) I was curious but apprehensive. I didn’t want my pretty memories messed with. Heading up to TRI Studios, Bob Weir’s tricked-out state of the art recording facility in Marin County, I was prepared for an emotional disconnect. I haven’t been in a pro studio environment for over thirty years, and the levels at which the tech has moved since then is nearly unimaginable.

I needn’t have worried. The Fall Risk’s eponymous EP is getting the best of both ends of the "that was then, this is now" tech spectrum. Producer and engineer Chris Manning, while utilising the tricks and toys of the Pro Tools that work for what he wants, has gone back to the Seventies sound for this EP, using vintage preamps, vintage mics (Telefunkens and Sennheisers), and, wait for it, reel to reel tape. He’s also going for the “one pass and let’s do it” feel: a hands-on approach, without the deadly over-rehearsing that can turn a good performance sterile, just enough to hit it without having to futz with it too much. From everything I listened to, he’s going to hit every note of this EP at exactly the right pitch.

The result is fabulous. There’s an old-school immediacy to “The Fall Risk”, the kind of thing that puts the listener firmly in the middle of the music. Some productions get too dependent on the fancy candy-store display of high-end toys, and end up streamlining the listener completely out. Listening to playback of the instrumental tracks for “Cross My Heart” and “Hollow”, I realised my memories were safe. The vibe of both the music and the recording session itself are destined to join my clutch of “yes, it’s a recording studio and some things never change and what’s more, they shouldn’t” memories. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. There’s even an Echoplex on the corner.

One difference between the then and the now is the wall of video screens linking the control room to the musicians. Gone are the days of “one big room, all together, someone please find some kind of baffling for the drummer” issues. There are isolation rooms aplenty: Jeff Pehrson's in one room with his acoustic guitars, and lead guitarist Phillip Savell, playing Bob Weir's vintage SG, is in another. The other five band members – drummer Mark Abbott, bassist Mike Sugar, keyboard aces Matt Twain and Sammy Johnston, and slide guitarist Rich Goldstein – are in TRI’s “big” room, playing together.


Sitting in the spacious control room, I watch all three rooms at once. Everyone is linked and talking to each other at need; the wall of screens shows four separate rooms, counting Mission Control where Chris is overseeing the tech and the vibe, but they might as well be onstage together, feeding off each other’s energy, making it happen, keeping it real.

Laying down the initial instrumental tracks for “Cry Baby Cry”, Chris listens to playback and talks to the band. Mike the bassist gets the first feedback: "Can you get a little more greasy on the bass?” Mike obliges, sliding a third. Chris talks to the entire band: “Play it all together guys, more of an 'I’m on holiday’ vibe.”


Piano, warm and shimmering, works its way through the guitars and rhythm section. There’s organ in there too, interweaving with no hesitation and no fumbling. The track is there, coming together with heart and feeling and it’s just what the doctor ordered. For a few perfect poignant minutes, time collapses in on itself and I’m sitting in Studio C at Wally Heider in San Francisco, watching Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen listening to the playback on “Water Song”.

Chris gathers the band in the control room for a group listen. Matt crouches on the floor and gets his shoulders rubbed; Jeff concentrates, swaying from foot to foot. Conversation eddies, a few tweaks come up (The guitars sounded like the Stones in the headphones, but Phil’s isn’t translatin, might be mic placement, Jeff, try it with the flat side of the pick). The talk is technical, but Chris, helming the whole shebang, knows what he’s after: he’s after magic. And the band is delivering.

Day Two

With the band used to me being there, I get to TRI a little. They’ve worked out the first five songs for the EP, with tracks recorded and ready. Now they’re starting the final track, a charming piece of Americana called “LeClaire”, after the own in Iowa, upriver from Davenport. I settle in on the - No Depression


Most performing artists wear some of their hometown essence on their sleeves. Jeff Pehrson, prime force behind The Fall Risk, as well as a vocalist for Furthur and half of the popular Box Set duo, was born in San Francisco in 1967. But don’t expect a tie-dyed ode to the 1960s psychedelic scene on the band’s first full-length project. The Fall Risk has both feet firmly footed in 2013 as an irresistible Americana-flavored rock ’n’ roll band with Bay Area sensibilities. Already an accomplished songwriter, the prolific Pehrson brings nine tunes to the table here. He strums an acoustic guitar along with the band, and adds comforting vocals with lyrics that a paint a picture of a certain person (“Angeline” and “Wendy Ann”), a place (“LeClaire”) or an idea (“Cry Baby Cry”), while also leaving some interpretation to the listener. The band also exhibits plenty of firepower, jamming out, for example, in “Ode”, a searing, danceable rocker. The band’s skillful players offer just the right amount of complexity to the layered, kick-up-the-dust jams. The Fall Risk includes two members of Box Set’s electric band—keyboardist Matt Twain and drummer Mark Abbott—and the album closes with a wonderful new treatment of an old Box Set number, “HBWA” (Hershey Bar with Almonds). - Chico News and Review


Interview by Linda R. Tulett

Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to chat with Jeff Pehrson, founding member of The Fall Risk, to discuss their initial CD and how it all came together for them. We also chatted a bit about his musical past, being in the Twain-Pehrson Duo and Box Set, and present time with Furthur and The Fall Risk, his influences, and tidbits of history that make his musicianship unique.

JBO: So, I’m always curious about how people come up with their band name. My friend joined a band that didn’t have a name yet and told me the long process of elimination. So, how did you land on this name? Kind of evokes a feeling of, well, if you don’t take the risk of falling, you might not ever reach your goals – you know, if you don’t try then…..

Jeff: Essentially, we were kicking around names. I played in a band called Box Set for about 17 or 18 years. We were on Polygram and almost made it huge, but didn’t quite. So, when I started this band, I called a couple of guys from Box Set to be in it, one of which is our drummer, Mark Abbott. Mark’s mother had been ill and he was taking care of her. One day he called me and said, “I got the name of our band.” I said, “Oh yeah, what is it?” He said, “I’m wheeling my mother out of the hospital….” I guess she was pretty [medicated] for one of her treatments so they put a bracelet on her that said ‘fall risk’. So, we thought that would be a perfect name for a band full of mid-40’s guys, trying to jump off the amplifiers like we did when we were 20 and not pull a hamstring!

JBO: Yeah, ya ain’t as young as ya used to be so everything is risky these days, right!

Jeff: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly! You want to run around like you were 20, and ya still do, but… you know, it’s not like it used to be. Stretching helps, it really does, you know, we are more prone to pull things! And, I move around, my center of gravity is off. I’m a pretty big dude so when I start jumping around, sometimes I’ll tip!

JBO: [Laughs] Yeah, when you start jumping around, people start moving away.

Jeff: [Laughs] Well, if they’re smart they do!

JBO: It started with the Twain-Pehrson Duo, then Box Set up to 2006, and now The Fall Risk beginning in 2009. You, Matt and Mark have been together for a long time, a few decades. What keeps you all on the same creative path?

Jeff: It’s definitely both Matt and Mark for sure. One of the first people I started making music with was Matt. We met through a mutual friend when I was still in college for a project when I was at San Francisco State. So, I played him some of my songs and he just hit the harmonies perfect. We just played and sang together so well….. our voices blend together well, there’s always just been a musical connection there. Anytime you find a musical connection with somebody, it just makes things easier. You don’t have to necessarily articulate what you have in mind for things because, somehow, the person can kind of like read your mind and knows what you want, that perfect thing. And, when you find that in somebody, you try to play with them as often as possible!

JBO: Yeah, that’s rare. That’s what keeps a band together in the long haul.

Jeff: Yeah, it makes things so much easier. And that’s exactly the reason why Mark Abbott has always been my drummer and probably always will be my drummer. When I write a new song, Mark somehow instinctively knows what I want. It’s so rare that I tell him how to play. And it’s the same thing with Matt.

JBO: Who does most or all of the writing? You or is it collaboration – you write the words and someone does the arrangements?

Jeff: I write everything, the music and lyrics, so the song comes in complete. But, what the band does is come in and sort of round out that process by adding in different parts that I hadn’t thought of. That’s why the instrumentation in The Fall Risk is such a fun thing for me. You know, I played in Box Set and we were kind of an acoustic-based pop-folk rock band. You know, a lot of acoustic guitars, a little bit of keyboards, drums and bass, but nuthin’ too complicated, really. And, The Fall Risk is loaded, I mean it is stacked from top to bottom with top-notch musicians. So the parts these guys throw out, you know, they don’t change the song but they add in instrumentation I would normally never have thought of. Like Rich Goldstein’s slide guitar. I’ve never worked with a slide guitar in a band before. So, Rich always adds these amazing parts that I immediately love, like, ‘yes, let’s do that!’, you know? And, Mike Sugar, my bass player who is a long-time bay area musician whose been around the music scene for as long as I have. The bass lines that Mike comes up with I could never even thing of. I mean, he’s so good. So, from that standpoint, they basically take the songs I come in with and enhance them.

JBO: Put little touches on it, in places where you didn’t hear it when you were writing.

Jeff: Yeah, exactly.

JBO: So, if someone came to you with a song, would you guys take it and make it your own if it meant something to you? Or, is it, right now, you are really doing your own thing?

Jeff: You know, my biggest thrill in music… I love playing live. I love playing shows, I love playing guitar. But for me, what really gets my juices flowing is writing songs. That is something I take incredibly seriously, probably too seriously, but I do. I’m a real stickler for lyrics. I never could really get into a song that might have a really cool hook but the lyrics are dumb. You know, “baby, oh baby, I love you, baby, baby, baby….” [Laughs] I mean it drives me crazy! Well, that’s why I was such a Grateful Dead fan, because the lyrics were always so good, the stories were so good. In my mind, when you have the kind of access that a lot of big bands do, when you have that kind of audience, the whole world listening to you, and you take that and tell me nothing? I mean, I don’t get it. I don’t see that you necessarily have to write something that changes the world, or write about politics and shove that down someone’s throat, but tell me a story, teach me something! You know, tell me about the human condition. Paint me a picture. That’s why guys like Springsteen, and Dylan, and Pete Townsend… guys who put importance to the lyrics. Like Paul Simon…. you know, these guys will always be my favorites. It’s why I’ve always been drawn to bands like the Grateful Dead and folk music in general, because in folk music, the lyrics are always important, they tend to drive the music. And you can get a history lesson too.

JBO: That is so true! You know, when I listen to your CD, and I’ve been listening to it every day since you sent it to me.

Jeff: Oh good! I’m glad you like it.

JBO: Oh yeah, and I think my favorite song on the CD right now is ‘Angeline’, although ‘Hollow’ is getting to me a bit, but….

Jeff: [Laughs] Yeah, ‘Angeline’ seems to be ‘the one’, I keep hearing.

JBO: Yes, but ‘Hollow’ is… wait, I want to hold off on asking that question but I do want to talk about those songs. I want to ask you, the process for picking the first song on the CD. So, ‘Cross My Heart’. What made you choose this as the first song and what about it maybe starts the beginning of the rest of the story of The Fall Risk?

Jeff: Well, on this particular CD, it’s been different from its has been in the past because we don’t currently have a record deal. We are in the process of having to find a booking agent, to try to get a record deal, potentially, if it makes sense. I’ve been through all of this before, and, well, Box Set went through several record deals so I know the process. I know how they treat new music. When a record company gets your CD, they put it on for 30 seconds, and if they don’t like what they hear, they throw it in the garbage, literally. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen club owners do it when trying to book bands. They have so much music coming in, if you don’t catch them in the first 30 seconds, they will literally throw it away. Normally, you put the CD together for the listener. On this particular CD, I felt I had to put a song up front that I thought was very radio friendly, was very hooky, very catchy, so I would catch people’s ears if they’d never heard of us. So, you know, if they were thinking about whether to give us a record deal, whether we deserve their services as a booking agent or what have you, its the first song. So I put ‘Cross My Heart’ first, it seemed to be a very radio friendly, hooky rock song.

JBO: Agreed, I can hear that on the radio now. Down here [Monterey], we don’t have a lot of choices for radio, but KPIG would love you guys, you are right up their alley, with the roots-americana with a little touch of a southern sound. Have you sent them your CD yet?

Jeff: Oh, I love KPIG, that’s one of the best stations around. We have not sent them our CD yet, but we have tapped into them on our last tour. They were always very friendly to Box Set. Whenever we had a gig down in the area, we’d get invited to the station to play live. I would always request my favorite commercials. You know, ‘Dicken Cider’ is still my favorite. I don’t think it gets funnier than that. You know how it goes: ‘At Christmas time, when it gets cold outside, even grandma liked a little hot Dicken Cider’. [Laughs]

JBO: [Laughs hysterically] I know, when I first moved here I thought, these can’t be real commercials?!

Jeff: Yeah, I love that station.

JBO: OK, back to the CD. As I was saying, ‘Angeline’ is fast becoming my favorite song on the disc. I could listen to this one over and over again. So, what is behind this? It’s danceable, seems like an ode to a girl, or not?

Jeff: ‘Angeline’ is more than just a story about a girl…. its more of a metaphor for when things don’t work out, to try your best to not to get too muddled down and let things ruin your life for a period of time. It’s that life goes on, the river rolls on. Things didn’t work out with Angeline, you tried everything you could, and, you’ll meet somebody else, right down the river. Life moving on, is essentially what that song is about. And, I did it from a standpoint of a relationship, and then threw a lot of river metaphor in there as well. The chorus, ‘The Queen of Coca-Cola’, people have writing to me and asking who the queen is. And, its not a who it’s a what. The queen of coca-cola in my song is the [Cumberland] river boat. I just have this image from when I was younger. I had been to that area many times and I saw John Hartford’s house which is on the bend of the Cumberland River, that’s now call Hartford’s Bend. I don’t know if you are familiar with John Hartford, he was an amazing folk musician, song writer, banjo player, I mean the guy was just an amazing musician. But, he was once a river boat pilot. He never lost his love for that. So, when he made some money in the music business, he built this house on the Cumberland River and he set up this radio where he could talk to the river boat pilots from his house. I kind of wanted to put this in the song, so that’s where I talk about the paddle boat going by Hartford’s Bend. And, when I was there, I also listened to a lot of Sonny Boy Williamson, cuz it just seemed to fit the area I was in. You know, some place along the river where it was kind of swampy and hot. So, this line about ‘the queen of coca-cola, sonny boy and me, sleeping on the banks of a three-part harmony’. You know, its like the sound of all those three things – Sonny Boy is playing, the steam boat is going by, maybe it’s blowing it’s horn, and maybe you’re just breathing along with it all.

JBO: Wow, the harmony of life, you know. I’m glad I asked the question – I didn’t necessarily get that from the song, or know this about the Hartford house and the Cumberland River.

Jeff: Yeah, again, like I was talking about folk music. This part of history, relaying a story. But, I also don’t like to make it too literal either. Because I feel, once the songs are done, recorded, and the person buys the CD, you know, its not my song anymore, its their song. So, if they want to insert their own experience in the song, and you know, decide what they think it’s about, that’s fine too.

JBO: And that’s the beauty of Americana music. It’s so relatable, just tells a story of someone’s experience that could have been yours. The other song I wanted to talk about, ‘Hollow’ – there seems to be something deeper behind this song that I’m curious about. It’s got an upbeat feel, but, I don’t know, I was listening to it over and over and trying to figure out what it meant. There seems to be an underlying heaviness there. Is this is a soul-searching song, struggling to find that thing, that passion that makes you whole, and when you realize it, the joy that can come of the discovery? Can you tell me more about this one?

Jeff: Well, I wrote that on my 30’s birthday. I was looking around and seeing a great many of my peers give up on everything they really wanted to do in life to get that ‘security’, to get the job, to make money, to get that house, to secure that future. It was my kind of anthem, giving advice to myself, literally, to prop myself up and say, don’t give up, don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t sell out and be one of the hollow [workers] that drives back and forth to the office every day and feels nothing. That’s not to say that some people don’t enjoy that way of life, because they do, but for me, that’s not going to work. I just have this creative thing that needs to be let out, and I know myself well enough to know that’s not going to go away. So, the song is called ‘Hollow’ because I always thought that if you just give up on what you are truly driven to do, you will create this enormous hole within yourself that will never be fed, you can’t fill that hole. I kind of tie religion into it a little bit, um, with the line, ‘We’re born to fall in line. Counted to a God. So make me something more. Make me more than lost, and hollow.’

JBO: So, the last song on the CD, HBWA – need to know what this acronym stands for? A very up beat song, a good choice to close the CD.

Jeff: Oh, that’s ‘Hershey Bar With Almonds’. So many people think it’s about me, ‘Hot Bitch With Attitude’ [Laughs]

JBO: [Laughs] I love it, it’s perfect! You know, when I heard this song, the note I jotted was, “I need to know the acronym for this song. It’s very upbeat, its a good choice to end the CD as it leaves you with a full taste, a fulfilling experience, what The Fall Risk is all about.” Hum, Hershey Bar With Almonds, perfect!!

Jeff: [Laughs] Well, this song is about a girl from my past, long ago, when I was very young. Her favorite candy bar was the Hershey bar with almonds. So, the first time I asked her out, I handed her a Hershey bar with almonds. It’s just kind of a about my life at that time, I think I was 19, you know, just hanging out in San Francisco cafes, discovering to music, learning who I was, learning to play music, learning about love, about making love. I wanted it to be carefree. There’s the line that I still love, ‘She’s an angel when it’s right, and a bitch when she’s being denied.’ Or the one chorus, ‘I might not be a dancer, but I’ll keep in step with you.’

JBO: Well, I loved it. I think it is a perfect end to your CD. Its that song that leaves you understanding what The Fall Risk is about, in a nutshell. And, it leaves you wanting to go back to the beginning and start the disc over.

Jeff: Oh good, thank you. I’m glad it makes you do that, that was the goal!

JBO: So, I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing you with Box Set or The Fall Risk. Shameful I know….. I’m really looking forward to this CD release party at The Sweetwater, in Mill Valley, on August 17th – I’m really looking forward to the live interpretations and opportunities for open jams. So, as a new fan, what am I in for here?

Jeff: Well, we play a lot of rock music, so its gonna get you moving, very danceable with tight, driven grooves. It’s a song-driven band, and our players, our musicians are just so good. Everybody needs to shine. I want to take the spotlight off me because these guys are so amazing, I want everyone to see how good they are. So, we stretch the songs out quite a bit, there is a lot of soloing, a lot of passing things back and forth. Our lead guitar player, Phil Savell, is absolutely amazing. Our organist, Sam Johnston, who was also in Box Set, is, well, those two trading solos is just something to see. And, Matt Twain is just an amazing musician and he plays these incredible piano solos, and Rich on the slide guitar, and Sammy also plays crazy harmonica. These guys are just such good musicians, we can really play these incredible jams sessions in the middle.

JBO: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to the live performance. Music always comes out different live. Like a CD is always going to be the CD, its recorded once and that’s it. But the live performance can be different every time, it can change and grow depending on the night, and maybe even the crowd. The CD release party coming up at the Sweetwater should be a great gig. That is a nice space, um, as long as the talking is kept to a low.

Jeff: Well, we will be so loud they won’t be able to talk!

JBO: I wasn’t going to ask any questions “just Jeff” questions, you know, pre-Fall Risk. Just one or two, if you don’t mind? I’m curious about your current gig with Furthur. So, how did it feel when the boys asked you to join back in 2010? Who called? Did you have to excuse yourself on the phone so you could go freak out for a minute? I mean you’d been a deadhead for years – that must have been one crazy moment!

Jeff: Well, it kind of happened over a period of time. J.C. Flyer is the person who called me. He was a writer for Relix, used to do the local Bay Area bit column years ago and he was a big fan of Box Set. The core of Box Set was all about the harmony singing, we had lots of harmony parts. Jim [Brunberg] and I, we were kind of like the Indigo Boys, ya know. [Laughs] So, Bob used to come see us quite a bit at the old Sweetwater. Furthur had done one tour and Zoe [Ellis] decided she didn’t want to be in the band anymore. So, JC called and it was really kind of cryptic. He said, ‘Hey Jeff, how ya been? I have a weird question for you. If you had to pick your five best lead vocals out of the 12 Box Set CDs, what would they be?’ I was like, OK, that is pretty cryptic. So I told him my choices and I said, ‘Hey, JC, do I even want to know why you are asking this?’ and he told me not yet. I kind of had a feeling, I knew Phil was looking around for a new singer. A couple of weeks went by, and he called back, said he played the songs for Phil and they want to know if I want to join Furthur. I said, ‘um, Yes I do!’ I was on cloud nine! I saw so many Dead shows back in the late 80’s-early 90’s, you know, before Box Set took off and I got busy. I think, in a period of six years I probably saw 100 shows. I was always a huge fan. I wasn’t really about the scene, but I was more about the songs. I couldn’t get enough of those songs. The Bobby-Barlow stuff, the Jerry-Hunter stuff. I mean, that is still the best songwriting ever as far as I’m concerned. So, I mean, then to get asked to be in it. I mean, every night when I’m hanging out with these guys, I have to turn around and pinch myself, I mean I really am here, Bob did just ask me to sing the national anthem with him! [Laughs]

JBO: Wow, I can’t imagine what this must be like. Does this current experience have any direct influence on how you write songs today for The Fall Risk or is this a completely separate thing for you?

Jeff: Well, I can’t say that the Grateful Dead didn’t have an influence on my song writing, but that happened years ago, when I first saw them. The main influence that Furthur has had on me, the experience of playing with these guys is not so much the music, the song writing, but it is how to put a show together. Writing the set list, filling in jams, that kind of thing. What I’ve been a part of, up close, to see how all that happens, and seeing their thought process. The song writing has been there since the first time I saw them, I was blown away by the song writing.

JBO: So which side of their music draws you in the most. I mean the Jerry songs are the sweet songs, that hit people emotionally, and the Bobby songs are the rockin, bluesy, cowboy songs. Which side gave you the most? The songs you’ve penned for The Fall Risk, with their Americana feel, seems more on the Bobby-Barlow side?

Jeff: Well, I definitely have been influenced by both sides. But, you know, there’s always that moment when every Deadhead will say, ‘ooohh, when they played that, I got it’. You know, you either get it or you don’t get it with the Grateful Dead. My very first show was a Mardi-Gras show at the Henry J. Kaiser. They did ‘Terrapin’, and I got it. [Laughs] I mean, right at that moment. To this day, that song is one of my favorites of all time. The music and the lyrics are just…. it’s incredible. That song is just incredible to me. That song will always be the ultimate, the song that I will always associate with the moment I really discovered the Grateful Dead.

JBO: Where do you get your talents from – anyone in your family with musical abilities? I know you mentioned you were adopted, but was there a strong musical influence in your upbringing?

Jeff: No musicians in the family, but my dad was a major audiophile. He had a lot of music and always had the biggest, best stereo that was on the market at the time. My dad was a big jazz fan. My mom was raised on a farm in Kansas, so she was all about country music, and Elvis, that was about as rock as she got. So, between those things, when my dad had the stereo on with Dave Brubeck or my mom had control of the stereo that day and I listened to The Statler Brothers. So, I had a well-rounded upbringing as far as listening to a whole bunch of music. I kind of got into rock music on my own, you know, cuz that was what pissed off my parents. [Laughs] So, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Townsend. If I had to name my biggest influence in music I’d say it is Pete Townsend – he is my absolute hero. That’s why I kind of feel like I tap into different areas in song writing, because of the music I listened to when I grew up. I wasn’t just subjected to one kind of music, like ‘here’s rock’ and that’s it. I love the power of rock, but I love the lyrical sensibility that hides in country and folk music. I try to do a little bit of everything, stay well-rounded, you know, cuz that’s what’s in me!

JBO: If you opened up your iPod, or iPhone or whatever you use to listen to music today, what would I find?

Jeff: Oh, you’d find just about everything! You’d find Loudon Wainwright, Rush, I’m a huge Rush fan, have been since high school….

JBO: ‘There is unrest in the forest’. I love that song, The Trees.

Jeff: [Laughs] I thought you said, there is unrest in The Fall Risk! [Laughs] We haven’t been together long enough for there to be unrest!

JBO: [Laughs] OK, so I wanted to ask you what it was like to work with Jack Casady. You wrote and performed on his first solo album, “Dream Factor.” What was that like?

Jeff: Oh, that was a real slice of heaven. Jack is one of the coolest, kindest men in the business. Back in the Box Set days, we toured as a band and as a duo, Twain-Pehrson Duo. And, Jorma and Jack having been a duo for so long, even before Jefferson Airplane, for like 60 years so, it was a thing that they recognized about us, that special duo thing. They took a liking to us, put us on their tour bus and we opened for them on four different tours. So, we became really close, Jim and I even both taught classes at Jorma’s ranch for a while. Then Jack approached us and said he was going to do a solo CD, he loved our songs and wanted us to be on it. I was completely honored. He sent me some music, four tunes he had been working on, and I essentially wrote the lyrics, Jim wrote one, and then we wrote one together. I think we essentially did maybe six songs on the CD. And, then when it came time to do the record, he asked us to sing on it too. And that was great. We worked with the Government Mule guys, Fee Waybill from The Tubes, and Elvis Presley’s cousin played hammond, that was cool. Getting to hang out with Jack and his wonderful wife, who unfortunately recently passed away, she was a joy to be around, it was just wonderful. I love Jorma and Jack dearly. They were so good to Box Set. Incredibly warm and wonderful people. One of the great experiences of my life. I will never forget that.

We did a little trio tour. It was the Box Set Duo and then Jack played bass. So, what did we call it? The Jack in the Box Trio.

JBO: [Laughs] I love it. Perfect name!

Jeff: Yeah, we only did an east coast tour as the Trio, it was really fun.

JBO: So, can I call you Snake?

Jeff: Oh gosh, so you found out about that did you?

JBO: Well, of course I did, I like to do my research! My brother in-law is an avid collector of everything old, including movies so he WILL find it for me. The movie, “Christmas in the Clouds”, I know you played a biker.

Jeff: Well, there was a local gentlemen who is still around today, he plays in a Grateful Dead cover band called, Cryptical, his name is Mitch Stein, you may have seen him sitting in with people here and there. Anyway, he has produced many movies and was working on one at the time called, ‘Christmas in the Clouds’. It had a very large American Indian cast in it. Well, you know I was adopted by Swedish people [Laughs], well, my adoptive parents, that is their heritage. But, my heritage is American Indian, if you can’t tell by taking one look at me. So, Mitch calls me up and says, ‘hey man, I know you did some improve in college and everything. I have this part, do you want to come read for the director?’ So I did, and thought, that was fun, probably won’t turn into anything. So, the next day, they called me and asked me if I wanted to fly to LA to do a reading with the whole cast. So, I went into this room and basically the entire cast of my favorite movie, ‘Smoke Signals’ was there. You know, every American Indian actor that is out there. [Laughs] So, they ended up writing a new part in the script to give me something. I initially had four scenes, but that got edited down to one, but I’m in it!

JBO: Thanks for your time Jeff. Super nice to talk to you.

www.TheFallRisk.com - Jambands Online


Living in the Bay Area since 1971, I sometimes get the blank stare from other locals. I don't want to listen to Grateful Dead wannabes or guitarists who sound as if they're on a liquid IV drip with Garcia riffs being infused into their bloodstream; I want musicians with their own material, their own style, their own sound. Something about that makes people uneasy. There are days when hearing someone demanding that a live band "play more Jerry tunes!" makes yelling "Go hit the Internet Music Archive, there are thousands of Jerry tunes up there, and they're actually played and sung by Jerry. Win-win!" impossible to resist.

I saw Fall Risk at the Ashkenaz in Berkeley recently, and really liked what I heard. The eight-piece combo, fronted by Jeff Pehrson, has two keyboard players and two lead guitarists. I'm particularly impressed with Philip Savell's lead chops, and Rich Goldstein's slide work is stellar. As lead singer with Further, Pehrson's got plenty of cred with the Deadhead diehards. But this is no Dead cover band, and none of the string players are into doing Jerryoke. In a two-hour set, they played over twenty songs; I think four were covers. Yay! Originality!

Listening to some of Pehrson's songs specifically, I was taken back to what I liked best about music in the 1990s. We were coming off the eighties, that horrible decade of popsynth, whining vocals, no guitars, drum machines. Riding to the rescue were bands like the Gin Blossoms, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Blues Traveller and the best of the best, Barenaked Ladies: a lot of mid to uptempo material, superb harmonies because they understood the importance of a good lyric and vocal, and somehow managing to keep any lushness to an easily integrated level. Like them, The Fall Risk is a big band that sounds tight yet full.

A high point for me came during the second set. Keyboard player Matt Twain has a monster of a song, called "Lemonade" (editorial note: this is actually a Jeff Pehrson original, not to be confused with Cisco Adler's song of the same name). The band uses it as a vehicle for a gorgeous, deeply exploratory jam, every instrument getting its turn to speak and move the next instrument into place. It was intense, edgy, visceral. Really good stuff.

If The Fall Risk is playing within reach, I highly recommend going to see them. Just don't expect a watered-down Deadgasm. These guys don't do that.

You can find out more about The Fall Risk and check out their music at their website: http://thefallrisk.com/
- No Depression


I've been something of a standard bearer for The Fall Risk since I first heard them live, at the Ashkenaz in Berkeley, CA about two years ago. Recently, I was pleased to get an invite to come see the band playing a private four-song set at the San Francisco headquarters of JamBase. The short set would be introducing the new lineup. And yes, there have been a few changes.

When I first saw them, The Fall Risk was an eight-piece combo. They sounded great, but truth to tell, the presence of a dedicated harmonica player was a waste - the other seven players produced a wall of interesting sound that buried him. By the next show, about a month later, they were down to the seven-piece combo that would be their steady lineup for the next eighteen months, including the recording of their eponymous EP at TRI Studios.

Things change, alter, reassemble; that's as true of rock and roll as it is of anything else. The Fall Risk did, as well. I'm delighted to report that change, alteration, reassembling and - in this case - shrinkage, have left the band sounding as tight as ever.

Walking into JamBase, I watched the load-in and set-up for what was now a six-piece combo. This past month saw the departure of keys player Sam Johnston, and the loss of lead guitarist Phil Savell. There was no possible way I could think of for those two changes to not leave a gaping hole in the band's overall sound. Both players have strong, unique styles. Savell's highly melodic guitar work had helped give the band their particular sound. Johnston, as second keys player, was not being replaced. I was unconvinced that it was even possible to have The Fall Risk remain The Fall Risk.

As the band warmed up, I found myself watching new lead guitarist James DePrato, noodling with a handsome Tele. He was producing tantalizing, shimmering riffs that were as tight as they were classic. The other guitar he'd brought along for the set was a gorgeous 1990s vintage black SG. He ended up using the SG exclusively, and in his hands, it sounded amazing.

When it came time to power up and get things started, I settled in and waited. They started out with "Ode", an up-tempo number with a strong hook and very catchy chorus. If anything was going to reveal gaps in the band's new sound, "Ode" would do it.

There were no holes at all, not one. The sound was as full as it ever was, with original keys man Matt Twain being able to spread his sound just that little bit farther. The result was startling, and great to listen to.

James DePrato floored me. Like Savell, his style is his own, and very recognisable. I was reminded of Mark Knopfler's early days; I saw Dire Straits open for Talking Heads at the Roundhouse in London back around 1978, and I was riveted by what Knopfler was doing. There was a touch of the "whoa!" in my reaction to DePrato's playing.

He also brings something that adds an entirely new dimension to The Fall Risk's repertoire, and I hope Jeff Pehrson recognises and utilizes it: DePrato is a corking good slide player. Being able to match up that second slide in a call and response with slide ace Rich Goldstein is a huge, huge plus - even the brief back and forth they did at the JamBase set was mindblowing. Heading towards local Bay Area full shows in May - at Marin County's Sweetwater and in Santa Cruz - I'm anticipating a lot more of that.

So The Fall Risk remains The Fall Risk, without a gap or weakness anywhere in the new lineup. They're slightly tighter, and slightly tauter, and should absolutely be on your "go see them NOW" list. -- Deborah Grabien

Visit The Fall Risk's website at thefallrisk.com to keep up with what the band is doing, and for news about upcoming shows. - No Depression


In the Bay Area there is no shortage of live music. In fact you can hear a different band playing in a different venue every night of the week, and still wished you’d heard a few more. In the past year, I’ve gotten to know a new up-and-coming folk-rock-blues jam band, The Fall Risk. I’ve now see them perform at multiple local venues including, Sweetwater Music Hall, Terrapin Crossroads, Slims and Brick & Mortar.

Jeff Pehrson, The Fall Risk front-man is no newbie to live performances. He garnered west coast love and a loyal following as part of Box Set. Jeff’s song writing and performing prowess have helped this eight member band become a growing presence in the Bay Area club scene. Jeff fronts the band with a big warm smile and his acoustic guitar dominance. He’s the only one in the group who pursues music as a full-time occupation; although you’d never know it by the professional level of their performances. In the past year, I’ve seen this band become tighter and more fluent in their orchestration. They’re taking this very seriously!!

The third or fourth time I saw The Fall Risk perform was at Bob Weir’s Sweetwater Music Hall with a guest appearance by Stu Allen. A few weeks later I was eager to see what would happen when they played at the hallowed venue, Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads. The history of the venue itself leaves some big shoes to fill. And The Fall Risk, with a guest appearance by Phil, played to the packed-house one rousing jam after another. They knew exactly where they were playing, rose to the occasion and brought the crowd along with them for the ride. This was my kind of loud, raucous, rock and roll!

While Jeff is the best known musician on the stage, he’s hardly there alone. Philip Savell is a maniac as one of two lead guitar players, and evokes a look and sound of a seasoned rocker. I’m sure Phil’s preferred form of a cardio workout is to be playing guitar on-stage for two hours. He doesn’t hold anything back – nothing! Rich Goldstein on the other side of the stage is a master with the slide and equally makes his presence known, but in a more reserved manner. Matt Twain supports Jeff on the vocals and is a masterful keyboard player. I’ve heard Sammy Johnston rip it up on the pedal steel guitar and then completely surprise the crowd by hauling an accordion around the stage whining out a fantastic version of The Who’s Squeeze Box. If you knew nothing about this band, you’d quickly figure out this is a group of musicians with a connection. In fact, several of the members were musician-friends from their college days.

During a time when there seems to be a nostalgic re-interest in 80’s music (gag), The Fall Risk offers something lighter and more soulful. While Cross My Heart and If Love Is the Answer are sweet love songs, there’s every chance you’ll hear a roaring guitar jam during these tunes. The band is having such a good time, you can’t help doing the same. Dancing is a must!

Each show has had two solid 8-10 song sets and I’ve left each time wanting a few more songs. Jeff easily brings his warm personality to the stage. It’s no secret he’s one of the vocalists for Furthur and shows his quiet gratitude for that opportunity by telling the crowd, “my bosses wrote this one,” before they break into a Grateful Dead tune. Otherwise, their repertoire is mostly original songs sprinkled with a few well-known covers. - Fire From the Ice Music Blog


Discography

The Fall Risk "Volume #1" was recorded at Bob Weir's TRI Studios in San Rafael, C.A. and produced by Chris Manning. The album was released in the spring of 2013.

Photos

Bio


The brainchild of Furthur singer and Box Set frontman Jeff Pehrson, The Fall Risk is a 6 piece Americana/Rock band that features some of the hottest session players in the San Francisco Bay Area: Lead guitarist James DePrato (Chuck Prophet, Taos Hum), Bassist Mike Sugar (Jambay, Everyone Orchestra), Drummer Mark Abbott (Box Set), Slide guitarist Rich Goldstein (Little Muddy), and Keyboardist Matt Twain (Box Set, The Rangers). This acclaimed lineup tears the cover off the word "Jam", and consistently elevates Pehrson's journeyman songwriting. Their sound is infectious Americana, rock-n-roll with enough groove to get you up and moving, and enough drive to hammer a railroad spike. The Fall Risk encompasses the very best of Bay Area rock music tradition, while helping to shape its future. 



Industry Quotes:


“Jeff and his bandmates in The Fall Risk create some of the warmest vibes out there. After hearing Cross My Heart a couple of times, that tune was embedded in my brain, and it never fails to bring a smile. Like Jeff's Gibson J-100 Xtra, the Fall Risk creates a wide and big sound...This is good stuff”.  
-Jim Roberts, Assistant managing editor for The New York Times


“I got to see The Fall Risk in action last night at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley. Man, what a great, sweaty, fun time that was. Affable frontman Jeff Pehrson (I've been a fan since his Box Set days) has surrounded himself with a strong group of musicians. The songs are great too. Very radio friendly. I can't wait to see these guys play again.”
-Peter Finch, KGO/KFOG Radio San Francisco


"I love the music of The Fall Risk and love their whole approach to making music, the kind of people they are - and the kind of musicians they are. To be a successful band takes way MORE than simply the ability to make good music; it takes a range of personal and musical skills COMBINED. One where the music and its creators bring to the mix a sophisticated understanding of what it takes to not only MAKE music together, but (in a wider sense) to make 'life' together. The Fall Risk have got what is needed many times over in my opinion...I would work with them in a flat minute. Love those guys and love their music".
-Sam Cutler, Former Tour Manager to The Rolling Stones


“The Fall Risk, featuring Jeff Pehrson from Furthur fame, have a fantastically unique sound and very endearing lyrics. Their powerful vocals and driving punctuated rhythms keep the crowd dancing. I look forward to watching them bloom in the rock genre."
-Jamie Soja, The Huffington Post


“Jeff Pehrson has formed a fine ensemble of first rate musicians who quite obviously enjoy playing together for, I must add, some very enthusiastic audiences. I've recently made several round trips to Marin from my home on the Monterey Peninsula to hear these guys and believe me, for an evening of live music, The Fall Risk delivers”.
-Rock Scully, Former Manager of the Grateful Dead


"Jeff Pehrson's songs have a lot of groove, a lot of heart, and a lot of smarts." 
- Tim Lynch, KPFA Radio


“The Fall Risk is a big band with a big voice out front and a big groove underneath. Jeff Pehrson's songs are the meat of the offering, and a terrific band drives the music with style!”
-David Gans, KPFA Radio


“If you only know Jeff Pehrson as one of the sweet harmony voices in Furthur, do yourself a favor and check out his own band, The Fall Risk. I love their irresistible blend of rootsy rock and pop. Great singing, great songwriting, great playing... can't ask for much more than that”!
-Gary Lambert, Sirius XM Radio


Band Members