At Work: Spafford

Raffaela Kenny-Cincotta on December 11, 2017

For Years Brian Moss and Jordan Fairless tried to form a jamband in the remote city of Prescott, Ariz. When they finally struck gold with Spafford, the humble music scene of the American Southwest became less of a hindrance and more of a sonic incubator. In a flash, their high-energy improvisations attracted a loyal fanbase.

“They needed something to latch on to,” Moss says regarding the regional transplants from the jam-centric Northeast and West Coast that comprised their earlier audience. “Spafford really filled that void for people [in Arizona].” The band’s popularity grew by word-of-mouth and they set off on long drives to play shows and heighten their exposure. “We would wrap towels in ice and hang them around our necks as we were driving to California in 120 degrees in the desert with no A/C,” Moss laughs.

The band gained another leg up when they started playing late-night after-parties for heavy hitters like Widespread Panic and Furthur. Now, Spafford is one of the jam scene’s hottest prospects, touring with Umphrey’s McGee last winter, rocking festival stages coast to coast and laying down exciting, intricate performances that spawn impassioned analyses by fans. Recently, drummer Cameron Laforest joined their roster, finalizing a lineup that also includes Moss (vocals/ guitar), Fairless (vocals/bass) and Andrew “Red” Johnson on keys. “Cameron is an extraordinary player with a lot of insight and a lot of natural ability,” Moss notes “We’ve only just begun what this new lineup is capable of.”

According to Moss, Spafford documents everything they play, including rehearsals and performances. That archival ethos generated their latest release, the hour-long, Abaculus: An Improvisational Experience. Recorded at the band’s rehearsal space, dubbed “The Pound” (because of the nearby hordes of feral cats in downtown, industrial Phoenix), Abaculus is a mini-study in the spontaneous, jam-oriented mission of Spafford writ large. “We decided to kick out a jam, and just have fun with it,” Moss explains. “There was no planning, no more direction than what you listen to. We weren’t calling things out. We didn’t say anything to each other. We just jammed. And, for me, that’s the most beautiful music in the world—just creating music out of thin air.”