The Yonder Mountain String Band (abbreviated YMSB and referred to by some as just "Yonder") is an American progressive bluegrass group from Nederland, Colorado. Composed of Dave Johnston, Ben Kaufmann, Adam Aijala, Allie Kral, and Jacob Joliff, the band has released five studio albums and several live recordings to date.
Having met in Urbana, Illinois, banjo player Dave Johnston requested Jeff Austin to join and sing in his band The Bluegrassholes. Austin, who played no instrument, revealed to Johnston that he owned a mandolin, who then told him to come to the performance and "play anything, just play fast and loud."
After the collapse of The Bluegrassholes, Johnston moved to Boulder, Colorado, in order to further his bluegrass musical skills. Similarly, Austin moved to Colorado, but instead took up residence in the mountain town of Nederland. Johnston soon joined him there. It was during this time in Nederland that Johnston and Austin met bassist Ben Kaufmann and guitarist Adam Aijala at a local club named the Verve. In December 1998, the four musicians formed Yonder Mountain String Band which was to open for a band at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. The band developed both a bluegrass and jam band fan base, and can often be found on tour. Their debut album Elevation was released on Frog Pad Records, an independent record label run by the band, in the fall of 1999.
From 1999 to 2001 they performed as one of the many attractions at NedFest, a music festival held in the band's hometown. By 2000, the group was also playing larger venues, such as The Fillmore in San Francisco, California. The band has released several live albums with material from live performances, but fans are welcome to record the concert they attend for themselves, as the band is taper-friendly. There were several tapers during this early period that worked hard to document the band and spread recordings. Sandy "Bigfoot" Alexander, "Bluegrass" Brad Burleson, Josh "Integral Part" Parsons, and Mark Burgin all contributed heavily to documenting Yonder during these early years. Austin once said that when these guys started to follow Yonder around recording them, that they felt like Yonder had started to make a mark. Burleson went on to work for the band as monitor engineer, as well as recording every show. Both Alexander and Burleson were inducted into the Kinfolk Hall of Fame for their efforts in documenting YMSB during these early years, particularly the unplugged encores that Yonder became known for during that time period.
In 2005, their recording of "Think for Yourself" was included on the album This Bird Has Flown – A 40th Anniversary Tribute to the Beatles' Rubber Soul.
In 2008, the band performed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
In 2010, it was revealed that Yonder Mountain would host a music festival at Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas called Yonder Mountain's Harvest Festival. This is the same site where the larger Wakarusa festival is held and where the previous Mulberry Mountain Harvest Fest was held. In 2011, the festival's headliners included Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the Simcha Aknin Band, Railroad Earth and the Emmitt-Nershi Band.
In April 2014, Austin left the band due to "creative differences and conflicting career goals". After touring with the band since Austin's departure, fiddle player Allie Kral and mandolin player Jake Joliff became official members of Yonder Mountain String Band in May of 2015.
Ben Kaufmann - bass, vocals
Ben Kaufmann's ability to write songs has formed a solid foundation on which the band's repertoire has grown steadily since 1998. Among his earlier compositions are, "The Bolton Stretch" (Elevation), "On the Run" (Elevation), and the epic live song "Traffic Jam" (Mountain Tracks, Vol. 3).
Dave Johnston - banjo, vocals
Dave Johnston forms a great deal of the band's overall sound with his banjo. He sings in a low tone. Of all the members, Dave has contributed the most instrumentals, with Adam second. Jeff and Ben have put words to most of their songs.
Adam Aijala - guitar, vocals
Adam Aijala's guitar playing forms a framework for many of YMSB's songs. One of Adam's most well-known songs, written back in the days of Elevation, is "Left Me in a Hole."
Allie Kral - fiddle, vocals
Allie Kral was a member of Cornmeal for many years before leaving in 2013. She began playing with Yonder Mountain String Band after Jeff Austin left the group.
Jake Joliff - mandolin, vocals
Jake Joliff was a well known mandolin player before starting to play with YMSB after Jeff Austin's departure.
Jeff Austin - mandolin, vocals (1998-2014)
Jeff Austin picked up the mandolin only a few years before forming YMSB. He will often break into a freeform scat during a song.