Indianapolis based indie rock musician Vess Ruhtenberg is a veteran of esteemed local and national bands like Zero Boys, The Pieces, United States Three, and The Lemonheads. But now, Vess is going solo. He shared a bit of his new music from his upcoming solo album, “Tremendous Downtime” at our Small Studio.
Rob Dixon & Trilogy
Carrie Newcomer grew up in Elkhart, Indiana where she started writing songs as a teen, and learned how to play the guitar and dulcimer. She graduated from Purdue with a degree in art and education, but says her heart was always really with the music.
“I decided to follow it," says Newcomer. "I’d been writing songs and performing in bars and coffeehouses all thru college. I didn’t know where it would lead me but I had to follow. Now, after all of these years, I’m STILL following it. And it’s taken me to the most interesting places.”
Those interesting places include Africa, the Middle East and India.
“I was invited by the American embassy school in Delhi to work with the kids for a week creating art that was based on topics of peace and justice," Newcomer says. "And then the American Center, which is the cultural outreach part of the American embassy, asked me to travel the country doing concerts and workshops with groups of young Indians who were involved in social service types of things.”
She returned to India a few years later to collaborate on an album of Indian music with three of the country’s top musicians.
“There’s a spiritual current in my work because there’s a spiritual current in my life. If that didn’t show up I’d be censoring something kind of important about how I walk around in the world and how I experience my life,” says Newcomer.
She calls herself creatively restless, so it’s no surprise that her two most recent albums have companion books of poetry.
“The way it usually works for me, is I start with poems and essays and stories, and I do a lot of writing that isn’t song writing. Then when I sit down to write the song, I have all of this language and I’ve been musing with these ideas for quite a while. Then the music and the lyrics happen together,” explains Newcomer.
Her newest album is The BEAUTIFUL NOT YET.
“I think it is the finest album that I’ve come up with, which is what you want to say with every new album,” laughs Newcomer. “But I feel as if I’ve pushed something here, and something in me has expanded and grown.”
“It’s usually about me dancing with the audience. Lots of audience participation and crowd interaction you know just trying to get people to laugh and to dance,” explains Indianapolis musical artist Andrew Duncan of his performance called “Andy D” .
It’s a show that is hard to describe but impossible to forget as Andy D and his wife, whose stage name is Anna Vision, recreate his take on the '80s over the top New York Disco Club scene.
“Bright colors, asymmetrical hair styles. Everything was just big and bright and kind of peacocking. That was kind of lost with grunge. I wanted to bring that back a bit," Andy D says. "I wanted to wear what I wore when I was 8 years old and see how people react to that, and they’ve reacted pretty positively.”
The couple admits that they are more performance artists than musicians offering an outrageous show filled with crazy dance moves, and songs with R rated lyrics.
“None of it is gratuitous. It’s always thoughtful and purposeful, calculated for a specific effect,” explains Andy D who studied language in college.
It’s not for everyone but those who enjoy their sense of freedom and abandonment can’t seem to get enough of their act. They just returned from a three year tour of both Europe and the U.S.
“We were able to do this full time for three years and we were able to make a living by keeping our overhead low," he says "You know, the two of us driving in a hatchback and staying on friends couches.”
Their latest creation is a video reality show called The Electric Wilderness Variety Show.
“We’ll produce an episode a month with animated bits and highlights of video we shot during the tour. It’s part travelogue, part showcasing cool people we’ve met in our travels doing really cool stuff,” says Andy D.
And like their stage show, it will be VERY real.
“I think it’s really sad when artists who are supposed to be the people pushing expression are playing to genre, or limiting themselves to what they’ve done in the past. I don’t think people should limit their creativity to what they’ve done before or to what people think or expect of them," Andy D says. "I’ve had the moustache and the rat tail because I happen to like those. If I cut them off one day it doesn’t make me less Andy D or whatever. It would just be another way and musically the same thing. I just want to give myself as much freedom as possible I guess.”
Brett Wiscons readily admits that music is not his strong point.
"I was in a band in high school but I wasn’t that musically inclined. I just wanted it more than other people. That 'want' can get you pretty far in life, at least it has for me," says Wiscons who graduated from college with a business degree, not a music degree.
He says hard work and not being afraid to ask for help were important steps to his success.
"After college I reached out to Mark Bryant from Hootie and the Blowfish. He became my mentor and really helped me take the steps forward that I needed to get focused on writing and get my career going,” says Wiscons. “I had to differentiate myself by putting out music that I wrote. Mark taught me to write stories, not songs. I’m pretty decent at writing short stories so I turned them into songs.”
His latest single “Don’t Be the One” is loosely based on an argument with his wife. “It’s pretty real and personal but I also kind of fictionalized it for the effect. You know the story, about the one who got away. I’ve been out with my buddies and we see a girl across the room and they are like, yeah, there she is, and I’m like yeah man, you screwed that one up," Wiscons laughs.
“I wrote it and felt really good about it, which I don’t always," Wiscons says about his new single. "I think that’s part of being an artist. I think you are your toughest critic."
Wiscons may be his toughest critic but his biggest fan is newborn daughter Luka. "She loves that Barney song. I bet I’ve sang that to her a thousand times and she just lights up," he says with a smile.
If you’re a fan of the blues, then you probably know the work of Indianapolis musician Gordon Bonham. He’s played the stage with Bo Diddly, and a farm field with llama’s. Yep, Gordon loves the blues and will go where he needs to go to play them. “Yeah, everything from band gigs to pizza house playing solo. I played for the grand opening of the bus station last week and that was fun,” he says with a laugh.
Bonham grew up in Hammond, Indiana. “I always think of all the concrete, the steel mills , my father worked in the steel mills in East Chicago and just a lot of industry and not a lot of green space,” says Bonham when asked what growing up in that part of the state was like.
He played the trumpet in grade school, but when he heard Eric Clapton on the guitar, he knew that was the instrument for him. “I remember this epiphany when I figured out Derek and the Dominoes was actually Eric Clapton and I was kind of a folkie too , still am, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and that kind of stuff,” recalls Bonham thinking back to his high school days.
Despite his love of music, he graduated from Wabash College with a degree in botany and philosophy. But that lure of the guitar soon had him heading to Bloomington. “I moved to Bloomington in the '80s and within weeks fell in with the Mellencamp folks. We had a band called the Raging Texans. Kenny Aronoff on the drums. He was Mellencamp’s drummer so with him working with us everyone who came to Bloomington would come and sit in with our band: REM and REO Speedwagon, Jefferson Starship, John Prine. Even Mellencamp sat in with us several times . The band got pretty popular and that’s what sent me to Indianapolis,” recalls Bonham.
After the Raging Texans he toured the U.S. and Europe with other bands, then back to Indianapolis for a fun stint with The Cooler Kings. But after a while he wanted to get back to the blues, so he started his own band. “Chicago blues with a little bit of Texas and we like to play a little swing too”, says Bonham.
He is still a sought after blues guitarist playing with numerous well known musicians and bands. A creative arts grant allowed him to spend some time researching the history of the banjo and why it wasn’t widely used to play the blues. “The banjo has a plunky , non sustained kind of sound. The sound of the blues is different. People like long drawn out vocal notes like when you play bottle neck or the slide guitar -- those long, mournful noises and sounds that mimic the human voice. The banjo doesn’t really do that. It’s more percussive and rhythmic and so I think that’s why the instrument didn’t catch on as a blues instrument,” explains Bonham.
Nonetheless he has an old time claw hammer banjo on which he likes to play Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters tunes. And one of his favorite places to visit, and “ jam” on the side, is the Fiddler’s Gathering in Tippecanoe County. “People are playing fiddling tunes and old timey music. I like the vibe and the feel of people playing those instruments,” says Bonham.
He says his dream gig would be an old timey music fiddling session but with vocals, and of course an audience. Because he says without the fans, there really is no music. “One of the most rewarding things is when someone comes up to me and says I heard you back in 1987 and I’d never heard the blues before and now I’m the biggest blues fan,” says Bonham with a satisfied smile. “That’s pretty cool, someone heard what I was doing and it changed the way they think about music.”
Scott H. Biram
Having a sense of humor is a vital part of life for singer-song writer Scott H. Biram.
“My middle name is really Allan, but a long time ago someone told me I should be Hiram Biram because that was Hank Williams' real first name, Hiram. It was a joke that stuck, “ laughs Biram.
The 42-year-old from Austin, Texas does a lot of laughing. And traveling. With loyal fans around the globe, he is always ready to hit the road or catch a plane to share his music.
“I have a lot of fans who somehow find a way to drive or fly to see me,” says Biram. He’s played in Australia, Croatia and Serbia as well as Italy and Spain. “I don’t even like seafood but I ate it for 11 days in a row in Spain because I just love the people and the beauty of it there,” laughs Biram.
In 2003, he was hit by a semi- truck. An event that would probably cause most people to either give up completely or make a drastic change in their lifestyle. Not Biram.
"There were seven months in a wheelchair, living in the same bedroom as my parents because the only other room in our house was upstairs and I couldn’t do that. My mom went crazy listening to my dad and me talking in our sleep," says Biram with a laugh.
“It kind of lit a fire under me because I was gaining momentum before the wreck and I had to cancel a tour after that; and when I was laying there it felt like I was falling behind. So I started booking a tour for a month after the projected date that I would be able to walk again. I just never stopped playing guitar even though my arms were all messed up and everything," recalls Biram. “ A lot of people talk to me as if I did something special, but I think I did what anyone in my situation would do. Yeah, it was a setback but I just wanted to play guitar somewhere.”
Now he plays guitar every day just about everywhere and has plans to travel more.
“I’m trying to get to Australia next year," Biram says. "I’m working on a new record right now and when it’s done I want to go there and to Japan.”
He is a self proclaimed “One Man Band” and says the up side of that is not having to worry about the band breaking up or not showing up for practice. The down side, is being on stage alone. Which is why he books as many opening bands to join him on the road as he can.
“That’s my favorite. We joke around and tell a lot of inside jokes. Some of them I don’t even get,” he says laughing heartily.
What do you get when you mix poetry, music and a man with boundless energy? Tony Styxx, the human beat box. His real name is Ronald Craig, but the persona he has created is Tony Styxx. He grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from Broad Ripple High School.
“That’s where I got my love for performance and it’s where I really started to dive into it. I’d been writing and performing here and there as a kid but it’s when I got to broad ripple, it was like, this is acceptable everywhere, so let’s just do this!”, he says enthusiastically.
His grandparents listened to a lot of gospel and jazz so he knows and appreciates all of the classics. But when he heard a hip hop record, he knew he had found his musical calling.
“A guy at Indy Vinyl gave me a record and I devoured it. I played it over and over and thought, that’s just like my poetry, now I just have to find a beat,” Craig says.
His “beat” seems to be proclaiming creativity and courage, whether he’s working as an assistant teacher at Warren Central High School or performing at area festivals or clubs.
“Some people only perform on a stage. The world is my stage I’m always under the spotlight and it’s not a nervous kind of thing it keeps you on your toes,” he says.
Craig uses his every day experiences to create his poetry. And create a product that he feels has no end.
“I like performing to see the look on somebody’s face when they say 'I was not expecting him to be so good,'" Craig says. "I like performing for the look on someone’s face when they are like I need more of this. I like performing it for the people who stop me after a show and say 'I never liked hip hop a day in my life but you are my favorite artist.' Or 'I never liked poetry but I’d listen to you.'”
Lily & Madeleine
Life is good for Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz . In the past two years they’ve toured Europe, moved out of their parent’s home and into a shared apartment on the far north side of Indianapolis, and they completed their third album.
“I feel like I create my own expectations now instead of having to match what somebody else wants,” says 19-year-old Lily.
“You know when you give advice to somebody, but you don’t take your own advice?” laughs 21-year-old Madeleine who says she is now teaching herself new things and learning more each day.
The new album is titled “KEEP IT TOGETHER”, which is also a line from one of the songs on it.
“Defying expectations, I think, on many levels is what it’s about,” says Lily. “This album is a lot more personal. If my friends listen, they will know who the songs are about."
The sisters are focused on that new album too.
“It’s been so stressful because we’ve been sitting on this new album for a whole year, and now I am so excited to get it out there,” says Lily. “We’ve been doing a ton of promotional videos and pictures and signing CD’s.”
“We do work a lot but it’s not massive projects. It’s a lot of little stuff that people don’t really think about. We just want to focus our time and energy on 'KEEP IT TOGETHER' right now. Definitely we will have more projects in the future but this is our main focus for 2016,” says Madeleine.
Oferle (pronounced OAF- UR- LEE ) is a real family band from Fort Wayne. Luke and Annette Offerle (yes, the family name has two f’s, the band, just one) are brother and sister. Jonah Baker is their cousin. Matt Taylor is friend to all, having gone to school with Jonah.
And they joke that if the band breaks up they will STILL have to see each other at family gatherings. But don’t look for a band break up any time soon as these musicians are slowly but steadily building a career out of making music.
“We’ve been trying to create music that’s very entertaining and attention grabbing and stuff that feels good listening to in the car and that feels good live in front of a crowd of people," says Luke.
Jonah writes most of the songs. “We take our daily experiences and write songs about them. It’s kind of like a therapy session,” he says.
As the only female, and the eldest sibling, Annette feels as if her sound sets them apart from their peers. “I think being a female vocalist adds a dynamic aspect to our band.”
Jonah’s piano background helps distinguish their sound as well.
“I was classically trained and I took jazz lessons. I try to incorporate some jazz undertones into our music. Even the pop stuff," he says. "I sing too. Having three singers is really cool as we can add a burst of harmony to Annette’s lead vocals.”
The group has only officially been a band for about four years, yet they have performed in a variety of venues across the Midwest including the Holiday Celebration on Monument Circle and in the lobby of Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis, after winning the WFYI “Once” contest for new musicians.
They will get to test their sound on an even more diverse -- and potentially international crowd -- in May when they perform at Daredevil Brewing Company in Speedway during the weekend of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
Like many musicians, 29-year-old Kristen Newborn says she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t in love with music.
“I started playing piano at 3 or 4, doing Suzuki lessons -- which was classically trained piano -- but I did it all by ear,” says Newborn.
Piano led to singing and the opportunity to join the performing group, Young Americans. That meant a move to Los Angeles.
“At first I was hesitant because it felt weird, but it actually ended up being amazing and then after that just playing music every day, singing and touring with it," Bewborn says. "I knew that is what I wanted to do long term, forever, even if it’s not a lucrative kind of career. That was my passion.”
She turned that passion into her first band, SLOTHPOP which created a loyal Indianapolis fan base. But after a few years she needed more and moved to Chicago.
“There are DIY places, houses and garages that offer space for bands to play," Newborn says. "There are hundreds of them in Chicago. You can go to a different one every night to play and hear music. It’s super inspiring to me.”
Kristen waits tables to make ends meet but says it really doesn’t matter, because to her, making music is what it’s all about.
“Being a part of a community and getting inspired by other people even though it’s not going to be a lucrative career, it’s exactly where I want to be and it’s exactly who I am and what I want to do,” she says.
There Are Ghosts
Being friends and band mates is one and the same for members of Indianapolis based, There Are Ghosts.
“All of us have been in various bands and some of us have played music together," says guitarist Jonathon Harmon. “We were always in each other’s sphere but never the five of us playing music together.”
Until they joined friendship and music a half dozen years ago and created There Are Ghosts, which is comprised of Harmon along with bass player Andrew Mahoney, drummer Mike Theodore and husband and wife Tony and Gwen Reitz , guitar for him, vocals for her.
“This isn’t work for us. It’s what we do to let off steam and have a creative outlet,” says Gwen. “The songs just kind of fall out of us. We could write a new song every time we get together for practice if we want to.”
Husband Tony agrees.
“There will be times I will hear everything at once and I know the direction I want the song to go. When we were younger it was more about riffs. The older I’ve gotten it’s more about creating a song,” says Reitz.
The group creates most of its music in the Reitz’ home studio.
“What we enjoy now is the process of writing music and recording,” adds Harmon. “When you’re younger it seems like the writing process is in the back seat because you’re getting yourself out there and you don’t have that concern and now we don’t have that concern. What’s more important now is writing the music and that’s where our enjoyment comes from.”
UK musician Sam Lee is a self -proclaimed preacher of Old World music. Ancient ballads, chants and traditional songs that were passed down vocally have found a new life in his performances, both on stage and on line.
“We only sing about a dozen songs each night of a repertoire of hundreds and thousands of songs,” says Lee. “So I have recorded them and many more which can be downloaded or streamed so anyone can hear them.”
And while Lee’s music goes global online, he and his band mates have crossed the Atlantic twice this year to join other folk music lovers in the United States.
“What you get are people who are so connected to their Celtic or Anglo or Scottish European heritage and they hear these songs and they are like it’s their ancestors singing back to them,” says Lee with glee.
Joining Lee on his September tour of the Midwest were band mates and fellow Englishmen Josh Green and Flora Curzon. Green plays percussion on a gourd.
“I play the calabash. It’s a west African instrument made from half of a gourd,” explains Green. “It’s very simple and it is as it comes. It comes from a tree. Then it’s dried and it’s an instrument. There is something beautiful about that.”
Flora Curzon plays the violin. “It’s a very useful instrument because it can be part of the rhythm accompaniment or it can play a counter melody or it can lead you. You can use it in all sorts of ways to support the songs,” Curzon says.
The group added Boston guitar player Diettrich Straus for the September tour. When Lee, Green and Curzon return to the UK, Lee says they will take with them a share of U.S. music history.
“Last night at a concert we met a half Scottish- half Navajo character. He told us about the communities here and how people have a relationship to the history of the land," Lee says. "I think being able to talk to the audience affects us greatly. We get an understanding of what makes people tick and what inspires people and how we all have different relationships to the world. It’s fascinating.”
Sarah Grain & the Billions of Stars
“I have this vision of going out every night in the city and hearing original music. Not just local music but original music and having an environment where people WANT to see original music. They’re not just throwing covers at you when you play and you’re not asked to play covers, instead people are asking for ORIGINAL music,” says Sarah Grain, singer, songwriter, guitarist and leader of her group, Sarah Grain and the Billions of Stars.
She shares her vision for the Indianapolis music scene with band mates Doug Sauter, Nate Gray, Ryan Koch and Mina Keohane. Each has spent time in other bands or performing alone. But this time, as a group they feel as if they are finally making strides to create the kind of meaningful music they want.
“If this is going to be a song that we are going to be sharing with someone, says Sarah, their time is important so what is this song saying that is leaving them in a better place than before they listened to it.”
And what are they listening to:
Sarah: Ceu, female Brazilian singer who specializes in hip hop, spoken word and folk music.
Mina- Hiatus Coyote, Australian R & B band
Ryan- Indianapolis band, Memory Foam
Nate- Be Bop Jazz
The members of S.M. Wolf LOVE Halloween. “It’s the weather, pumpkins, anything about scary movies”, says Melanie Rau. She’s married to Adam Gross who plays guitar and leads the band.
“Last year we played on Halloween and we all switched instruments and played Eraserhead,” says Adam. “It was dark and kind of heavy.” And fun.
Because that seems to be the binding thread between the four members who also say they are very close friends.
"Being in a band with somebody is different than just being someone’s friend. It’s very much like a familial relationship so it is like being married to everybody,” says Adam.
In fact Adam dubs them a Power Pop Family Band, something he picked up listening to an interview from John Lennon.
“John put out his first album that Yoko was on. Paul put out his first album and Linda was on and John was like, ‘You know Yoko and I did the family band album thing, and now Paul’s trying to do the family band album thing.’ I always thought that was cool.”
That bond helps guide their music the majority of which is original.
“It’s really easy to play in a band where the songs have their own life their own momentum and were just sort of filling them out and having fun," says Ben Leslie, who plays bass.
“We’re willing to try new things and experiment with each other’s ideas and that keeps it fresh and feels like were always going forward,” adds Rachel Enneking, who plays keyboards.
Their latest release Neon Debris is available on full length vinyl plus CD.Hear more of their interview and their music at wfyi.org/smallstudio
Cat Martino is from Brooklyn. And you can hear a bit of that East coast accent as she answers questions about her latest project, a collaborative effort she calls Stranger Cat.
“My parents say I was singing before I was talking so I’ve always been singing and then I did choirs and theater growing up,” says the 20-something musician who is on a nationwide tour promoting and performing Stranger Cat’s first album, “Into The Wilderness.”
“I always wanted to sound like I wanted to sound, but I do have a big appreciation for opera, and music like that, so I did study it a little bit," she says.
That’s evident in her voice which moves easily in range and emotion, taking the listener on a smooth, satisfying ride. It’s also the reason she has lent her vocals to a number of other musical projects including Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Van Etten, The Shins and Rufus Wainwright.
But the Stranger Cat project gives her the chance to do her “own thing.” That means using synthesizers and drum machines to add even more mystery and energy to her voice. And by writing her own songs, something she didn’t do until high school when she got her hands on a Joni Mitchell album.
“I heard this person just revealing their whole emotional world so articulately and I was so moved by it and I thought well I could do that too or try,” Martino says.
She does more than try. She succeeds. Sample her success and hear more of our interview during her Small Studio Session.
Graham Nash walked into the Small Studio with the poise and ease of a seasoned musician.
Smiling and gladly shaking hands and introducing himself, “ Hi I’m Graham” to the equally thrilled and nervous videographers, producers and VIPs gathered to hear him perform. He delighted in the array of album covers hung on the walls, especially the ones from Crosby, Stills and Nash.
He didn’t bring a posse, just his guitarist Shane Fontayne and his son Will Nash, who spearheads the summer solo tour that has taken them by bus from their homes near Los Angeles through the Midwest (Indianapolis on Aug. 1, 2015) to the east coast.
Unlike most of the CSN tours, this one has Nash performing in the venues he prefers, small ones.
“I like to be able to look in your eyes and see if I’m connecting with you — when you play a large venue you have to make sure that the people on the front row are having a good time as well as the people on the top row — you have to project,” says Nash.
At 72 his voice and body are still in excellent shape. “I don’t do anything extra — I keep a relatively healthy diet and exercise but I don’t do a big warm up before a show," Nash says. "I’m a positive person though. And I think that helps."
His passion for his music hasn’t waned either. He and Fontayne have penned dozens of songs over the course of the tour. Environmental and political issues remain an important part of Nash’s musical mission.
“It’s a duty of an artist to reflect the times that they live in. I’m a creator and a writer," Nash says. "Things move my soul and I have to keep doing that daily."
When asked about his decades long working partners, David Crosby and Stephen Stills, he laughed. “These guys are my brothers and sometimes we fight. But we all realize the most important part of our relationship is the music that we make," Nash says. "All of this other stuff is just B.S."
Hear his entire interview as he talks about Joni Mitchell, his memoir “Wild Tales” and his new twin grandsons
Maybe it’s because each of their full-time day jobs are so serious. One is a nanny and Spanish teacher for two toddlers. Another, an air traffic controller. And two work at an adult day care center providing care for senior citizens. Perhaps that is why the music of manners, please. sounds more like play, than work. After all, how many local bands use a xylophone and chimes in their performances on a regular basis?
“Sometimes it can be a little bit of a challenge," explains Jennasen Updike. (She’s the nanny which makes her the natural leader for the group.) “We have a couple of songs where I’m switching from guitar to keyboard. And then I also play a little loop pedal. But there is no way we could get rid of any of these instruments now because we have incorporated all of them into our music.”
manners, please. is Jennasen Updike, Katrina Bolyard, Dave Hall and Sam Jackson. The ladies performed as a duo for a number of years with keyboards, crazy instruments and vocals. They added the gents when they needed drums and a bass.
“I want people to be smiling when they listen to our music," says Sam.
"Yeah, enjoy it,” adds Dave.
“Smiles are great," says Katrina, “you can take away whatever you want. We aren’t really purpose driven in that sense.”
But that doesn’t mean they don’t put a lot of time and effort into their music and the lyrics.
“On our most recent songs, everybody has been collaborating and we say, let’s write a song and somebody starts up and everybody joins in and that’s really fun,” Jennasen says.
“But Kat has this amazing talent. Once the other members have started playing the music and we all like the groove,she will grab a notebook and leave the room for about 5 to 10minutes then come back and have ALL of the lyrics written,” says Jennasen with sincere admiration. “It’s amazing- I mean it just blows my mind!”
“My favorite book as a kid was a rhyming dictionary,” says Kat with a laugh.
Progressive Hip Hop is much more than you think. Especially when performed by Native Sun.
“When it comes to hip hop, it’s really a lot of different types of music,” says Bobby Young, group emcee. “It comes from soul, it comes from funk. It comes from that old school R & B. It’s got those jazz elements in it. So for us, we almost feel like we’re turning back the clock a little bit. The music itself is not dated but we are trying to bring some of those elements to the forefront.”
The four musicians who comprise Native Sun met a dozen years ago. Young met drummer Richard Floyd through mutual friends while both were attending IU in Bloomington.
“We actually knew each other for a while before I knew he played an instrument, he was a shy drummer," teases Young. “We started talking about hip hop and who his favorite artists were. We wanted to start a band that was different from the mainstream and something that had a live basis and then expand it from there. And then Sleepy (Floyd’s nickname) brought Brandon into the fold.”
“I met Brandon Meeks and it changed my life”, jokes Floyd.
Richard’s cousin, keyboardist Brandis Gossett , introduced the two at a Martin Luther King Day music celebration he was hosting.
“I just got thrown into the gig,” says Floyd. “They asked me to play because the drummer that Brandon was coming to play with didn’t make the gig so I ended up playing with him and I was like, 'this dude is everything I have been wanting in a bass player.' We exchanged numbers and then we discovered that we had a lot of the same musical interests and we ended up playing at the same church and I introduced him to Bobby and we just started collaborating on work and beats and started producing music together and here we are,” laughs Floyd.
Meeks came up with the band’s name — Native Sun.
“Initially it was inspired by Richard Wright’s book, Native Son, “explains Meeks. “I presented it to the guys and Bobby took it a step further to put our identity on it."
“I thought it was a great name but one, from a legal standpoint can we get away with it?,” questions Young. “ And two, just add some creativity. You can have the mainstream hip hop and it’s about money-cars-whatever. But on the flip side you need that hip hop that is gonna teach people something, that is gonna leave them with something they can grow from, that’s going to provide some sort of a message. So in terms of just having the SUN, I feel like we could be a beacon in the game.”
Learn more about Native Sun’s upcoming gigs at nativesunlive.com
The Whipstitch Sallies
“Just what is a Whipstitch Sallie?, I ask three of the four female musicians (Upright Bass Player Kat Erickson wasn’t able to join the group this day) who perform Bluegrass Music under that name. They are gathered with me in the WFYI Radio studio shortly after recording their Small Studio Session. Sam Herrin, who plays mandolin, responds enthusiastically, “We like to make good music and play live shows, but we really just like rocking it out and having fun.”
And that they do, which is another personal touch they bring to this style of music.
“Some of the songs are so old they are called traditional because no one even knows who wrote them, but there are also people who are writing it now," adds Allie Burbrink, who plays guitar, banjo, harmonica and founded the group with Sam in 2010. “ We’ve done a mix with traditional done in our own style and covering other peoples songs in our own style and trying to write our own based on things we like.”
Finding that balance isn’t always easy, says Kate Burk, who was classically trained on the violin and plays the “fiddle” in the group . “It’s easy to be pigeon holed especially if a person isn’t familiar with the genre. They say you sound like Allison Krauss which is a complement, but that’s not our goal."
Being an all-girl band is something else that sets them apart.
“We are a niche and people are attracted to it,” says Kate, “And we get fans who come up to us and they are inspired by that idea and that’s really cool.”
“I love when people expect us to be a quiet, sweet little group and they see pictures and they expect us to do a lot of really happy upbeat songs,” interjects Sam. “I love it when we can just blow that out of the water. We do a lot of rocking songs. I know it’s all acoustic but I love it when that happens.”
Learn more about their upcoming shows at www.thewhipstitchsallies.com
Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
When NPR’s Tiny Desk created a contest and put out the call for entries, Indianapolis did not disappoint. The Tiny Desk Contest received more than 65 entries from Central Indiana. The number and quality of entries from Indiana was noticed here at WFYI. With help from a grant from The Herbert Simon Family Foundation, WFYI launched Small Studio Sessions.
WFYI thinks that Indy’s growing music scene needs a spotlight. We hope these Small Studio Sessions highlight the rich and varied musical talent found in the Hoosier state. A special emphasis will be placed on local talent, but you’ll see familiar names in the Small Studio Series along with undiscovered musical gems.
Our first choice for Small Studio is The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. I say “our” because many staff members at WFYI feel a sense of connection to this band. The Rev – before making music his career – was WFYI’s Volunteer Coordinator. It has been a joy watching The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band grow and flourish, as they continue to represent Central Indiana well in their worldwide tours. We’re proud to present The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band as our inaugural Small Studio Session.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band recently released their fifth album, “So Delicious,” which quickly went to No. 1 on the iTunes Blues Charts. The band is currently in the middle of an extensive U.S. and World tour, with stops in NYC, Berlin, London and Vienna – to name just a few.
Even though they are world travelers, the band makes it a point to make frequent stops back in their home state of Indiana. They made time in their busy schedule on a Saturday during a stop in Indy, playing our Small Studio and then the Butler Arts Fest the same day.
This session features four songs, with a stripped down version of the song “You’re Not Rich.” Small Studio Session recording engineer Cedric Freeman captures The Rev’s striking words and music about finding wealth in people and experiences. As The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn band includes a husband and wife duo (The Rev and his wife, Breezy) it is evident that his lyrics come from the heart.