Kevin Maher flips open his phone. “I’ll handle this,” he says.
His bandmates shoot him a look. Smiles creep across their faces as he dials up the tardy band member, Gina Wilson, who has no idea how to get to the tiny bar in Tremont we’re meeting in to talk music.
“When are you supposed to pick me up again, Gina?” Maher asks.
The guys in the band have heard this act before.
“What do you mean you’re not picking me up?! Gina!”
Frankly, Gina has heard it, too.
But the neuroscience laboratory director/cellist in the Akron band Ashes always falls for this kind of stuff.
“No, seriously! Oh, no. I can’t believe I’m going to miss this interview withCleveland Magazine. I was looking forward to this for so long.”
The rest of the band heads to the bar to grab some beers as Maher, the band’s drummer, gives her detailed directions.
By now, it’s obvious why this group plays like they do on stage. The free-flowing, fun, don’t-miss-a-chance-to-mess-with-each-other attitude in their friendship translates to improvised genre-bending gems on stage that not even the band can really define.
“Well, it’s kind of progressive folk?” bassist Patrick Lamielle tries.
“Umm, more like progressive funky folk rock?” vocalist and guitarist Nate Vaill says.
After listening to a few of their tunes on MySpace, my boss gives it a shot: Tracy Chapman times James Blunt divided by chamber-pop quintet matt pond PA plus the square root of ’90s jam band The String Cheese Incident equals Ashes.
In other words, it’s a fresh sound.
Once you hear it, you’ll want to hear more. And for all the bands that aren’t yet close to making it in Cleveland, this one has the best shot.
Lamielle says the band really likes to toy with music. He’s been playing bass guitar in the band for a while, but sometimes there were things he wanted to do that wouldn’t work on his guitar. So he bought an upright bass, which he switches to for a few songs.
Wilson says she was frustrated when she joined the band. They’d only write baselines of songs, telling her just to play her cello in a way that feels right. Fill in the gaps. Like a classical Phish jam.
The songs Ashes writes, Vaill says, are sometimes 10 or 15 minutes long. The band members then whittle them down to something manageable, not allowing themselves to stray into uncrisp tunes.
The band still needs to develop a better stage presence, as the members occasionally drift into between-song mumbled rambles. But once they start back up, you get lost in it. The singer/songwriter lyrics, a folky undertone and a piercing seriousness from the strings will leave you trying to explain to your buddies what the hell you just heard.
(((Hear Them Here)))
If our mathematical equation of Ashes’ unique sound left you wanting more, be sure to pick up their first album, Circles, set to be released June 26. You can also hear tracks from the band by visiting myspace.com/musicashes. Or even better, catch them live at the following locations this month. And be sure to let us know if we got our math right.
JUNE 1 @ 8 P.M.: The Northside Club
111 N. Main St., Akron
JUNE 12 @ 10 P.M.: The Symposium Nite Club
11794 Detroit Ave., Lakewood
JUNE 14 @ NOON: Hard Rock Café
230 W. Huron Road, Cleveland
JUNE 17 @ 8:30 P.M.: Wilbert’s
812 Huron Road, Cleveland
JUNE 26 @ 8 P.M.: The Barley House
222 S. Main St., Akron
JUNE 27 @ 8 P.M.: The Backstage Bar
17007 Lorain Ave., Cleveland