A couple months back, the fine mustachioed fellows of Busy Arms inspired me right back into blogging. And to return the favor, I decided to check them out at Kelley’s in Bradford. As I expected, they were great, but unexpectedly I also had my mind blown by their opening act, The Four Legged Faithful.
Three of The Four Legged Faithful, back in December
At first, I was thrown off a bit by their lineup. “An upright bass and a banjo?” I thought, “I am so not in the mood for bluegrass right now.”
But, as I soon realized, while The Four Legged Faithful categorize themselves as a “Folk/Americana/Bluegrass” band, they are more than just a sum of those parts. Made up of Haverhillian Matthew Migliori on guitar and dobro along with Nate Pelletier (banjo, suitcase), Jon Kaplan (mandolin), and Joey Piegrog (upright bass, tambourine), The Four Legged Faithful come together to create a sound that’s as free spirited and uniquely theirs as it is old-timey.
In fact, why not take a listen right now?
Ever since that fateful night, I’ve been toe-tapping along with their EP, Human Being Feeling, which sounds great for having been recorded in band-member-Joey’s basement. So, to make sure you’re all hip to the awesomeness, I hit the band up with some questions as they prepare for two back-to-back gigs in Haverhill this weekend.
HF: Lately there seems to be a resurgence of good, old-timey Americana music, though you guys have been at it a while. What made you decide to pick up banjos and mandolins?
FLF: I haven’t a clue as to why we play these silly instruments. We are a weird bunch- maybe its due to our influences and/or our desire to be different and play beautiful, interesting, and meaningful music with instruments that differ from most other bands.
HF: Since you’re in a folksy band, don’t you feel compelled to grow twisty moustaches? I mean, I know Matt has a beard, but…
FLF: Jon would grow if mustache if mother nature allowed him to do so. We all got beardy face.
Note: not their actual twisty moustaches
HF: There has to be a story behind the band name “The Four Legged Faithful” right?
FLF: Our name comes from a description that a fan gave to us, that we sound like an animal in gallop. We used to be “The Shuck N Jives” but we wanted to change our name to something else. The idea is that each of us are a leg of a galloping animal.
HF: Who are your musical influences?
FLF: We have a broad range of influences: The Grateful Dead, Fleet Foxes, The Band, Mimi & Richard Farina, Alash, CSN, Midlake, Zappa, Any/all roots reggae, Old & In the Way, Garcia Grisman, Tool, White Denim, The Parkington Sisters, King Wilkie, etc
George! Watch out behind you!
HF: Who would win in a fight – The Soggy Bottom Boys or Emmet Otter’s Jug Band?
FLF: We actually don’t really listen to Bluegrass. We aim not to play bluegrass but to play beautiful music with traditional bluegrass instruments. Authentic bluegrass is near perfect melodies and furious picking – we are far from perfect and we embrace it by steering clear from traditional bluegrass. We would really suck if we tried to do what “authentic” bluegrass bands do. (Editor’s note: this answer marked a sad moment for yours truly, having realized what I thought was a totally witty pop culture reference didn’t even register on these guys because I AM NOW OLD APPARENTLY.)
HF: What else do you guys do when you’re not shuckin’ and jivin’?
FLF: We enjoy many leisure activities. Joey is involved in many other musical projects including his rock brain child called “Might”. Matt runs marathons and plays guitar for Merrimack Delta Dub Set. Nate likes hip hop dancing and doing yard work. Jon shoot baskets and sit on couches.
You can check out the (it turns out not-soggily-bottomed) boys tonight at Kelley’s in Bradford, and while you’re there see the band for tickets to tomorrow night’s Old School Freak Out! at the Chit Chat Lounge. The event, which promises to be “an underground art scene explosion” where “the entire mood will be built to feed your brain” is likely to sell out, but seems way too cool to miss, so get your mitts on some tickets!
Busy this weekend? The Four Legged Faithful will be back at the Chit Chat for two more gigs in February and March, so keep your eyes peeled and your moustaches waxed ’til it’s time for more shuckin’ and jivin’.
I know, I know, I’ve been a terrible blogger. Sometimes life just gets in the way. But I’ve been promising myself I’d come back to the Feeve… In fact, just the other night I was driving through Ward Hill, when I made a wish on the North Star of Haverhill, twinkling high atop the incinerator stack: “Bring me something really good to get me back in the blogging spirit!”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, Tom from the Haverhill band Busy Arms was minding his own business when a Haverhill Fever bumper sticker fluttered into his lap, and BAM! here we are again.
Busy Arms are two guys- Tom on guitar and vocals and Brad on drums- and after one half of the outfit got hit in the junk with that serendipitous sticker, they contacted me with a couple of tracks and some news about their upcoming show at Kelley’s on Friday, December 17th.
In trying to sort out how to describe their sound the phrase “music made by boys with old-timey moustaches” sprung to mind, and believe me, being of the mopey indie rock persuasion this is just the sort of thing that turns my crank. The tracks they have up on ReverbNation are upbeat and quirky- distinct enough to be recognized as their own, but varied enough to hold interest, with the added bonus of appealing to a broad range of music-lovers- from folksy to gypsy.
I’m pretty psyched to know a band like this exists in Haverhill, and even more thrilled that they found me just in time to sit down and answer a few questions before their gig. Enjoy!
Busy Arms practicing their interpretive mime skits.
HF: What is the story behind the band name “Busy Arms?”
BA: That information is classified, but we like to leave any interpretation of our name up to the listener, much like our actual music.
HF: How did you guys come together?
BA: We have been friends for quite a few years. We were both orphans raised in the same catholic boarding house in the Czech Republic, and we were adopted by a pack of traveling gypsy wolves. It turned out that they were protestant cannibals so we had to flee. The only skills we had at that point were playing music and performing interpretive “tinman” mime skits, so we took the less dangerous route and decided to go to culinary school in America. That’s where we learned that we were better off just playing music. So we learned to play the drums and the guitar and we started recording our own records out of the kitchen. We’ve been delivering our savory delicatessen to basements and bar scenes all around New England ever since.
I appreciate the suspenders.
HF: You seem to have a pretty unique sound. How would you describe it?
BA: We really strive to make intricate and original music that incorporates chord changes and odd rhythms that you don’t normally hear in popular music. At the same time we try to make it approachable to the average person. It’s hard to pinpoint the kind of sound that we have, so we always ask people to listen and decide for themselves.
HF: Who are some of your musical influences?
BA: We listen to so much music, but the things that influence us the most are musicians/bands that have gone out of their way to be different and create a new artistic expression through their music that has been relatively untapped at that point. Artists also change album to album, and some albums that have really inspired us are “Smile” by the Beach Boys, “Their Satanic Majesty’s Request” by the Rolling Stones, “Sung Tongs” & “Feels” by Animal Collective, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel, and “Bows & Arrows” by the Walkmen.
Getting Busy up in Newburyport
HF: Describe the music scene in Haverhill. Who else is out there that you like?
BA: Honestly, the scene has been stagnant for quite some time. We think Haverhill needs an artistic revival, and not just musically. Fortunately there are some really amazing musicians around here and there are some good acts just starting to pop up. We have been in the process of setting up multiple musical shows/art gallery showings in the coming months, and we’ve been assembling some top notch musicians from all around the area. Four Legged Faithful are a really good old-timey bluegrass band, we’re looking forward to playing with them on Dec 17th!
HF: Any thoughts on/hopes and dreams for Haverhill?
BA: Well like we said, we really want to see an expansion of artistic expression in the storefronts and on the streets of Haverhill. Haverhill isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing city, but it has potential and we want to help it out in any way we can. It’s our hometown so it will always hold a special little place for us.
Can't they just use all those arms for hugging?
HF: Okay- who would win in a fight – Goro from Mortal Kombat or Dr. Octopus? (get it…they have a lot of arms)
BA: We debated about this for a long time, and consulted many outside sources, and we’ve come up with the conclusion that it would probably be a draw. Doc Oc’s got the reach, but Goro has got huge muscles.
HF: What’s your favorite venue, in Haverhill or beyond?
BA: TT the Bear’s in cambridge is one of our favorite places to play. It’s like the best kept secret of the Middle East that is a lot more intimate and accommodating to local acts like us.
HF: Idle Arms are the Devil’s playthings – what do you do to keep yourselves…um, Busy?
BA: We play music. Lots and lots of music. Brad has a recording studio out of Haverhill, and Tom designs print and web work for artists and bands.
HF: Thanks for taking the time to chat. Hey, before you go…plans for the future- upcoming gigs? Albums?
BA: We’re playing in Haverhill (Bradford technically) on Dec 17th at Kelley’s Pub with a bunch of our friends for the “Support Local Folk” event. it’s a night of folk, country, and rock music and it’s going to be tons of fun. We have other shows around the area which you can check out at busyarms.com. We are also working on a new EP to follow up our May 2010 full length release, and you can get a free copy of some new music at any of our shows.
So there you have it, folks! Kelley’s Pub: December 17. If you want to catch a bit of their quirky gypsy old-timey folksy charm before then, head on over to the Busy Arms pages on Facebook and ReverbNation.
A couple weeks ago I stumbled upon an article in the Globe spotlighting a pre-teen rock band from Haverhill named the Black Diamonds.
Clearly, these dudes were cool and since The Feeve is all about focusing on what is cool in this city – I just had to find out more.
The band at the beach
HF: Who is in the band and just how old are you guys?
AJ: Henry McIntire on our lead guitar (10), Nick Calnan on drums (12), Wolfgang Burger on Bass (8), and I sing lead vocals (12).
HF: How did you guys get started? What’s the story behind the band?
Wolfgang: Nancy ran into Henry at the school, he was leaving his sister’s dance class. Henry was the first who wanted to do the band. Nick was already taking lessons on drums for a couple of months and he wanted in. We found AJ at the school Christmas party – his sister was performing on guitar and he jumped up to the mic in between acts – I (Nancy) said he is the one, rock school frontman. We could not find a bass player, so we got our son, who just turned 7 a bass and in 2 months the band started.
HF: Who are some of your musical influences?
AJ: Um… I try to be my own person with my own voice, but if it’s an acoustical version of another artist’s song I have to mimic the way the sing it, it’s their song.
Henry: The Who (mostly Pete Townsend) and John Denver.
HF: Tell us the truth – you’re just in it for the girls, aren’t you?
AJ: No, actually I have always loved to sing and I’ve always wanted to go somewhere with it, so joining this band was no argument at all.
Henry: No, no way.
Wolfgang: Also, noooooo.
Nick: No. I just like to play.
HF: What message would you have for other kids that just want to rock out but might get frustrated that their instrument is too hard to learn?
AJ: Make sure the instrument is for you, in 4th grade I played the flute, but It just wasn’t my thing (probably because I couldn’t sing to it). Now I’m learning to play piano and keyboard. If it’s not your thing, figure out how much breath control an instrument takes, and if you really like and instrument that takes more than you’ve got, train yourself to be that level.
Henry: Just practice and learn music that you like. Keep the instrument in their hands.
Wolfgang: A good teacher makes all the difference, make sure you learn the basics but tell them what you like so they keep it fun
Nick: It’s not easy, you just have to keep on trying and eventually it starts to come together.
HF: What type of songs do you guys play? Do you guys play only originals? Only covers?
AJ: I’m writing songs every other day now so we’re deciding no more covers (with the exception of like 3) and to start off with our many originals. But currently we have 10 covers and 1 original in our playlist
HF: Who would win in a fight – Zack or Cody?
AJ: It depends on the argument. I like to see both sides through the person’s eyes first and try to find out why they would want this rather than what someone else wants, but I have friends who are twins and they fight a lot.
Which one is Zack?
HF: What are some of your favorite places in Haverhill to go?
AJ: DeAngelis School of Music and Arts tops my list and I’m sure food stores are in there somewhere – but there are so many awesome places in Haverhill that would tie for second – I just can’t choose.
Henry: Kidsfests to play at.
Nick: The stadium.
HF: Do you guys get to practice and jam more now that school is out?
Wolfgang: Lots going on in the summer, we leave for Berlin, Germany in just over 3 weeks, everyone has camping and vacations planned too so maybe even less practicing.
HF: What are your hopes for the future? Sold out stadiums? Platinum albums?
AJ: Just to have Bagel, watch TV, and sing a ton until my next gig. I’m still your normal, humble, average pre-teen until I hit the stage
Henry: Both, making music and performing. I just want to play guitar, get better at it and have FUN!!!
Wolfgang: Doing the shows is fun, keep going as long as it stays that way. Being famous and making money wouldn’t be so bad :).
Nick: Both. I would like to be as famous as my influences.
Be sure to ‘like’ the Black Diamonds on Facebook and be on the lookout for upcoming concert dates. And if you happen to be in Germany – you’re in luck! – the crew is heading out there later this summer for some shows.
Guess where he got the inspiration for his characters and settings?
Two Girls, One Archie
That’s right – Bob based the characters on his classmates and the locations of his favorite Haverhill hang-outs. From Wikipedia:
His friends Skinny Linehan and Arnold Daggett were the basis for Jughead Jones and Moose Mason respectively. School librarian Elizabeth Tuck inspired Miss Grundy and principal Earl McLeod was the model for Mr. Weatherbee….Pop Tate’s Chocklit Shoppe, a soda shop where Archie’s Gang hang out, was based on real-life locations frequented by Haverhill teenagers during the 1930s — Crown Confectionery and the Chocolate Shop on Merrimack Street and the Tuscarora on Winter Street.
Man, I wish I had friends named ‘Skinny Linehan’ in High School. (Side Note: If you happen to KNOW Skinny – then let us know. We’d love to talk to him!)
Being of the mopey indie rock persuasion, I managed to inhabit Haverhill for nearly four years without realizing there was a pretty active (and kickass) loud/metal/hardcore scene happening right under my nose. Places like Welfare Records and its offshoot venue Anchors Up! are bringing the “Rrarrrarrrhhhhhhrrrrrrrrr” to the Merrimack Valley on a regular basis.
My friends Living Syndication recently played a gig with Haverhill natives Age of End, which got me hooked up with guitarist Mark McKellar. Mark took a few minutes out of his busy schedule of intimidating people on the streets to chat with me about the band, the stigma attached to being a groupie, and why you should clear you schedule on July 31st and get ready to hop on a party bus.
HF: Hey Mark, thanks for taking some time out. Now, your latest album is called “The Rhythm of The Slaughter.” You’re not going to hurt me, right?
AOE: I might, but only in that John Mellencamp, “hurt so good” kinda way.
These guys aren't scary. They're just conserving electricity so they can rock!
HF: Rawr, okay! I went to your MySpace page to check out a few songs, and it’s dark, moody, with you guys all shrouded in mystery. Tell me, who are these men lurking in the shadows?
AOE: The band is:
Chad Hickman – Vocals
Mark McKellar – Guitar
Steve Madigan – Bass
Alex Wagner – Drums
All of us, except for Chad are from Haverhill and have been in a lot of Haverhill bands. (Delusions of Grandeur, Only Ash Remains, Dibiase, 30 for 60, High Society, etc.) Chad used to be the singer in a band that played in Haverhill a lot as well, Pendulum Theory. We have a lot of friends, family, fans, and supporters from Haverhill, and try to play there whenever possible! We’re proud to rep HELLTOWN!
HF: How would you describe your sound to the uninitiated?
AOE: LOUDCORE! We get this question a lot, and I never really know how to answer it. We play music that is aggressive and eclectic. We try to mix brutality with beauty, all while trying to keep it rhythmically original and interesting. There are definitely parts to our songs that will get stuck in your head, and there are also parts that will make you lose your shit! I once heard someone describe us as “Tool, having sex with the deftones, while Mudvayne watched, and Taproot played the acoustic guitar.” I think that sums it up just fine!
HF: So, on my way to this interview, I stepped in a Puddle of Mudd. How can I get this stain out?
AOE: So, you got “Staind” from a “Puddle of Mudd?” That really is too bad! Best bet is to douce the whole area with “Bleach” and start again!
HF: Chris and I are starting a band. Which band name is best: Cheeseburger Scene, Dread Pirate Roberts, or Coin Heaven?
AOE: Personally, I’d go with “Morgan Freeman’s Liver Spots,” but that’s just me.
Not my best Photoshop, but what can you do?
HF: Who would win in a fight- Rob Zombie or his kid brother from Powerman 5000?
AOE: I don’t know, Spider is a crazy mofo, and Rob is old. But, being an older brother myself, I gotta go with Rob on that one.
HF: Does your amp go to 10 or 11? Or higher?
AOE: Unfortunately, only 10. I did get in touch with Marshall recently, and sent them a picture of the tattoo on my arm (which is the nobs from my amp, all cranked to 11) and asked them to make me a custom head that does the same. I’ll keep you updated!
HF: Do you guys get a lot of groupies? How would you describe the average Age of End fan?
AOE: “Groupies” is such a negative term. We prefer “fun females.” It’s funny, because it’s kind of hard to pinpoint the “average” Age of End fan. We’ve had so many different kinds of people come talk to us after shows and tell us that they’re into what we’re doing. We actually once had a little girl, maybe 10 years old, who brought us a picture that she drew of us on stage. it was adorable! I’d say the one thing they all have in common though is that they’re all into great music!
Age of End rocking out at Anchors Up! (photo by RTTP.com)
HF: I hear you guys are playing at WCYY’s Oxxfest in Maine on July 31st. That’s pretty awesome. How are you going to get your fans up there?
AOE: We’re really excited about it! We played the festival last year, with Papa Roach and it was an amazing time! This year, with Shinedown, Sevendust, Chevelle, Puddle of Mudd, and 10 Years, it should be INSANE! Just like last year, we’ll be throwing a bus party to get people from this area up to the raceway in Oxford. We rented a couple party busses, and are selling tickets for them. We like to be able to offer a safe ride, so that people can come and party with us, and not have to worry about any negative consequences. And the bus parties are always WILD! If anyone is interested in coming, you can get in touch with us on MySpace, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HF: What’s on the horizon for the band? Now that Maine’s conquered, where are you off to next?
We try to keep ourselves as busy as possible. We’ve already started writing songs for our follow up album, and are going to start pre-production soon. We’ve also been getting a lot of requests from club owners and promoters down in NC, SC, FLA, and some other areas down south. We’ve been getting some good airplay down there, and it seems to be building some momentum, so we’re working on making it down there soon!
Pretty awesome idea, guys! Party bus to WCYY’s Oxxfest: July 31. RSVP on Facebook and get more info on purchasing tickets. If you want to hear a few tracks off of The Rhythm of Slaughter, check out Age of End on MySpace and Facebook.
Since starting this blog, a lot of people have told us we just HAD to feature local reggae band Merrimack Delta Dub Set. “Reggae band? In Haverhill? For real?” I thought. “Oh yes, me,” I replied in my own head, “totally for real.”
I knew right then we had to talk to them immediately.
Luckily, we caught up with Sean Stanton, founding member of Merrimack Delta Dub Set, after their last gig at the Chit Chat Lounge and got to ask him a few questions. Enjoy!
Not the actual Merrimack Delta Dub Set
HF: So, first off, if you guys are supposed to be “reggae hip hop ninja assassins,” why do you wear jeans and t-shirts? Shouldn’t you be running around in something…I don’t know, a bit more stealth?
MDDS: Even Superman had to wear a disguise to fit in. Our costume just so happens to be t-shirts and jeans.
HF: How long have you guys been playing together? Tell me a bit about the genesis of the band.
MDDS: I had written a few songs and and as I soon as I turned 21 I did the open mic night at the Chit Chat Lounge on Washington St. every single Tuesday. This was early in 2008. We started as a 3-piece, just me, Alan, and Nate (guitar, bass, drums) and just built it from there. First by adding MC and good friend, OD. When I broke my wrist before an important New Year’s gig, we figured we would need Matt to fill in on guitar, but it turned out I could still play with the brace and we got a kick-ass lead guitarist instead. Then one night at Kelley’s Pub, Clark just showed up with his sax and blew us all away.
So to make a long story short, our original drummer left and now the line-up is me (Seamus)- vocals/guitar, OD – vocals, Alan on bass, Matt – lead guitar, Adam on drums and Clark – saxophone.
HF: What’s your process like for writing new material?
MDDS: We just jam and things evolve. Either Matt will have some lick, or I’ll have some rhytmn, or Alan will come through with a new bass line. Reggae is a simple music, with a lot of open space. This allows us to start with something very basic and take it pretty much anywhere. It’s really our favorite part of practice.
HF: Are you currently working on any big goals or plans for the band?
MDDS: Right now it’s to get our EP “Cover to Cover” out there, because we have another EP’s worth of new songs waiting in the wings. Once that’s taken care of, then it’s time to get to work. We want to spread out and gig in different parts of New England. Starting with places like southern Mass and Rhode Island, Manchester, NH. and Amherst, MA. And working our way west and south trying to hit up NYC and places like VA and FL. But in the meantime we’re just doing what we gotta do.
So on that note, keep an ear out for Merrimack Delta Dub Set’s debut EP “COVER TO COVER”!!!!
The actual Merrimack Delta Dub Set at the Chit Chat Lounge
HF: Soooo, onto the music itself. What else should people associate reggae with…besides pot?
MDDS: Well, traditional roots reggae is essentially a Jamaican form of gospel music, so with that in mind, it should be associated with positivity above all else. Gospel, after all, means “good news”. We’re also influenced by some of the dancehall reggae. Can you guess what that’s all about? Reggae has got to be the most danceable form of music today, which makes it easier for the audience to connect with the performers.
HF: Do you remember – when we used to sit in the government yard in Trenchtown?
Pick up your bags and get your ticket
Don’t hang around or you will miss it
This is the King Sound, whole world love it
Sweet reggae music, make you so fit
Hey hey rock with the vibe, don’t disturb it
Move with the beat and groove with it
Bubble and settle bit by bit
Stay with the rhythm, don’t quit
HF: Why do you think Bob Marley had all those chains and shackles on him when he came back to haunt Scrooge?
MDDS: I think that was Jacob Marley. I’m not sure if there is any relation, but Bob does have a lot of children.
Fussin' and fightin'...with Scrooge?
HF: What other kinds of music are you guys into?
MDDS: You name it. When you take all six members into account, you get everything from classical and jazz to boston punk and hardcore. Classic rock, Rap, Bluegrass, Ska, Doo-Whop, R&B, Funk, Afrobeat, Electronic, and of course Reggae-Hip Hop.
HF: I hear that Matt has really huge…um, record collection. Could you tell me something about that?
MDDS: The only thing I can tell you is that a great deal of our power is derived from Matt’s record collection. Between myself and Matt, you’ll get all you can handle and then some . . . unless you have a crate, then you can handle a lot.
HF: What’s your favorite thing about Haverhill?
MDDS: Free parking and the best live music.
HF: Hey, quick, before we go- who would win in a fight: Peter Tosh or Super Cat?
MDDS: Tosh all day. Motherfucker had an AK-47 guitar; you know that ain’t all he’s got. Plus, Super Cat can’t really fly.
HF: It was great chatting with you, Sean. I can’t wait to see Merrimack Delta Dub Set for myself. When’s the next show?
MDDS: Friday May 14th @ Chit Chat Lounge, in sunny downtown Haverhill, MA. Our debut EP entitled “Cover to Cover” is being produced as you read this, so the next show is probably going to be the CD Release Party @ The Chit Chat, barring any unforeseen delays. So keep an ear to the streets!
You heard it here, folks! Chit Chat Lounge: May 14. If you haven’t already seen these guys live and want to catch a whiff of what they’re stepping in, check out the Merrimack Delta Dub Set on MySpace and Facebook.