THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
15th April, 2010 1
Around January of this year word began to percolate about this gifted new band, unlike the traditional fare that you find performing in taverns throughout the Tri-Cities. An amalgamation of musicians spanning the Saginaw to Flint corridor, the group Thick as Thieves is a collective of musical personalities that spans many genres of music – from smoky soft Jazz, to percussive street beats, to Blues and Jam oriented Rock, without ever sounding forced or affected; and for good measure, they work an MC into the mix, adding an edge of street-wise sensibility into their sound.
Consisting of guitarist/vocalist/keyboarding Kyle Mayer, MC David Jacinto Herrera, lead guitiarist/vocalist Kedree Young, bassist Scottie Green, drummer Erik Friday, percussionist Ricky Brandt, and Beni Schlatter on xylophone, with a focus on crafting uniquely personal original musical compositions, perhaps the best way to capture the nature of this innovative collective is to imagine the philosopher Descartes roaming the broken cracks of city streets, sifting for clues to explain where we are at today not merely as a society of fragmented sub-cultures; but more important, as individuals seeking solace from the storms of discord that we tend to get bombarded with in this Modern Age. If division exists, what does it take to create unity; and if confusion or trepidation surfaces in the aroma of desperation, what can music do to retard that desperation into the cohesive and positive embrace of musical refrains that instill pleasure, hope, and common purpose to this battleground called ‘life’.
Such are the daunting tasks and agendas that Thick as Thieves are cultivating, and such is the reason that they are one of the most significant and important bands to surface upon the scene in quite some time. To quote David Byrne from Talking Heads, “This ain’t no disco; this ain’t no fooling around’. Yet amazingly, the group never slips into the easy abyss of nihilism that is found in your garden variety of ‘Mope Rock’; because as stated earlier, they are looking to create a fusion of elements within their music that makes the world we live in feel like a better place, at least for the moments they are gathered together upon the stage.
In terms of background, core members Scott, Dave, Kyle, and Ricky all went to high school together and performed earlier together in the bands, For No Reason and Good Charlotte.
“We weren’t necessarily punk, but more pop oriented and got a lot of attention,” explains Kyle, “until I went away to school and Scotty and Ricky did a lot of hardcore bands, some that went pretty far.”
“I went to Grand Rapids for five years and came back, moving away from Saginaw, thinking I would find a bunch of bomb ass musicians and more forward. But eventually, I realized that I just wanted to jam with my friends because they knew where I was coming from with my material.”
While in Grand Rapids, Kyle met the remaining members of Thick As Thieves, picking up a few more after he moved to Flint. Together for over a year now, David Jacinto started his own rap journey and started to tag along, watching the group perform various shows. “Kyle and Scotty would be jamming and I would pick up the vibe and feel ways I could add to it, so it seemed right to combine energies,” he notes.
“I want a natural blend of music, not within one song necessarily, but because we love so many styles of music,” explains Kyle. “We want a natural blend that works and do not want to pander to any one style. Nor do we want to force some fusion of Reggae, Rap, Blues, or Hip Hop. We just like to let it come out naturally.”
With one CD available entitled Bootleg Volume I, the group intends to record a Live CD in the near future and is constantly striving to up the ante on their professionalism. “We recorded in four months once we found the Bearinger Building and had to get in there, because there are not a lot of successful bands that have places to play and rehearse,” states Kyle.
While everybody in the group contributes to the songs, when Thick As Thieves first started Kyle had a nice repertoire of 20 or songs written. “Initially, we would ‘bandify’ my solo songs, but now we’ve started writing together more. Most of my stuff tends to be mellow, so we wrote more material for Live shows, and do perform a few covers; but original music is the point that people come to see us, and we want to keep them coming. Sometimes I’ll play a certain riff and people will recognized it and know that it’s not a cover riff, and that is the coolest feeling in the world.”
“Cover songs are fine, but I see too much talent and diversity in our group to pull that road. When I’m older – like 40 or 50 – if I haven’t made it, I’ll probably be playing jazz or blues tunes here and there. Never say never,” he smiles.
According to MC David, Thick as Thieves currently has about 20 original songs and can cover an entire show. “We improvise and jam it up and do different songs each night, bringing in special guests.”
“Beni is probably the most accomplished musician in the band,” notes Kyle, “because he can sight-read, plus he has the rawness to his playing, yet can get technical. It’s a delicate balance between feeling and technique. If you have too much of one or the other, it’s not going to work.”
Thus far Thick as Thieves have booked shows at The Hamilton St. Pub, several clubs in Flint, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo, and also at Grand Central in Saginaw. They try to shoot for a couple performances each month, as they are adamant about not flooding the scene too much.
“We’ve been hooking up with friends in Detroit and I’ve been living in Flint the past four months, while working in Saginaw, so in a way I’m trying to bring the two cities together from the street, putting more people together.”
When asked about fashioning the hybrid nature of their sound into a Hip-Hop segue, MC David explains that “A lot of times I’ll have a song with beats there and the group will listen and work it at practice. Thick as Thieves is less a band and more than all our various ideas coming together. When I’m doing my Hip Hop group, ATP, I get perspectives on the Hip Hop scene and the band scene, which is good to have. It cuts both ways, with one informing the other.”
“I want Scotty & Ricky to have that hardcore edge, and Dave to his Rap straight up, plus we have two guitarists – one with a jazzy feel, the other more of a “Dead’ jam band type; but I love that different sound,” adds Kyle. “Some nights we have different line-ups which changes the whole show, or we’ll play with the same lineup and do the song differently.”
“Sometimes the group will be performing and people in the audience will ask when I’m going to get on stage,” reflects David, “because I’m not up there all the time. Other times club owners will ask how it works having a rapper in the group, because it doesn’t sound like it would. But once they see it they know it. I’m not doing what’s on TV. I don’t have a big chain or do a lot of flashing. I might dress different, but what I’m talking about is the same kind of heart that everybody has. If I say something crazy, it’s not to shock but to say how I feel – the feeling is what’s important.”
“We get Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, Tats, everybody coming to our shows,” notes Kyle, “and the most challenging thing to me is getting people to dance in Saginaw. I don’t know if they’re uptight and it’s the aura of the city, but when we play in Flint it feels different. I want that same vibe here, because it’s where we started. People are starting to loosen up and word travels, so we’re trying to spread that vibe and feel.”
When asked how they selected their name, Kyle explains it came from the film Shawshank Redemption. “At the end of that movie the warden tells Morgan Freeman, ‘You two are thick as thieves’, so that’s where we got it. It’s not about five or six guys that are thick as thieves, but about the vibe of where we come from. It’s about selflessness because you can’t be selfish in this game. We have a lot of talented guys and you have to become selfless to make this happen.”
“Every song is different for each guy in the band when you first perform it. Once you explain the actual feelings behind the song to the band and articulate how it came together, it works like a mind tapestry with each member.”
“I’ve been writing about specific people, but common feelings,” concludes Kyle. “And really people are not that different. There’s a lot they share in common. It doesn’t matter what color you are because our music crosses barriers through the communal act of people having a good time.”
“I love seeing a hippie dance next to a ghetto Mexican.”
“It’s priceless and the ultimate unity in a way!”
“Mainly, we’re trying to make old school music with new school lyrics.”
Thick as Thieves will be performing at Grand Central in Saginaw on April 16-17th and at the 2010 Review Music Awards Ceremony at the Prime Event Center on April 26th. They will also be at the Hamilton St. Pub with ATP on May 7th.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)