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Worcester’s The Great Whiskey Rebellion Defies Musical Genres

Friday, February 01, 2013

 

Photo by Ted Theodore

No band sounds quite like Worcester's The Great Whiskey Rebellion. As their name suggests, the members are connoisseurs of both rebellion and whiskey; rebellion, because it is impossible to box them into a generic style of music; whiskey, because, well, that's probably self-explanatory.

"We want people to have a great time drinking and dancing," Geo Poor, the band's bassist and vocalist, says of those who may find themselves at a performance by this exciting young band.

Geo describes the band's music as a "blending of opposites" or, more specifically, a fusion of "modern and traditional."

"The music takes traditional folk songs and smashes them over the anvil of Rock 'n Roll. It is dance music with grit," he explains. The songs are "a little silly, but in a gritty and dark way." Perhaps you could call them "the grunge of Celtic music... a combination of crazy shredding and acoustic instruments, heavy drums and danceable melodies."

In terms of genre, the band classifies itself as a combination of Celtic, Americana, Gypsy, Klezmer (a musical form made famous by the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe), and good old rock and roll. Influences come from anywhere, but most noticeable in their sound are traces of traditional Irish, Middle Eastern, Appalachian, Metal, and Classical.

An assorted mix for sure, but the four-piece band is able to pull it all together surprisingly smoothly.

Perhaps the first thing one will notice when listening is the potent, energetic and discernibly lively sound of Amy Levine's fiddle.

A native of North Carolina, though classically trained, Amy began to love the Appalachian tunes of her native state when she took up the instrument at a young age. She took her talents to Worcester to attend Clark University where she met Geo, a native Virginian. In 2008, she took a trip to Ireland to learn the native Irish music played in the pubs. She soon formed an Irish and Appalachian band with Geo and two other friends.

"It was the first time I was able to really take the music I grew up with and work with other musicians to reinterpret it in a way that was fun and accessible for people who might not think they like 'folk' music," says Amy.

Geo learned drums and guitar before he turned to the bass. He feels he made the right choice.

"People always need a bass player. They rarely need a guitar player (in my experience). I came to enjoy playing bass in a band more than any of the other instruments," he says.

Geo's background is largely in the world of metal, and this is showing more and more in the band's overall sound.

"As we've written more originals, things have gotten darker because a large part of my musical background is metal, and most of our writing starts with me," he remarks.

Guitarist Matt Pezone, a native of New Hampshire, joined almost immediately after Geo and Amy put an ad on Craigslist. He comes from a slightly different musical background.

"Eric Clapton Unplugged came out when I was about 4 years old and that's when I sorted out that I wanted to be Eric Clapton when I grew up. Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Leo Kottke (a great detour) and Eric Krasno sequentially followed and so far, I'm still none of them, but there's surprisingly a spot for all of those obsessions in this music," he explains.

But he makes clear, both he and the band will play almost anything.

"If it grooves, I like it. We even have Britney Spears covers in the works... because Britney grooves."

New drummer Bryan Parandes rounds out the band's line-up.

"Music is how I express the things that can't be expressed with words alone. I am also an artist, and I have a very strong creative drive," he says.

The band mostly performs in Worcester and Boston. In the Woo, they often make appearances at Beatnik's, Ralph's, and Tammany, around Boston, at the Lizard Lounge and The Burren.

The band's first EP, "On the Whiskey Trail", which is available on iTunes, was recorded after they'd only been together two months. It is mostly a collection of re-workings of traditional folk tunes and Geo makes it clear they have changed a lot since.

"Our first EP was a starting point. By the time it was released we were a totally different band already. The next CD will most likely be a lot less "traditional" than our first. We plan for the next CD to be all originals. The first is very much a portrait of where we were after 2 months. It wasn't all that thought out or planned. This next one will be."

Some of things the look likely to be included on the next album are a 9 minute epic metal song, a flamenco tune, an Indian inspired song, and an American/ Blues song about zombies in the shop.

Looking farther into the future, Amy states, "I see us incorporating new styles into each song that we create. In particular, I want to learn more Gypsy jazz violin and write more songs with vocals."

Their constant experimentation assures one thing: the music will never become boring or stagnant according to Amy, and will always be a thrill to play.

"Whether we're playing by ourselves in an apartment or playing in front of a live audience, there's something incredible about creating music together. We're able to try something different each time, and we all play off of each other's energy. There's a spark of creativity and inspiration that can come mid-song and take you to a new place."

Look for The Great Whiskey Rebellion at a venue near you. For more information on the band or to hear some of their music, visit their website, or find them on Facebook, Reverbnation, or MySpace.

See more of Ted Theodore's photography on his Flickr page.

 

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