To listen to Brushfire Stankgrass is to go down a road that begins with the banjo – and on to an uncertain destination that might wind up arriving in downbeat blues, country or into a funk wonderland.
The eclectic sound of the Asheville, N.C.-based band is coming Friday, July 18, to Stillwater Tap Room, 974 Broad St.
Brushfire Stankgrass has often been placed into the bluegrass genre, but it’s not really an accurate description. They refuse to conform into one silo.
Listen to the track Parker Padgett Blackout, for instance, and the sound of a banjo thrown in with a wah-wah pedal proves that they can’t be pigeonholed.
“We didn’t want to be stuck playing in a band where there were rules where you had to play a certain type of music,” said Will Saylor, on guitar with his brother Ben, on the banjo.
“We’ve always listened to a litany of a lot of different styles, be it jazz, hip-hop or even rap,” he explained. “It’s been fun trying to take these different influences and put them into our musical lineup.”
Indeed, a twist can cause the audience to perk up to listen such as taking tunes from the Atlanta hip-hop act Outkast and putting on a unique flavor with a banjo playing the lead line.
“It’s fun to do nontraditional tunes with a banjo,” Saylor said. “It’s such a unique musical tone, and it can be attention-getting there.”
The band’s playful nature has the group – the Saylor brothers plus Micah Thomas and Daniel Iannucci laying down rhythm – tinkering with musical dynamics, going from loud to quiet and back again.
“It’s something I don’t hear a lot in modern music,” Saylor said. “A lot of acts will just play loud, or just play quiet, especially with amplification being so prevalent these days. The dynamics just get lost in that.”
In a live show, the musical flow is often dependent on the vibe of the audience and the show’s venue, he said.
“We might throw in certain tunes if the audience wants to dance, or maybe complex instrumental tunes if it’s a more introspective audience,” Saylor said.
The July 18 show will mark the band’s third trip to Augusta, and audiences here are more of a bluegrass type of crowd, he explained, but the band continues to try to expand and get more folks in the Garden City to experience the unique twang and groove.
Asheville, nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina, has a reputation for a bohemian vibe and has been a perfect place for the band to develop and grow.
“There’s always been good music here especially as the downtown scene has grown, bringing new influences,” Saylor said. “We get great inspiration from other players in town.
“We sit in with each other. It’s a small community of folks and have each others’ backs. I’m proud to help represent the scene and other people do the same.”
In the end, it’s all about a good time.
“We work a great deal to build songs with great melodies to give you something to sing along when you’re going home,” Saylor said. “We all try to reach a musical idea and convey that.”