The Grecian Urns: Keeping dreamy folk in the family
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2010 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: The Grecian Urns.)
The Grecian Urns refresh weary souls with an effervescent antidote to the Great Recession blahs.
The big, big-sounding folk-pop ensemble performs with gusto and pitch-perfect harmonies. Their earthy beats, rousing horns and sparkly strings call to mind the gypsy jangle of Arcade Fire and majesty of Sufjan Stevens, but with a more direct and uplifting approach — and some spiritual themes.
Bryce McGuire (acoustic guitar and vocals), David Norris (drums and banjo), Brandon McGuire (electric guitar, keyboards and harmonica), Katherine Dunn (fiddle and secondary percussion), Laurie Beth Norris (keyboards, trombone, flute and vocals), Jared DiMaggio (bass) and Trevor Butts (trumpet, ukulele, electric guitar and secondary percussion) cobbled their collective in 2006 while performing in a high school production of The Music Man. The young, classically trained musicians, friends and sibling attended Keswick Christian School in Pinellas County. All between the ages of 19 and 22, they now attend colleges in Florida, Tennessee and Virginia.
“We spent a lot of time together, talking, goofing around, fantasizing about starting a band,” singer Bryce McGuire said. “We all played music, so we started jamming for fun and putting on impromptu shows for the cast, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Steve Hobbs, their English teacher and former member of the Sugar Oaks, encouraged them to play gigs outside the school. He introduced them to new music and encouraged them to do stuff as a band.
“I think the Sugar Oaks has been an influence on our music,” Bryce McGuire said, “at least in sharing the impulse to capture the Florida mystic. We all grew up on older music, like the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young and a heavy dose of classic rock — from our dads, mainly.”
Family comes up a lot in conversation with the Urns — how it influences Bryce, his siblings and bandmates. “We all come from very musical families,” he said. “There are five kids in my family; between my mom and my three sisters (Kathleen and Shaundra from fellow folkies the Sun Society, and Kendall, an actor in community theater) we have a string quartet. Throw in my dad on harmonica or guitar, my brother (bandmate Brandon) on piano or drums and our Sunday afternoons become like one of Brian Wilson's later albums.”
That familial, intimate chemistry becomes noticeable live. Camaraderie and affection exude from the stage — watching them live, you immediately get a sense that the Urns are all very tight-knit.
“We really are all family,” Bryce said, “Even those of us who aren’t related by blood. We all grew up together. We went to the same school, ran track, went to church, and played in the high school band together. Our practices are really fun, and laid back. Sometimes we don’t actually get that much done because we start playing AC/DC or talking about whatever books were reading.”
The band’s been on a short hiatus during the early part of 2010 — all of the Urns attend college and are away at school — but they will be back this spring for some performances. The wildness, however, begins this summer.
“We should finish recording in May,” Bryce said of the band’s upcoming Lovedream EP, the follow-up to 2008’s Fair Youth Beneath Fair Trees. “We’re going to throw a nautically themed CD release party and then hit the road and explore our fine state of Florida. ... I’m just ready to jam again.”
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*. Photo: Demi Barth.