Asheville folk trio Now You See Them are masters of storytelling. Spinning compelling yarns comes naturally for the band whose own backstory is as interesting as they come.
Wanderlusters Shane Conerty (guitar), Dulci Ellenberger (guitar, keys, melodic) and Jason Mencer (percussion), who make up Now You See Them, have called a lot of places home in the six years they've played together, and each diverse locale has had an impact on the trio's music. The condensed origin of the band is best told by Conerty, whose experiences are worthy of their own Travel Channel series.
"We met in New York City about six years ago and randomly became friends, mostly based on us all being from Western Pennsylvania," recounts Conerty. "We casually played music together there but it was never really serious. Then I moved away to Vancouver for a year while Jason and Dulci stayed in New York. Then we all decided to move to the Hawaiian island of Kauai together for a change of pace. After four or five months, we got restless again and somehow found $300 plane tickets to Sydney, Australia. So we went.
"We started playing in pubs around the city, and needed something to call ourselves. We chose Now You See Them because of our traveling history and also because we never thought it would be more than a fun thing to do while abroad. Time went by, and Jason and Dulci decided to move to Melbourne while I stayed in Sydney. Then Dulci and Jason got deported and moved back to New York via Denver, Colorado. Eight months later I was deported as well. We didn't have proper work visas, and eventually we were found out making untaxed money doing odd jobs. So the day I got deported, I called Jason and Dulci and told them what happened. They said that they were moving to Asheville to start a new band. I suggested that we regroup NYST and make a serious push at making music as a full-time job. So we all moved down to Asheville together, lived in a one-bedroom apartment by a river for a year, went busking (street performance) every day to pay our rent and eventually started getting opportunities to play shows opening for some bands."
The band now travels the Southeast, hitting the road for four consecutive days each week. While the touring version of the act is somewhat stripped down, Now You See Them makes full use of its connections in Asheville, performing local gigs with as many as nine players at once. Similarly, the group's debut album "What We Want" fully utilizes a number of guest musicians, giving the recording a much different dynamic than NYST's live sessions. As much as the numerous additions have lent density to the record, they also added time to its making.
"Our new album is called 'What We Want,' and it took us a year to make because both the band and our producer Eric Willson were touring the entire time it was being recorded," Conerty says. "Sometimes we wouldn't be in the studio for three weeks because of everyone's schedules, and when we'd have a session it would be one day for five to eight hours, so it was difficult to get momentum. We also have a lot of guests on the record, so we had to work around their tours as well. We have some good friends in a band called Holy Ghost Tent Revival that played on the album, and we also had a lot of help from the members of Uncle Mountain. It was important to us to capture some sort of live energy with the recording, and I think we accomplished that."
Whether three or nine deep, Now You See Them's appeal remains the same. The freewheeling act charms and entertains with the kind of honesty only a well-traveled folk act can deliver. The admittedly lyric-heavy harmonies of the band detail their many adventures and logically center on themes of being young and restless, drinking whiskey and roaming.
"I think our sound has evolved and it's definitely been influenced by all of the places we've traveled," says Conerty. "I would say that our music is our attempt at making modern, vintage sounding pop music. We all really enjoy pop music from the '50s and '60s, and you can definitely hear that. We're essentially a lyric-heavy, indie-folk-pop band."
Years in gear: Saturday afternoon 10 Years plays a free acoustic show at The Disc Exchange to promote their new release "Minus the Machine." The band will be signing copies of the album, which will be released nationwide Tuesday. Music starts at 3pm.
Tears and beer: Bubba Brew's (Maynardville) hosts Temper Through Tears Saturday night from 7-11 p.m.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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