Fast-moving Vagabond Philosophy gives pause for thought

The sextet Vagabond Philosophy is off to an ambitious start after solidifying its lineup about three months ago.

The sextet Vagabond Philosophy is off to an ambitious start after solidifying its lineup about three months ago.

Hailing from both sides of Tennessee, the members of Vagabond Philosophy are moving quickly to establish themselves locally. Publicly active for just more than two months, the sextet has already drummed up a complete catalog, performed twice a month on average, is recording a full-length album and is prepared to begin work on its first music video. After establishing its place in Knoxville, the band will gradually broaden its radius with a tour in January.

After attending college at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and moving to Knoxville, Vagabond Philosophy guitarist and vocalist Brad Poyner founded the act with longtime friends Will Adams (guitar) and Preston Laserbeam (harmonica/vocals). The trio began writing and arranging Poyner's notes and picked up violinist Lydia Kabalen and drummer Eric Grass (formerly of Plainclothes Tracy). Soon after, the band played its first gig as a full band, just before adding its final piece, bassist David Cervetti.

"This band just started playing back in May, when the first three people started playing, and then we've been adding people since," says Poyner. "As a full band, we've been together almost three months. Our first show as a band was September 21, I think… A lot of the stuff we play, I wrote before the band was conceived of. So far, we've done about two shows a month in Knoxville."

"We played one gig prior to David joining," Grass elaborates. "We tried out a guy for two practices, but he couldn't commit and left on his own accord. David sat out the first gig because he had only been in town for a week. That week was the only introduction — other than hearing a few rough mp3's online — that he had to the band. Having him in the band has provided a punchier live set that pulses with the drums. As far as songwriting goes, the addition of bass has allowed us to really connect the dots."

The Vagabond Philosophy sound combines aspects of folk, Southern rock, Irish traditional music and bluegrass that the band generally tags as "Americana indie-folk-rock." Combining differing musical backgrounds, Vagabond Philosophy arrived at its style, deeming it the ideal vehicle for its storytelling. As its name implies, beliefs are central to the band, whose subject matter is intended to challenge listeners to re-examine their own philosophies with total objectivity.

"I think if we had to have an overall philosophy it'd be that, lyrically, we want to create stories that challenge people to think imaginatively and differently about certain things," explains Poyner, "whether that be their previous philosophies that they hold now or other people's views and philosophies. I guess that would be what our philosophy is. A lot of songs will give rise to religious criticism, maybe not necessarily outright criticism, but sometimes it's more just trying to get people to think differently about the way they've viewed religion or spirituality. It's not to tell someone what they should believe, but to offer an alternative or get them to just look at it critically."

Determined to stay on the minds of its audience, Vagabond Philosophy is currently recording tracks with Rock Snob Records' Eric Nowinski. These tracks will be compiled to form the act's full-length debut, expected for release next spring. Prior to the album's release, the band will unveil a video for its first single, "Hero of Mary Ann," in February. In the meantime, Vagabond Philosophy will continue performing frequently and expanding its repertoire with new material.

"Something I've learned that we all bring to the table is knowing what to do and what not to do," Grass says. "When I was with Plainclothes (Tracy), it took us four years to record an album. So we're really banging stuff out pretty quick. We've already got our web site up and running; we're starting to do email lists to keep people involved and keep in touch with our fans."

"The rest of the year, we're doing as much recording as possible, playing a few shows and practicing," adds Poyner. "We have a few songs on the backburner that we want to work on and bring to the live show. We want to get our set time up a little bit. That's about it, and then we'll get ready for our tour in the beginning of the year."

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Vagabond Philosophy

With: Jordan Knight and the Daze and Sati Flow Hoop Dance

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13

Where: The Well, 4620 Kingston Pike

Admission: free

Also: Vagabond Philosophy will perform at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at Preservation Pub; cost is $3

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