DON’T SWAT THESE NOSEEUMS
The Noseeums aren’t a jam band to easily flick away
ATaos band, The Noseeums has had a couple of iterations. In its current form, the band has been gaining attention and momentum for its original improvisational jams inspired by bluegrass, rock and roll, jazz, funk, blues and Americana. Eric Jay is the bandleader, playing electric guitar and singing. The seven-piece band includes Andy Yeomans (guitar, vocals), Rachael Penn (violin, vocals), Peter Oviatt (banjo, vocals), Tristan Craig (electric bass), Howie Roemer (keyboards) and Harlan Tafoya (drums).
While The Noseeums have been booking gigs on a consistent basis, they are taking a needed pause this week to gear up for their next shows at the Lilac Festival in Kit Carson Park on May 20 and Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership on May 23. The band is also booked for the Music on the Mothership Festival (June 1-3).
Jay, who was in the first iteration of The Noseeums as well as the second, said that he got his start as a musician playing bluegrass jams at Eske’s Brew Pub in Taos.
“[Bluegrass] is a very straightforward style, but it teaches you a lot about the technicality of music – how to strum a rhythm repeatedly, how to keep it consistent, how to play a melody, how to learn a melody.… It helped me a lot.”
Eventually, however, Jay found he was growing bored with strictly bluegrass music.
“I guess deep down inside I felt that bluegrass wasn’t my calling… It was helping me become a better player and musician over all, mentally and technically, but I wanted to take it in another direction.”
Jay said last summer he started to write songs and handpick musicians for a band. He was inspired by progressive bluegrass bands, such as Railroad Earth, who incorporate jazz or blues into their music, as well as live improvisation.
“That’s what I wanted to incorporate into The Noseeums, and slowly that started to develop… We started to build chemistry with one another, and sure enough, we started to create our own unique sound, which I think is one of the most important things in having a band, making sure your band has a unique sound. That’s what I’ve been trying to cultivate, a unique sound for The Noseeums, that incorporate these multifaceted genres.”
Yeomans came to Taos by way of Colorado. He started meeting Taos musicians at various bluegrass festivals and connected with the bluegrass community here. He also enjoys the newer bluegrass jam bands or newgrass bands. Eventually, he moved to Taos.
“He really liked the music scene here, and he really enjoyed playing with us,” Jay said. “He plays acoustic guitar and picks up that natural acoustic guitar sound in the band, holds down the rhythm and plays those sweet bluegrass melodies from time to time.”
Penn has a background in classical violin and has been immersed in old-time style fiddle music for the past several years. “She is very talented,” Jay said. “She’s actually a music teacher… This is totally different for her, going from being a classical player reading sheet music and playing note by note, to full out jam band improvisational music.”
Oviatt is from Lawrence, Kansas, and often plays with local musician Brent Berry. Jay said that Oviatt’s way of playing banjo is unique, and fits well into The Noseeums. “He plays all these interesting banjo rolls, and he’s very intuitive with his ear,” Jay said. “He can pick up a song faster than you can teach it. He has this way of incorporating this really unique sound into every song he plays… You could be in a roomful of banjos and Peter’s would stand out.”
Craig is from Minnesota, has a background in jazz and a love for Django Reinhardt. “He incorporates that jazzy sound into his bass playing,” Jay said. “Often he’ll play solos during a show that are really intricate and interesting.”
Keyboardist Roemer is also a member of Last to Know and a few other bands around town. “He’s been a great addition to the sound,” Jay said, who wanted to incorporate a keyboard because he felt it would add an important component to The Noseeums.
Tafoya is a multiinstrumentalist and plays drums. “The drums are such a key, integral part of making one sound and transitioning it into another. Sometimes a drummer alone can completely change a song and help lead everyone into a certain direction, and that’s what he’s really good at,” Jay commented.
“The most important thing about all these people in the band is we’ve all really grown together as musicians,” Jay said.
“We have an ear for each other’s playing, and with the unique sound we’ve created in each of our shows, a large percentage of our music is now improvised,” Jay said. “When we’re onstage we’ve learned to listen to each other better and really incorporate jamming into our playing. That was always important to me. With that style of music, it’s something that’s really immersive, always changing, and always keeping you on your toes…. You can learn so much from it. There’s never a plateau.”
The Noseeums just started a GoFundMe campaign to support the recording of their first album gofundme.
com/thenoseeumsmusicfund. For more information, visit the band on Facebook or Reverbnation.
THE NOSEEUMS are an up and coming funky-progressive-Americana-”groove-grass” jam band.