Meet Quasiphonics and its kaleidoscope of sound
Aaron Firetag and John Durham decided to write a reggae song together in 2006. This seemingly inconsequential event birthed the all-encompassing sound circus known as Quasiphonics.
Quasiphonics has two incarnations. The first version features a core quartet, with Firetag on mandolin, Durham on guitar and the rhythm section filled out by Richard Horton on bass and Jonathan Peace and Stuart White alternating on percussion. The four-piece instrumental act is accented by a large musical collective made up of local Charleston musicians, including keyboardist Sam Sfirri and Ben Wells. The music is eclectic and diverse, ranging from funk and reggae to post-rock and prog-rock.
The alter-ego of Quasiphonics features female vocalist Erin Kinard, with Firetag and Durham on mandolin and guitar, respectively. These specific songs embody a folky twang, smoothed over evenly with Kinard's smoky, soulful voice. Recordings of both embodiments of Quasiphonics can be found on their MySpace page.
Quasiphonics has been playing gigs at Taco Boy and Kickin' Chicken downtown regularly, but they've managed to gig out of town as well. So far, they've played in Columbia, Asheville, N.C., and Raleigh, to mention a few. The quartet has two upcoming shows. The first is at The Pour House with Charleston jamster Weigh Station and Pinna from Columbia. The second show is July 23 at The Tin Roof with Go For Launch, a jazz-rock outfit from New Rochelle, N.Y.
Charleston Scene caught up with Durham and Firetag to get the lowdown on their hot, sassy jams.
Q: How did the band start?
Firetag: Well, the band started one day at my Queen Street homestead from back in the day. We were listening to some reggae music from the band Midnight. John looked over at me and said, "Do you feel like writing a reggae song?" We kind of took it from there. We wanted to do something along the dubbish vein.
Q: Why do you write the music that you play?
Durham: Escapism. Most of the songs are pretty triumphant to come from such a curmudgeon like me. They all build to a moment of elation or relief, a little moment of Zen.
Q: How has your sound evolved over the past three or four years?
Firetag: It's changed amazingly. From meandering, jamming a few reggae chords, to really just a well-written, thought-out song. We're trying to be a well-rounded, well-versed band. The more well-rounded we are, the more people we can touch at one show.
Durham: I just want to connect with people. The most comfortable I ever am is when I'm playing guitar. I tend to be more introverted the older I get, and more extroverted musically. I want everyone in the collective to know how much they mean to us, even if they've only played with us once or twice. We have these songs that we wrote with just the two of us, and it's interesting to hear how different a song can be with different people, and how much of their image they add to it. The natural thing is for it to move closer and closer to a handful of guys, but I'm trying to keep the collective alive.
Q: What would you like to see in the future of the band?
Firetag: I feel like we're all on the right path. Personally, I wouldn't mind eventually ending up in the festival circuit. Every summer we could be booked every weekend, and we could network with a whole lot of other bands. There's something about a festival. Everybody's there for the same purpose: to enjoy the music and each other, and to escape from the clutches of life.