The Birdseed Bandits: Squirrelin’ Away Some Tunes
September 21st 2012 · 3 Comments
“My dad called squirrels ‘birdseed bandits,’” remarks Adam Ludemann when asked about the name of the band he has assembled with Seth Becker and Nash Robb. “We wanted a name that described our sound, but still wasn’t so serious.”
Ludemann describes the sound of the band as “bluegrass and folk in content, but punk in performance.” To be sure, they list among their various influences Bob Dylan, Earl Scruggs and the Avett Brothers, but they also mentioned more punk influences such as Pennywise, Dropkick Murphys and Bouncing Souls. While The BB does mostly original material, they also perform covers of songs as diverse as Brahms’ Canon in G to Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice,” as well as good ol’ Americana like “I’ll Fly Away.” Ludemann and Becker met two years ago at college, and Adam asked Seth if he wanted to jam. They started their own jam band at that point, and also began to experiment with various sounds. Nash came on a year later, and though he has experience on guitar, he was thrown on to the upright bass and told “we have a gig tomorrow.”
Robb plays the bass, Becker does multiple duties on guitar, mandolin and drums, and Ludemann picks the banjo. All three perform vocally, each taking lead at different times in their performances. All three are from Central New York, with Becker hailing from Remsen, Robb from Vernon Center and Ludemann from West Winfield where the band is currently based. The three band members are music majors at Herkimer County Community College, and, while none of them has been trained musically, they each participated in their various high schools’ music programs. Robb was quite happy with the program at VVS, and Becker did well enough with Remsen Central’s program. Robb mentioned too that his lessons came “every chance I got. If I saw someone playing, I’d ask them for tips and play with them for a bit.”
“It’s really sad about my school though, they’re cutting the arts due to budget [issues]. They always start with the arts. First it’s pottery and jewelry-making but eventually it’s music.” Becker observed “you have sports teams, but not every kid is interested in sports. What happens with the kid who just wants to play bass or paint?”
While the merit of music and arts programs in the schools is undeniable, the talents of the trio were enough to attract Chris Mody, of Clinton, to manage the band. Mody has a long background in the music industry, having spent quite a bit of time in Fort Lauderdale in the rave scene down there, and also trying to promote metal bands up here in CNY. He says he came upon The Birdseed Bandits on the street. “My girlfriend heard them first, and said, ‘come on, we’ve got to check these guys out.’ It was amazing that these three guys were playing and there were about sixty people standing around listening to them.”
Becker described their approach as having a play-list and style that “appeals to the older crowd, but our energy gets the younger kids going.” The band has actually opened a few times for metal bands in the region, and they keep getting asked back. Becker added, “the metal bands seem to enjoy us.”
The Birdseed Bandits are developing quite the local following, and they’ve progressed beyond doing gigs for free. While they do perform at fundraisers, like the one coming up in Westmoreland, sponsored by Burrito Jonz, and the funds to be raised will go toward the purchase of a headstone for a recently deceased young man. As of press time, they will have opened for the Tumbleweed Highway at the Oneonta Theater. Upcoming concerts include the Remsen Barn Festival of the Arts this upcoming weekend, where they will perform at the Soda Fountain, October 5th at the Tram Cafe, and a Columbus Day sojourn down to New York City where they will be performing on the street for Manhattanites in Times Square.
The Birdseed Bandits are in contact with several local bars, as well as the Utica Public Library and Hamilton College for upcoming gigs.
“With a metal band, I have a hard time convincing bar managers to let them perform,” Mody observes. “With The Bandits, I pop in a CD, the bar owner pulls out the calendar and asks ‘when do you want to play?’”
They have released a CD of their tunes entitled “Autumn,” which is comprised of their original material. For a first CD, it is a respectable effort, though the recording echoes some of what is experienced in live performance. One thing is clear: as the band discovers its way, and as each member receives a bit of vocal training, the Birdseed Bandits will be better able to keep their vim.
This reporter had the opportunity to show up at their performance at the Radisson for the Utica Music and Arts Festival, which provided a challenging venue for this talented trio. Evidently the band possesses a PA system of its own, but none was provided as expected in this downstairs room, which seemed to suck up the sound.
Because of this, the results were a bit uneven. The three guys have good voices, but Ludemann was drowned out by the instrumentation, and Becker overcompensated and strained his voice in the process. For future reference, the band ought to have a “Plan B” for less-than-ideal venues that works with their capacities. Perhaps they might develop instrumentals and quieter pieces allowing their harmonies to come forward.
On their rip-roaring songs, “Growing Young,” “Shotgun Stories,” and their cover of the Avett Brothers “Go to Sleep,” their jumpin’ energy was a pleasure to behold. On “Shotgun” Ludemann’s picking ability began to be in evidence as well. Harmonies could be more in evidence in these pieces. (Also, I wondered if, just as they got Mr. Robb to jump in on bass, perhaps Adam or Seth might not also pick up a fiddle? Becker played the mandolin on the first number “Like Bonnie, Like Clyde,” and sadly it stayed in its case for the rest of the show.)
Regardless, this is a tight, talented band that is evolving. Their last and newest number, “Catch Me If You Can” (available on-line at their website www.birdseedbandits.com and on YouTube), seemed to address the concerns laid out here. The song perfectly matched the space and showed off their talents to great effect. Each man took a turn as the lead, and the other two musicians supported him vocally. While I later got to hear the song again on their CD “Autumn,” and found it marred at the very end by one vocalist’s overreaching, in the concert, I was transported into the harmonics of their collaboration. I am eager to venture up to Remsen for the Barn Festival to hear them.
Visit www.birdseedbandits.com for more information