Youth and talent abide with the Wholetones

This evening at Bayshore Coffee Company — a tiny shop with a dozen plain tables, concrete floor and an eclectic collection of art and faux paintings — the room is brimming with an audience waiting for the music to start. The atmosphere is dim, the coffee robust and inexpensive, and in an earlier era one might expect the sudden appearance of a goateed beatnik. Amid the muted conversation, the Wholetones take to the stage.

Their music is mostly original, written by the youngest members, Taylor Freydberg and Alex Dorris. The duo conceives some typically dark lyrics, as well as some lighter and comical ones.

It’s difficult to name the Wholetones’ musical genre; it remains as puzzling as the mysteries of life which these young poets expound upon.

“It’s got a strong folk element; put with the drums it’s more powerful, driving,” explains Freydberg.

Dorris brings in a strong bluegrass influence. Drummer Andrew Galler, who played previously with local blues band Little Eddie and the Fatfingers, brings yet another potent element to the Wholetones alchemy of sound.

At 19, Freydberg is an accomplished guitarist, who had only a few years of lessons starting when he was 10. He proficiently handles any stringed instrument, as well as plays the mandolin in several numbers, interspersed with some harmonica.

Singing the lead in most numbers, Freydberg has a forceful and ardent voice, with the potential to mature into an extraordinary and unique sound, reminiscent of the late Jim Morrison.

Dorris displays equal vocal talent and when the two sing harmonies, the result is more like one voice split into two, than two voices together; their timing and range is so in sync.

He really stands out, however, when he plays the cello. While he also plays the guitar or banjo, he creates body and cohesion for their unique sound with his playing. There is no end the types of sounds that he evokes from his instrument, sometimes a little reminiscent of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, sometimes a little like Motorhead, sometimes sounding like the early Peter Frampton, and sometimes, just too unique to describe. Amazingly, Dorris is entirely self-taught.

They all play with the speed and energy of their youth and chosen genre, and one will wonder how they have the strength to keep it up, and why there aren’t six exhausted and detached arms on the floor after the set. Their fingers fly over the strings, rapidly creating euphony of complex sounds and musical nuances.

The Wholetones absorbed influences from a bevy of non-mainstream sounds. Largely influenced by Old Crow Medicine Show and Modest Mouse, insight into their music can easily be gleaned by recognizing those influences. Old Crow music is often described as bluegrass, Americana or Appalachian. Modest Mouse is described as alternative rock, or Indie rock.

The Wholetones play a smattering of music from these groups as well as a number of other unique folk, bluegrass and alternative bands, as well as a healthy percentage of their own material.

The material they write is usually inspired by experiences. The song “Josephine,” was written by Dorris while visiting a town in Josephine County, Oregon.

“You have to experience things to write — they’re just not out of the blue. But sometimes that happens too,” says Freydberg.

“We’re constantly trying to progress experimentally, to go into untouched territories,” he continues.

For fun, Freydberg now listens to a lot of bluegrass, naming Steve Earle, Hank Williams 3, Old Crow Medicine Show and Gillian Welch as favorites.

“We’ll always want to maintain complete control of our music —won’t sell out,” says Freydberg, “But we’re looking for a way to make a living with our music.”

Drummer Andrew Galler is 24, and the oldest member of the group. Freydberg is 19, a Naples High School graduate, and Dorris is 19, a graduate of Lely High.

All of them practice zealously, and that has paid off. Although the group has only played together a little more than a year, they are tight, talented and unique.

In a clever bit of promotion, the Wholetones have an abundance of free CDs to pass out, as well as a DVD and posters. The performance is casual, the players dressed in T-shirts and work boots, and occasionally joined on stage for a few harmonic lyrics by their gal pals in the audience.

The Wholetones occasionally appear at the Little Bar in Goodland. They appear again at the Bayshore Coffee Company on Feb. 8 and 27. The coffee shop charges a $5 cover charge.

As a group, the Wholetones possess the talent and potential, and most importantly, the youth, to formulate their own future.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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