The Wholetones are 15 minutes into the first of three 40-minute sets when three women walk up and stand a few feet from the band.
The three fans this night aren’t the screaming variety, though. Instead, the trio sways gently to the Wholetones’ unique blend of what they call “folkcore.”
All in their early 20s, Wholetones members are known for their devout followers wherever they play in Florida and elsewhere.
“We support them,” said Nicole Jaldin, 21, of Naples, standing next to Lindsey Potteiger, 21, of Naples, at the South Street City Oven and Grill on Pine Ridge Road in Naples that December night.
“They’re one of my favorite bands.”
The Wholetones are scheduled to play South Street tonight, Jan. 25.
“It’s very harmonious,” Jackie Curcie, 21, of Naples, said of the band’s sound.
Folk, jazz, bluegrass and some metal are what Wholetones members say make up its “folkcore” sound, although it’s unfair to classify the band’s music as any genre. Listen, and you could hear one of their songs as background music in a Ken Burns television documentary. Or, you can picture them performing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, or at a pub in Ireland, singing tales of a great whale.
“It’s one of those things and it’s all of those things,” said drummer Mayo Coates, 21, of the band’s folk, jazz and metal influences.
“It’s an amalgam of sound. We just want to play music all the time. We play what we want to play.”
The consistent theme, though, for the Wholetones is the band’s rich acoustic blend.
“One of the best compliments we’ve gotten is that it’s original,” singer and guitarist Taylor Freydberg said of the band’s music. “It’s rooted in bluegrass and folk.”
If you go
■ When: 10 p.m. Jan. 25 and Feb. 8
Where: South Street City Oven and Grill, 1410 Pine Ridge Road Suite 4, Naples
■ When: Feb. 21-24, see website below for schedule
Where: Virginia Key Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance, at Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami
Cost: Free, kids 12 and younger; $18 one-day ticket and $50 four-day ticket teens 13-15; $30-$35 one-day ticket and $120 four-day ticket adults
Freydberg, 23, serves as the band’s frontman, and could be mistaken for Tom Cruise wearing a beret.
Russ Depa, 23, plays the upright bass while Alex Dorris, 24, sings and plays stringed instruments including banjo and the cello. Dorris serves as the band’s manager and its main spokesman. He said the current band has been together for about two years.
“This seems to be a good fit; it’s been working together,” he said.
The band prefers an acoustic sound to electric.
“It’s cleaner,” Depa said. “It gives us more freedom to play wherever we want to.”
The band’s CD, “The Alamo,” pays tribute to a Golden Gate Estates home in the Picayune Strand band members called home for a few years. It was there, they said, that they bonded as a band and practiced for hours.
They eventually left the rural house and live in separate homes now.
“The Alamo” is an assortment of songs that epitomize the band’s sound. “41 North” is a mellow sounding piece with lyrics that any year-round Southwest Florida resident can appreciate, especially during season: “Set loose, recluse/It’s getting late and to your head/You won’t find comfort/In your bed/41 North you’ll take/Shake gloom to cut weight/Mind your belongings/You don’t belong in this state.”
“When I wrote it, it was more about leaving Naples entirely,” said Freydberg, who laughs when asked if the song is anti-tourist.
“It’s harping on the escapism, being discontent with some place and leaving.”
Freydberg said he wrote “Puckered Faces” from his experience as a high school student, attending anti-war protests with veterans near U.S. 41 East and Airport-Pulling Road a few years ago. One line relates to an experience from the protests, he said. The line: “To dissent, a concern met with puckered faces/In ugly cars yelling, ‘Stop it!’ ”
“There were times when people would throw stuff at us,” he said. “These vets would get in these arguments with people in cars, just stopped at the light. Those people in the cars were so adamant about war.”
Instrumental songs such as “Way Down” and “The Alamo” showcase the acoustic brilliance of the band, along with Coates’ drum work, which Dorris says gives the band its metal-rock-sounding edge. Band members list Modest Mouse and the Decemberists as two groups that have influenced the Wholetones.
The Wholetones play South Street twice a month, but they’re also found regularly at the Little Bar in Goodland in the Naples-Marco Island area.
Next month, they will perform at the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance, Feb. 21-24, in Miami. They’ve played before thousands at the Riverhawk Music Festival in Brooksville.
On the December night at South Street, the first set included some original Wholetones’ songs but other band favorites, including Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and the Decemberists “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.”
Freydberg said the band appreciates its supporters, from Orlando and Tampa to Fort Lauderdale.
“We have a wonderful following, and not just in Naples,” he said. “They can come out and make it a great show.”
Nearly 3,300 Wholetones fans “like” the band at www.facebook.com/thewholetones, which provides almost daily updates about the band’s upcoming shows and other information. Fans can order CDs, T-shirts and other merchandise at wholetones.bigcartel.com.
Curcie remembers Dorris, a former Lely High School classmate, before his pre-Wholetones days.
Depa also attended Lely, while Coates and Freydberg went to Naples High School.
“In high school, all he did was play music,” Curcie said of Dorris. “And it literally paid off. He can play any instrument. The band is definitely one of a kind, that’s for sure.”
Jaldin quickly added, “In a good way.”