Good bands should have multi-instrumentalists.
I like when the bass player picks up the guitar, the guitar player jumps to the keyboards or the singer plops down behind the drum set. Julie Neumark’s new project is learning that kind of cross-training by necessity. Her former band, The Highlifes, which played in Durango twice during the last 18 months, recently called it quits. The breakup has given Neumark the chance to play with some other musicians, and with her home base in Los Angeles, there are plenty (both good and bad) to recruit.
Neumark will return to Durango Saturday at the Derailed Saloon with a trio that treats their instruments as a game of musical chairs. Playing with Neumark is multi-instrumentalist Luis Oliart and guitar/bass player Holly Lucille. The versatility of the trio wasn’t by design on Neumark’s part. It’s a project that evolved out of simply wanting to play some duo shows with Oliart with both of them on guitar; the set would feature their individual songs, not the songs of a band. The addition of a randomly selected bass player made room for Oliart to switch to drums and allowed Neumark to add more to their sound. However, for his own songs for their shows, Oliart knighted Neumark into the drum role, something she’s never done.
“We played a show in Los Angeles and had so much fun, we figured we’d do a small duo tour. And as we were practicing, we fell upon a bass player,” Neumark said last week from Southern California. “Since we have a bass player, Luis said ‘How about I play drums on your songs, and we can have a band?’”
When Neumark responded that she didn’t play drums, Oliart’s confident response was simply, “You do now.” Since that day Neumark has been taking drum lessons, and the duo tour now will feature a small band that will showcase the talents of three songwriters.
“We’ve worked out this trio where we all change instruments constantly and we all play each others songs,” Neumark said.
“I think its going to be visually interesting as well.”
It’s a chance for these songwriters to take established tunes that have been part of their individual sets in the past and play them differently, in a different design, and watch them morph into something else. Or, in the case of new songs, establish them as a firm cut ready for future set lists or recordings.
“It’s been fun to take some of the songs I’ve played for quite some time and break them down and make them fit into this configuration. That’s been really cool,” Neumark said. “When you play something for so long the same way, it’s fun to break it down and rediscover the song. Plus with some of the new songs, I think of them as baby songs. They haven’t had their time on the road yet and been flushed out. It’s fun to take them on immediately into this configuration.”
Neumark also has plans to visit the recording studio in May, with a release due later this year.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.