The Gypsters: Summer Solstice Costume Circus
by Brianna Kuplent
The smell of dandelions, buttercups, and other pungent flowers in the tall grass steeped like tea in the dense, warm air as Paddy Moran, Ian Reed, Colleen Ames, and Joel Kenworthy – otherwise known as The Gypsters – relaxed in the backyard of two of the band players’ house. Behind them was the birthing suite and cause for relaxation: the house doubled as a recording/sound studio and producer’s office that gave rise to their second album, Get the Hell Outta Here, ready to be released this month, and the band’s first Pacific Northwest tour.
The band started at the now-closed B-Side Record in Seattle after forming in late 2011.
“I still listen to the recording and it’s hilarious,” Moran, the band’s drummer, said. The sound levels set by the sound technician created loud feedback. Moran was also using at the time what he called a “Frankenstein” drum: an assortment of different materials that “sounded like trash cans,” he said.
“It was my first band and first show ever,” Ames, singer and bass player, said. “And I just started learning how to play the bass.”
Each member learned an instrument for the band: Ames learned how to play bass from Reed, Reed on guitar, Moran on drums, and Kenworthy re-learned how to play the horns.
“It was amazing, still,” Ames said.
What makes the Gypsters’ music unique is their genre, of which their songs and playing styles encompass all ends of the spectrum from country to classic and punk rock. While appeasing the classic rock listeners with slow tempos embodied in “High in the Treetops” and “Happy Hobbies,” the slow pace quickens to punk/ska overtones in “Wake Up Screaming,” and then combines all three with a twangy pitch to get the rhythmic harmony in “Brandreth Horse Blues.”
Since their first gigs at B-Side Records and Rumors, the Gypsters have frequented The Shakedown, Swillery, Vaudevillingham, and participated in The Alternative Library’s “Underbelly DIY Music Festival” benefit with The Shows and Fruitjuice last April. Most of the songs from their first album, Never Try, Never Fail, can be seen on videos from the 2012 Worthy Harvest Fest where they played. “We were gypsters before it was cool,” they said.
In all their performances the Gypsters aim to make the show fun in a weird way for the crowd, an aura that stems from their family-like band culture and lessons learned from previous musical outings.
The tight-knit family culture and staunch resistance to placing a label on their band has also allowed an open mind to new songs and genres – what Reed calls a creative freedom to be part of a team that welcomes any ideas.
“I’ve been in bands before where you have a song idea that you have to play on your own, because it doesn’t sound like the band,” he said. “But, with the Gypsters it doesn’t matter what the song type is. The ability to play different genres is what helps us to feel like new songs are fresh.”
All four attribute part of their success to the Bellingham-based group Teenus Koytus, a congregation of music artists, videographers, and sound technicians that support each other.
Seeing Never Try, Never Fail is exciting, Moran said. The album will be a true labor of love for the band, he said, and will be something they can look back on and be proud of.
“What I’ve learned about music, this second album, and a career is how much work it is and learning what a capable team you have,” Kenworthy said.
The first album was about getting the songs recorded and out into the mainstream, Reed said, but in the second album they have all grown as songwriters and instrumentalists.
“The first one didn’t sound like us, but this one will actually sound like us,” he said.