Even after a Saturday night oyster roast, in a crowded living room at 2 a.m., the men of Sideshow Americans can harmonize.
And that’s what they think sets them apart as a band in Charleston.
Ryan Bonner, guitar and vocalist, went to see Gillian Welch and David Rawlings play at the Charleston Music Hall a couple years ago and was inspired by their style. Then after seeing The Lone Bellow there last year, he was more inspired to fill the local music scene’s harmonic void.
Said, “At the time I was playing in everybody else’s bands but didn’t have my own, and Sideshow Americans kind of started because Dan, Whitt, Cory, and I have a group text that’s been going on for two years—it’s hilarious—and we were talking about what bands in this town aren’t doing.”
Harmonizing is one of those things.
Ryan continued, “We knew we could sing, and we knew it’d take a lot of work. And it is a lot of work, which is really cool; because it’s been a lot more of a team thing than anything I’ve done before. That a-ha! moment when we’re working up a song and everybody finds their part is really fun.”
Dan Wright, Whitt Algar, and Cory Jarrett are the other members of the band—and group text. They’re all vocalists, of course, but Dan also plays the guitar, Whitt is on the upright bass, and multi-instrumentalist Cory can most commonly be found playing the mandolin.
Combined, and conservatively guessing, the four have played in 25 local bands, but decided in March to put all their musical energy toward the Sideshow Americans—and they just released their first EP Streetlights. It’s five songs—three of them were written before the band’s inception—but they all lend themselves to harmony, dancin’, and are a good indication of the newer songs the guys are co-writing for a forthcoming full-length album.
Their lyrics are as tight as their vocals. “Everybody told you I was trouble/ They said double.” “The dark’s a fire before the fire’s a spark.” “I promise not to promise you again.” They conjure an old country comparison. Even though Ryan hates the music genre labels, but gets that, “You’ve got call it something, and it’s not death metal. That’s for sure.”
Jokes, “Yet. Just wait till our third record.”
So, we’ll agree on Sideshow Americans being an Americana band with a country edge, since their main goal is to play in Nashville’s AmericanaFest. Now, they’re being selective about the local shows they’ll play and hope to be touring at least around the Southeast soon.
Ryan gave a simple response to the common what’s-the-meaning-behind-your-band-name question: “It’s really hard to find a name that’s not already taken these days.”
But as the band progresses, it seems their moniker’s meaning has too. They’re a group of musicians who could quickly fill in, seamlessly, for any local band, traveling act, sideshow, what-have-you, but now they choose to shed that persona and put their time and talent into a single and sound project.
Ryan says, “We want it to be really good at a Tiny Desk concert. If it’s good at that, if it’s really good stripped down, then we can make it bigger, but we don’t want it to hide behind any production.”
Sideshow Americans EP Release Show with The Royal Tinfoil went down Friday, December 11th, 2015, at The Royal American.
Words by: Elizabeth Bowers
Photo by: Kip Bulwinkle