In his early teens, Connecticut guitarist Joel Weik was captivated by the sounds of Michael Hedges and Don Ross and spent countless hours figuring out their songs and deciphering sounds on the guitar. In Neighboring Massachusetts, Karl Messerschmidt was studying guitar at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and getting nowhere fast – until he started sitting in on bass with his friends’ bands around town and found his true calling on the four string bass. Meanwhile, Connecticut percussionist Jordan Critchley was drumming on his coffee table and the dashboard of his van on the way to and from carpentry jobs. His wife Uniel bought him a drum for his birthday having no idea that in less than a year Jordan would be playing professionally front of crowds all over central Connecticut. When asked to describe what it’s like being a member of String Theorie, Jordan replied, “Playing with Joel and Karl is like a musical sandbox that I get invited to!”
It’s no surprise that when these three musicians of such divergent backgrounds came together to form the trio String Theorie, the resulting genre-defying sound would be as unique and diverse as the paths that each of them had taken to get there. Throughout its first year the band struggled to accurately explain the style of music that String Theorie makes, which Joel has described as “an amalgamation of different approaches to our instruments.” When famously asked early on by an audience member whether String Theorie was a jazz band or a jam band, Karl replied, “We were hoping you would tell us.” Without the constraints of a musical genre, the band took a “no rules” approach to music making – and has never looked back. Their act includes fingerstyle acoustic guitar, electric bass, and a wide variety world percussion instruments, many of which were built by Jordan and Joel and inspired by drums from around the world. Their musical influences come from modern and classical guitar, jazz, fusion, bluegrass, house, drum and bass, hardcore, and indie rock.
The idea began when Joel found himself at a bar on the night of Karl’s birthday party. It was an open mic night and Joel was impressed when he heard Karl play bass for the first time. A few days later Joel played guitar around the fire at Karl’s 4th of July get-together and a mutual admiration was born. Karl and Joel spent the summer playing anywhere they could as a guitar and bass duo, inspired by the album “Breakfast in the Field” featuring Michael Hedges on acoustic guitar and Michael Manring on electric bass. After two months of indiscriminate performances as a duo at coffee shops and backyard parties, Jordan sat in for the first time on stage at an open mic at the La Paloma Sabanera coffee house in Hartford. The trio brought the house down and was offered a full gig of its own. String Theorie was born.
Over the following winter the band recorded its first self-titled EP in Karl’s living room and released it in March to a standing-room only crowd. Soon after they caught the attention of WNPR and in June 2010 the trio appeared on “Where We Live” with John Dankosy. All the while the group kept up a heavy gig schedule, playing almost every weekend despite a dearth of venues in the areas. By the end of its first full year of operation, String Theorie had collaborated and performed with an A-list of Hartford area bands including Little Ugly, Sunspots, Heirlooms and John Parson. They have performed at coffee houses, sports bars, corporate events, fundraisers, punk shows, and break dancing battles – and always to high acclaim.
The five songs on the EP were chosen to showcase the band’s many musical dimensions. All of the songs were written by Joel over many years. The CD’s opener, “Inchworm,” was the first song the band learned and continues to be a traditional opener at String Theorie shows. “Grace” is a simple melody-driven piece that features the Udu drum – a clay pottery-shaped drum from Nigeria that has become a signature part of the band’s sound. “Captain’s Coffee” is a challenging, up-tempo swing-type tune that takes the audience on a ride of dynamics and dramatic tension. “I’ve always envisioned ‘Captain’s Coffee’ as a Pixar animated short,” Joel says of the composition. “Night Song” is another simple three-chord melody driven tune that showcases each member of the band. The EP closes with “E Minor,” the first fingerstyle guitar song Joel ever wrote.
String Theorie looks forward to a very fruitful 2011 with plans for a full length album, its first music video, and an array of new venues, including its first shows outside Connecticut. The band has hopes to put together mini-tours of the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions.
String Theorie is, to its very core, a do-it-yourself operation. The band makes its own advertising, books its own shows, designs its own CD packaging, records and mixes its own tracks, even builds many of its own instruments. It’s a lot of work, but a small price to pay. As Karl says, “I’ve been in a lot of bands, but a group like this usually comes along once if you’re lucky. We’re always pushing the limits of what we can do, and I really think that this band can play anywhere and do anything.”
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