Cincinnati’s Grooveshire is our latest New Groove of the Month. The band finished first in our last Jambands 250 poll, earning the right to be featured here. The six-piece consists of founding members Chris Melfi (lead vocals/harmonica), Jason Mollette (guitar), and Mike Hennel (drums) and more recent additions, Jacob Jones (guitar), Brian Berwanger (bass) and Bryan Russell (organ). The results have yielded what the group describes as “Louisiana Bayou Grunge,” which can be heard on the band’s new EP, American Son. Here Melfi talks about the group’s origins and evolution.
Can you talk about the development of the group? How did you meet and how did the current line-up solidify?
Absolutely. Myself, Jason (guitar) and Mike (drums) started the group back in 2003. We met while playing locally with other Cincinnati-based bands. We all had a great deal of respect for one another and decided to kick back and write some fresh tunes together. At the time, we were a good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll outfit blending together multiple genres of blues, grunge, funk and metal…edgy guitar riffs with soul induced vocals and ambient drumming. Through the years, the three of us continued to identify an original sound not common to the Ohio Valley region. That’s always been our goal though, to stand out and be different. We hired another guitar player (Jacob Jones) in 2006 for that very reason. Man, Jake blew us away! He was a young and fearless musician that could play the shit out of the slide guitar! Instantly, our sound was polished and Louisiana Bayou Grunge was born! Our largest roadblock, however, was securing a consistent bass player, four quality musicians in four years, but nothing permanent. Finally, in late 2007, we landed Bryan Berwanger. What a great catch! Smooth as hell. He plays the bass the right way and is a great songwriter. The group has been pretty solid ever since.
In terms of your musical backgrounds and interests, what does each of you bring to bear?
We are dedicated rock n’ rollers! We all have individual influences that define who we are as artists. I grew up listening to my dad’s old vinyl. I mean, didn’t we all? It just sounds so much more real. That’s what we’re all about. Keeping things real. Even at a young age I seemed to view “vintage” as better. I think we all did. Artists such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, B.B. King, Otis Redding, Muddy Waters, Allman Brothers, etc…I can go on and on…It’s all about your roots. I think collectively, we all have amazing roots!
How would you describe the vitality and support of your local music scene?
I would be lying if I said Cincinnati doesn’t have an amazing musical history. From King Records to Music Hall, I think Cincinnati’s roots are well perceived. There are some great musical traditions, such as our Midpoint Music Festival and strong venues that support original music. For a band like us, it’s easy to gain support when we do what we do. Although our style isn’t too popular in our market, it’s different and I think that is what’s attractive.
Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group and how does it then come together?
Ideas seem to flow easiest when the six of us work collectively. We write about what’s real. Everything from lyrics to the music tells story. I think that’s what makes our music honest.
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