What happens when four teachers and a principal get together in a garage one night? No, there’s no punchline—it’s local Americana/rock band Crooked Branches’ origin story.
“We were all buddies first, before we knew anybody played an instrument,” says guitarist/vocalist Manny Steffen. “We got together as an outlet. We’d get together in my garage and sit around, throw out songs and play them and hang out and it just kept on progressing where everyone started finding roles and things like that within the songs.”
This backstory is important, too, because it’s dictated their unusual lineup. There are guitar players, a bassist and a keyboardist, but no drummer. That’s only because within this group of co-worker buddies, no one played the drums. While a string-heavy, drum-less band might be commonplace for bluegrass, Crooked Branches weaves genres together a little differently.
“We’re playing stuff that’s sometimes really straightforward, like a country style. Sometimes it’s a Latin feel or an island feel, sometimes there’s a soul feel to it. It’s different without drums,” Steffen says. “The guy who’s the principal of an elementary school, people can’t see him, but he’s the one holding everything together because he plays bass. He’s our heartbeat. We’re focused on the framework of the song and because of that you would definitely think we would have that backbeat to what we’re doing.”
The group plays an array of covers, including songs by the Grateful Dead, Dylan, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. But they also write originals, mixing everyone’s eclectic influences, including outlaw country, ’90s alt-rock and classic rock.
“I think it’s the kind of style that people would look at and say wouldn’t work. Our guitarist will come with something that has a real Latin feel, and I think what I write to it is a real country type of lyric and probably really country type of melody,” Steffen says. “What you might not think would work, it seems to. We have fun playing it that’s for sure.”
INFO: 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $10. 603-2294.