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R. Kelly With More Banjo 

Portland's Junebugs splice genres


The Junebugs are really into beards. Or at least that can be deduced from the fact that two of the three members of the band have pretty epic ones.

"Yeah man, we just feel lucky beards are in right now," said Moses Barrett, the band leader who sings and plays guitar and banjo. "We are going to look super last season when shaving comes back around."

The Junebugs are a well-educated bunch of musicians, and it shows in their effortless layered harmonies and their transformed renditions of pop, hip-hop, rock and country tunes. Barrett has a degree in vocal performance from the University of Oregon, and Sean Vinson (bass) and Kyle Owen (drums) both have jazz degrees from Portland State University.

"We take the American songbook and put it through a folk/rock machine. We also do classic folk/rock stuff, Tom Petty, The Band, stuff like that," explained Barrett. "We feel that we are a part of this movement right now where genre is becoming less and less meaningful, and you just play tunes you like the way you want to play them. More interpretive than being a slave to the original genre."

The band has learned that in their genre twisting, innovation is key, like using electric banjo as opposed to a traditional acoustic one with pickups.

"I have an acoustic banjo, and used to play one on stage, but the thing was just a feedback nightmare. The banjo wasn't really made for loud electric band situations," explained Barrett. "The main part of the banjo body is literally called a resonator. Point a stage monitor anywhere near the thing and it shrieks. So I got an electric one, and of course, as soon as we did that we thought, 'Wonder what it sounds like with some guitar pedals in front of it?' Turns out it sounds gritty, and dirty, and awesome."

The Junebugs are additionally known for their epic covers of a smattering of classic songs including a version of "No Diggity" by Blackstreet with a Motown harmony section, and a rendition of "You Don't Know How it Feels" by Tom Petty, "ramped up significantly," said Barrett.

"We really love playing 'The Night They Drove ol' Dixie Down' by The Band," added Barrett. "When people ask about our song list we always just say, 'We just pick the best songs and play those.' We think that genre is going to have less and less meaning as music moves forward, so we kind of just take whatever we feel in the moment and throw that out there. That is how you get The Eurythmics mashed together with a song written in 1855, 'One Meatball,' by George Martin Lane. Come see the show, I promise we will play it."

The Junebugs

7 pm. Thurs., Jan. 8

McMenamins, 700 NW Bond St.



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