Musical Notes of the English Department — Part 1

As the editor for The FoGroupTrailPromoreword this semester, I am especially pleased to personally contribute a couple of pieces spotlighting the musical involvements of some of our very own faculty. This first piece centers on a band called Eggplant Heroes, of which founders Professors Max Garland, Duffy Duyfhuizen, and Joel Pace have all participated in for over 5 years. I was able to personally interview Dr. “Duffy” Duyfhuizen, who is the Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, to hear a firsthand experience of the band’s development.

The band initially came together seemingly through several strokes of good fortune. Max and the then-chair of the English Department Duffy had wanted for quite sometime just to sit down together and jam on guitar. After kicking the idea around in conversation for years, they finally sat down to it, and found that their playing styles seemed to mesh quite well. While this was fulminating, Duffy hired Joel, but was totally unaware of Dr. Pace’s own musical inclinations. In Duffy’s own words, “it was just serendipity.” However, they eventually all came together and, according to Duffy, “it was just one of those moments when voices click together and the harmonies fall into place easily”

The result of that fusion was the beginning of Eggplant Heroes.

Eventually they began to play shows together, performing a mix of original songs and covers by songwriters they admire as well as traditional folk and gospel tunes. This activity led them to pick up a few fiddle players along the way. One of them, Olaf Lind, has become an enduring presence in the band and was literally instrumental in the recording of After this Time, their first studio CD five years ago.

Since then, they’ve begun performing a lot more regularly in the area, doing an estimated 30 shows per year. One of these has been the University’s summer concert series—where “for some reason the weather has always conspired against us, and forced us to play an outdoor concert inside” says Duffy. Other venues have been the downtown Sounds Like Summer concert series in Phoenix Park, the Cabin on campus, and monthly at the Acoustic Cafe.

Though it was the three founders and Olaf who recorded the album, the band has since seen the presence of quite a few members, like mandolin player Caleb Horne, bass player Dan Zerr, and electric guitarist Luke Fischer. Each member brings his own influences and talents to bear on the band, which is a unique blend of folk, blues, country, and bluegrass that fits into the genre known as “Americana.”

Because of their “far flung schedules,” the participation of band members fluctuates. Duffy mentioned that many times their songlist depends on taking stock of who is there. He also highlighted what he saw as the biggest strength of the group—that they can all catch on quickly to the flow of a song and don’t actually need to hold regular practices. We might dub it the “quick-study” approach, which fits in nicely with the roots of spontaneity and improvisation in this cross-over band. They tend to focus on songs that are straight forward musically but have strong lyrics,reserving plenty of time for improvisation in soloing.

As for the band’s present activities, they will be playing at the Acoustic Cafe on Saturday the 26th and are also beginning work on a new CD. If anyone is interested in checking out the band more or taking a listen to their music, visit their webpage, Facebook page, Reverbnation site, or check them out on iTunes and Spotify. Links are provided below.