Genre-bending songs of love, loss, and life

by Colin Cutler

photo by Donna Smith

Join us at Gibb’s Hundred Brewing on Valentine’s Day, 6-8pm, for a solo set by Matty Sheets and then a full set with the Fumblemuckers, fronted by Kit Dean and Hannah Samet Try to pin the Fumblemuckers down to a genre, and the nearest label you’ll get is folk-rock band with a punk-rock attitude.

They might start with a soft 50’s-sounding rock ballad, turn to a fiddle-driven dance tune with the nature lyrics of folk music, then flip the switch on a punk rager that runs as rough and free as your first car. Their lyrics range from the suggestively sentimental images of “Pretty Thing” (“If you’d be my sugar lump / I’d lick you til ya melt”) to the barren and cutting introspection of “Picking Out Veins.”

Kit Dean, the band’s primary songwriter, is originally from Garner.

He got an early start on music: his mom has one of his kindergarten projects where five-year-old Kit wrote that he wanted to be a “singerguitarer,” and his older brothers got him listening to Jimi Hendrix and other classic rock: “I went straight from ‘Rubber Ducky’ to the Who.” After a punk phase, then the obligatory Jim Morrison phase in his teens, the tape deck in his car broke, and the only station the dial would pick up was the oldies station—that’s when he realized that “the Ramones are just a doo-wop girl band with fucking distorted guitars. It opened a world of music to me.”

Originally from Greensboro, Hannah Samet went to undergrad at UGA and spent some time working in an Athens restaurant and playing with a rock band there.

She grew up listening to classical, oldies, Motown, and “Suzuki on repeat,” but also pulls from indie and classic rock, folk music, citing Andrew Byrd and Jenny Lewis as major influences. When she returned to Greensboro a year and a half ago, she had just gotten serious about her own songs and started checking out open mics to try them out on listeners.

Hannah and Kit met at Matty Sheets’ NY Pizza open mic, and he invited them both on to his radio show that Thursday. After the radio gig, they got to talking, and eventually started recording music and playing together. They both share vocal and songwriting duties, and Kit plays electric guitar. While Hannah’s main weapon is her fiddle, she also pulls out an electric guitar and takes over lead vocals for songs like “Arsonist Blues.”

Kit and Hannah played one show as a duo, opening up for the Rinaldi Flying Circus. After Matty saw Kit and Hannah play together, he was hooked, too. Their first show as a full band (with Mikey Roohan on bass) was a basement show in Glenwood on the 4 th of July. It was small, close, loud, and the sweat and passion in the air was palpable. The pressure was on, and they “blew it up.” They followed it up in the third slot at the Side Recs Showcase, and they all agreed that it was this show that got them feeling “like it was a real band.” They are currently working on an album for release at the end of the spring.

photo by Donna Smith

Matty Sheets could have an article (or few) written about him alone. A pillar of the Greensboro music community, he’s hosted the Gate City Port Authority show on WUAG for three years. He helped found the legendary Flatiron open mic, which ran for 11 years until the venue closed. He re-opened the open mic at NY Pizza two years ago, which has helped several artists get started in the area Besides his role as a host for the music scene, he is an accomplished songwriter in his own right: listing the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and punk rock as influences (he says he skipped the Jim Morrison phase), his musical tastes range the gamut of rock and roll and into folk—though he dislikes banjos. “Except Emily,” he clarifies about his Magpie Thief bandmate. He bought an acoustic guitar at 16, and learned chords from a friend during Chemistry class: “He got an A, and I got a D.” Since then, he’s fronted four bands, plays drums for the Fumblemuckers and the Baby Teeth, and has played with Vaughn Aed, Laila Nur, and several other acts.

His current project, the Cold Rollers, has played at NY Pizza and is working on an album for release by summer: Sheeps. Kit says, “As someone who’s heard a couple tracks—last night, he played us something from it, and it was a visceral reaction—I had to walk out of the room, it was so good.”

We talked for a while about the Greensboro music scene, and they think that it’s a great incubator scene with tons of talent despite few venues for starting acts. But this makes it special, too, as Hannah points out: “You get a lot of musicians coming to see musicians. It’s a different level of appreciation.” Kit, Hannah, and Matty all agreed that music’s something they started doing, and eventually found as natural to them as breathing. As Matty said, “It’s the one thing that’s always good.” !