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There’s no dirt on the musical wings of Filthybird

by Heather MacIntyre

Probably the most popular local band sticker one may spot in the Triad is that of Filthybird (www.myspace.com/filthybird). Originally, they commenced as a two piece for the first two and a half years, comprised of Renee Mendoza (vocals, pianos, guitar), and Brian Haran (guitars, keys, sounds). Later, they continued on to add another two members to complete their quartet for the last half of their career (five years in the making), Mike Duehring (bass) and Shawn Smith (drums). The self-proclaimed psychedelic folk pop (indie) band touches every corner of influence in their music such as Midnight Movies, Jefferson Airplane, Geraldine Fibbers, Fairport Convention, Beach House or Bjork. Then, of course, you get the typical comparisons:

“I hear Cat Power a lot I guess because I’m a girl with a slightly raspy voice that plays piano. But other than those two likenesses, it’s really not an accurate comparison,” Mendoza comments. She was born in south Texas; Brian is from New York, and the other two grew up in Greensboro. She began her musical endeavors in a band called Ashrae Fax, which she left in 2004 to pursue her own songwriting — and it looks like it was the best step for her. Filthybird is known across the state, and even nationally, for its captivating psychedelic performances. As the primary songwriter, Mendoza admits she never received any sort of musical training in her life, aside from clarinet in the school band (and Duehring played sax), an instrument that she probably hasn’t picked up since. So what has this hometown band accomplished with its live shows lately? Since their start they’ve had the fortune to share the stage with some great numbers like Vetiver, Oakley Hall, Glass Candy, Dr. John, Toots & the Maytalls — and Smashing Pumpkins and Sinead O’Connor shared the same bill as them in New Orleans for the VooDoo Fest. But before they released Southern Skies in 2007 as their debut with RedStrings, Mendoza and Haran had already put all but one song together and presented it to the two newbies.

“The album is about the ‘toils of love and life’ to quote Grayson Currin,” she continues, “It’s about heritage mostly, and facing yourself to become who you want to be.” You can pick it up at shows, or online through iTunes or www.cdbaby.com. Aside from the music, you’ll notice these four around the area doing their own thing: Brian builds and fixes guitars and amps for Roscoe Guitars (as well as recording other bands), Renee teaches physics at Elon University, Shawn is a graphic designer and Mike’s hand is broken at the moment, but he usually works at Old Towne. Currently, their main short-term goal is along the lines of recording and releasing their sophomore album, as touring usually doesn’t go further than a few weeks to 10 days at a time, sporadic throughout the year, as their jobs will allow. Their next show will be opening for the popular girl-rock duo the Moaners at Local 506 (www.local506.com) on Sept. 13. This is your chance. After that, they’ll be taking a break for a while. Why? Renee and Brian have plans to get hitched in October. Congratulations to the two of them!

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