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Watership Down! juggle busy lives to make exclamation

by Ryan Snyder

For a group of musicians who got their start playing open mic nights at local bars for kicks under names like Take A Penny, Leave A Penny and Dr. Huxtable & the Christmas Sweaters, Watership Down! (www.myspace.com/ watershipdownnc) certainly has not hesitated in taking steps toward validity.

Despite being together for less than six months, half of which has been beset by band turnover, the group has released an EP entitled Grow A Beard And Be Somebody on top of playing multiple shows every week. Now with a more stable lineup, they have their eye on releasing a full album of new material and playing their biggest booking yet at Green Street Club on May 15. This means the guys have had to create time in already hectic schedules so that the band may live. For drama students Beau Wigington (vocals) and Dave May (djembe), working around acting schedules and parttime jobs in order to nurture their promising musical careers is a Herculean feat, “With six people in the band, it’s always a chore to coordinate our schedules and it’s always hard for us to get together and practice,” May said. “And then we might have a show and someone will say, ‘Oh no, I forgot to ask off work.’” Their numbers have doubled since their beginnings as a vaguely pop-punk trio, but Wigington says that was a necessity for nailing down the sound that was originally sought. They added a keyboard player, who later dropped out and was replaced by two more guitarists, Chris Carr and Aslan Freeman, who literally became the right and left hands of the keys. Add in May’s djembe playing and there is potential for highly diverse and textured music. “We added guitar and the sound got heavier after the piano lightened it up,” Wigington said. “The more we added, the more the sound was completed.” Just as the lineup was cemented, however, Freeman left the United States for New Zealand in order to study music abroad for a semester, though Watership Down! has still played 10 shows without him. They’ve maintained a faithful rendition of the target sound, however, with Wigington and Carr

learning his parts and intertwining them into their own. “We miss him a lot and it’s like a little piece of the puzzle has gone, but he’ll be back this summer,” affirmed May. After recording their first demo with a different lineup, the band still managed to record Grow A Beard And Be Somebody without his presence, but all are looking forward to having him back. They are planning on working with local producer Drew Fulk of Think Sound, who May says has some ideas on how to reign in their wildly diverse blend of rock, tango and waltz music. They’ve been compared to everyone from Guster to the Avett Brothers to even Aerosmith, but a lot of that has to do with the way they mix up acoustic and electric material — they mixed banjo into one set after guitarist Mike Thompson couldn’t make the show. Wigington says that while it’s still out of reach, their goal is to record a double album with separate electric and acoustic discs. “We all have different tastes in music and if you listen to our EP, a little bit of all of our tastes come out,” Wigington said. “But we’re continuing to explore and get every category on our list.”

Watership Down! will be performing at the Soundvent on May 1.

Thephotographer is Chris Raddatz, and the members include Beau Wigingtonin the gray shirt, Mike Mann in the vest, Chris Carr in the Brownshirt, Dave May in the Green shirt and Mike Thompson in the black shirt.

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