Sounds Local: 'All Things Loved and Lost'
As we enter February, we are faced with the onslaught of Valentine’s Day and all that comes with it. Easily the most divisive holiday on the calendar, people either love the notion of cupid striking with his arrows everywhere or would prefer to never have to look at another heart-shaped box of chocolates again.
The Pioneer Valley Woman Songwriter Collective and the group June & the Bee both acknowledge the mixed emotions that surround Feb. 14. So, they have created a special pre-Valentine’s Day show. The event is being billed as “All Things Loved and Left Behind” and it will take place at The Arts Block,78 Main St., Greenfield, Saturday, Feb. 1, at 8 p.m.
“It’s a night of love songs and break-up songs, so it works for those who are looking forward to Valentine’s Day and for those who aren’t so excited for the holiday,” explained Carolyn Walker of the songwriter collective.
The Woman Songwriter Collective consists of Walker, Christa Joy, Lisa Marie Ellingsen, Wishbone Zoe and Lexi Weege. The group was founded last winter by former Greenfield resident Katie Sachs (she is currently pursuing her music career in Austin) as a way for women songwriters to support each other in the pursuit of their solo careers while also performing together as a group. When the collective takes the stage at the Arts Block, it will perform in the round and accompany one another on songs.
Like the collective, the band June & the Bee is relatively new to the local music scene, having formed only a year ago. The band started out as the duo of Emma June Ayres (June) on ukulele and vocals and her brother Eli Ayres (the Bee) on guitar and vocals. The siblings, who grew up in Amherst and continue to live there, later added their friend Zoe Langsdale on saxophone and in December brought in cello player Noah Schmitt and drummer Sam Stein.
“When we write our music we have always had the dream of a larger sound and we tried so hard to create it with just us three,” said Emma June Ayres about the band’s transformation. “We reached a point where we decided that to really flesh it out, we needed more musicians.”
June & the Bee play folk-influenced music that draws from traditional sources and features exquisite harmonies.
“To call yourself an indie folk band is to fall under a pretty big umbrella these days, so we came up with our own genre that we call ‘Fauxk.’ We have a lot of traditional folk harmonies, but then we have something that is a representation of what we all bring to the table,” Ayres explained. “It is that collaborative element that doesn’t fit in any genre, so that’s our funny way of describing ourselves.”
The group’s commitment to collaborating includes the song-writing process.
“I am primarily the lyricist and I will take my lyrics to the group and then my brother will come up with some kind of guitar riff and usually with that comes the melody,” said Ayres. “We kind of jam on that and then Zoe will add parts and help arrange everything. Most recently, the others have started to bring stuff to the group.”
As for the influences that she brings to the band, Ayres said she grew up listening to artists like Joni Mitchell, but said it was her experience attending a summer program in Amherst called Village Harmony, during which they sang music from all over the world, including old Americana songs, that had the greatest influence on her.
“My ear for that sound was fostered by my experience with Village Harmony,” she said. “Also, a lot of my friends are into archival American folk and. as I become more of a writer, I just listen to it endlessly and I think that is where a lot of our harmony sensibilities come from.”
June & the Bee is pleased that its music seems to connect with all ages and stresses that its shows are kid friendly.
In keeping with the theme of the Arts Block show, I asked Ayres, who admitted she could do with out the materialistic side of Valentine’s Day, if the band would be digging out some love songs.
“Well, we really don’t have to dig,” she said with a laugh. “It sounds horribly clichéd, but where all of us are in our lives, I guess a lot of our songs do come from the mission statement of this show.”
Listening to songs like “Speak To Me of Love” or “Canyon Man” with its lines “Read my letter canyon man/ If I can’t love you no one can/Cross the desert there’s no rain/West wind blows you east again,” you get the sense that the band has indeed written its fair share of love songs.
June & the Bee will release its debut album later this year. It is recording with producer Tommy Byrnes at his Sovereignty Studios in Bernardston and while all five band members are attending college, they are committed to taking their music as far as they can.
“This is a great area to make music and we are especially grateful that we get to make music here and that this is the place that raised us,” said Ayres. “We are awed and humbled by everything that has come our way in the short time that we have been together. We are really excited to see what comes next.”
You can hear the music of June & the Bee at www.reverbnation.com/juneandthebee1.
Tickets are $7 in advance and available at www.theartsblock.com, $10 at the door. The Woman Songwriter Collective is coordinating a Women’s History Month music every Saturday in March at 7 p.m. at the Thirsty Mind Cafe, 23 College St. in South Hadley.
It is still in the process of booking artists and interested performers should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at email@example.com