The Appleseed Collective 2011
Fast and loose
by Chris Berggren
The Appleseed Collective is true to its name, at least the "collective" part; "appleseed" I can't vouch for. Members of the Ann Arbor band--Andrew Brown on guitar, Brandon Smith on fiddle and mandolin, Sophie Tulip on bass and ukulele, and Vince Russo on washboard--share everything from singing to songwriting to the stage spotlight. As four microphones were positioned in a row across the front of the stage at the Blind Pig, a woman leaned over to me and predicted, "These kids are going to tear it up." Tearing it up is not something that immediately comes to mind when referring to acoustic Americana-based music (the Appleseed Collective actually describes its music as "Americana folk jazz"), but moments later the band took the stage and proceeded, in fact, to tear it up.
The band formed just this past November, after a chance encounter between Brown and Smith led to an impromptu jam session in front of Cafe Ambrosia. Smith, who happened to have his fiddle handy, was looking for musicians to play with, as his previous band, Why I Oughta, had recently broken up, and Brown, who was able to scrounge up a guitar, was looking for a new musical direction after leaving the White Ravens. They immediately decided to form a band, and things came together quickly--Brown knew Russo from the White Ravens and was dating Tulip. They played their first gig less than a month later, on December 1. According to Smith, he'd been playing mostly gypsy jazz, and Brown is into New Orleans-influenced Dixieland, and so the Appleseed Collective's sound is basically a meshing of those two styles. Whatever the style, the music is fun and infectious, and the crowd at the Blind Pig couldn't help but move to it.
Brown, Smith, and Tulip took turns on lead vocals, with Russo chiming in as well, but the band was at its best when multiple vocalists were involved. They played two well-chosen covers, "Some of These Days,"
a song Sophie Tucker made popular in 1911, and "My Life Will Be Sweeter Someday," an old gospel song. But most of the music is their own, impressive for a band that's only been together for a matter of months. Four songs they played that night were brand new and had never been performed in front of an audience before. Smith says that he, Brown, and Tulip all write songs and that they all also brought compositions they'd been working on into the band. The songs are well written, and musically the band is fast and loose--in a good way--and capable of changing tempo with ease. The Appleseed Collective is young, talented, full of energy, and playing a type of music that is hardly in abundance in southeast Michigan. And the washboard is a very underrated instrument.
The Appleseed Collective headlines a show at the Blind Pig Saturday, June 18.
[Originally published in June, 2011.]