By Anthony L. Montalvo
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with four of the six members from Bon Sage, a local band rooted in Oshkosh, with members from four cities. All donning leather jackets, sipping beers and old-fashioneds, in the growing light of Oblios, I conversed with Jason Bank (guitar, slide guitar, mandolin), Kyle Merckx (guitar, keys, theremin), Weston Broske (vocals, bass, theremin), and Andy Adamietz (trumpet, trombone, accordion). Rob Murphy (drums, pots and pans) and Art Maratos (tenor and baritone saxophones) couldn’t make the interview.
Bron Sage, the name brought forth by Bank (when asked how the name came about, all of them immediately casted their fingers at Bank), has a long, elaborate back story that not many people know or have heard, including me. Bantering playfully Bank stated, “I plead the 4th and the 5th… It kind of just happened, a conglomeration of things… It’s a really ‘stupid’ play on the Bronze Age and I liked how it looked… weird and mysterious. You can’t tell if it’s a person’s name, or a stage name, or a band, or a… spice store.” Laughter overcame us all. He continued, “I think it is strong and in a weird way reflects a lot of what we are doing.” Wherever it comes from, people are, almost always, confused about how to sound it out or spell it.
When it comes to the sound of the band, I don’t know where to start, and neither did they. As many times as I have seen the Bron Sage boys, the sound seems to always change. Each individual member brings their own sound and background to the table. Andy and Kyle come from a more classical background; where Bank was raised on country, western, blues, and classic rock; and Weston’s background is more experimental. With all of these different backgrounds there seems to be a place where they all meet, more like the edges of these sounds, and that brings about their sound. “It kind of helps us when we are putting our own parts into it,” states Andy, “and even if we go into it with thinking, ‘this might sound dumb, but let’s try it,’ it might end up actually sounding cool.” Weston adds with a laugh, “That’s how most of your songs come about.”
Every time I see them play I always pick up something new. One show they could sound heavier on the blues, while the next, they are, probably unintentionally, focused on a jazzier sound. But most of the time you can hear the Led Zeppelin influence. These sounds come from the many instruments that the band uses. From the more traditional, like the guitar and bass, to, the more unusual, like a theremin, or accordion, or a banjo. With the caliber of musicians these boys are, you could throw any instrument they haven’t played, in front of them, and within an hour at least one of them will have a great handle on it.
With all that great sound and experience doesn’t come without influence, and the Sage boys are no different. Whether it’s a regionally well known band or even a local band, Bron Sage are not shy of their influences. And the list of these bands is not a short one. If you would go on the band’s Facebook page, you would find that the list of influences is longer than any other information on that page. I think that shows how humble these guys can be, and says more about how they respect and admire other musicians more than they want to be admired themselves. Sitting with these guys while they talk about music and musicians proves my point. Some of the national and international influences they spoke about vary. For example: Tom Waits, Queens of the Stone Age, The B-52’s, Danzig, and of course Led Zeppelin, which happens to be their collective favorite band. As for their local influences they mentioned such bands as: The Traveling Suitcase, The Sleepwalkers, The Midwestern Charm, The Dead Horses, The Southside Stranglers, and many more.
Bank talked about playing and collaborating with some of these local bands, “We play with a lot of people we like, and there are a lot of bands we like, and there is a weird thing where a cross pollination happens. We play tons of shows with bands like The Traveling Suitcase,…and we start to pick up things and compare things like songs and equipment and…if there isn’t, so much of an influence, there is a presence of being in such close quarters (a few of these bands share a practice space), there is a natural connection and it just naturally happens.” Weston added, “We’re just friends with a lot of great musicians.”
No matter what type of music you might be into, I think Bron Sage has something for you. And that’s BRON SAGE, not Bronze Age or Brown Sage, it can be tricky. You can find more information about the band on Facebook, search Bron Sage and on Twitter under BronSageBand. You can also follow each individual member on twitter. As of right now there is no, near future, shows on the books, but keep your ears to the ground and the Sage will turn up somewhere, eventually. Keep your ears posted for a New Year’s Eve show because there might be one. They can also, usually, be found at local music festivals like Feed Your Head Fest and Mile of Music. If you would like to book Bron Sage for a show, they can be contacted via their Facebook page (BronSage) or Twitter account (BronSageBand). Bands like Bron Sage make it fun to go out and see local music.
If you need me, I’ll be in the library! firstname.lastname@example.org