Features /// The Mind and Genre-Bending World of the Blackfoot Gypsies

10420165_10152604784239617_6180531653091047775_nI walked up to the home of Matthew Paige and Dylan Whitlow whose porch seemed appropriately decorated with beer bottles and burnt cigarettes, and was promptly greeted by a cheerful character in overalls and a mop of blonde-streaked hair. Without a chance to pipe up and introduce myself, he shouts, “Matthew, it’s for you,” and closes the door. Before my inner monologue could kick in, Paige swung open the door and invited me into the sonically charged abode, a dwelling place of some lovely East Nashville bohemians. As I walked through the living room, journeying through a repository of instruments and personality, I began to experience the unforgettable and unavoidable trance of the Blackfoot Gypsies.

The three of us sat down around a card table pushed up against a wall adorned with American memorabilia, patches, a Tennessee flag, Polaroids and an assortment of music collectibles that would seem ironic and affected if only they didn’t belong to some of the most unique individuals I have ever met. With the single Bruce Springsteen earring dangling from each of their ears and an appropriately timed delivery of a pair of Beatles’ boots, Paige and Whitlow looked iconic, Paige furthering his motif with the steel guitar that he never relinquished throughout the conversation. And with a soundtrack of blues progressions and a natural cool energy, Zack Murphy (drums) entered the room with his calm demeanor and joined the eclectic discussion.

Murphy and Paige started the Blackfoot Gypsies over four years ago, but when questioned about the expansion of the two-piece original to the current four-piece collective, the explanation was simple: “we met these guys,” Paige said, referring to Whitlow and Ollie Dogg, the band’s harmonica player and source of psychedelic vibes. Whether it was Chuck Berry that originally lured Paige to the dark side of the blues or The Stones that captivated the young minds of Whitlow and Murphy, the inspirations return to days of Chess Records, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others of those golden years. “Music is all about starting and going backwards,” Murphy preached with the supportive echoes of his band mates. Even though Paige and Murphy had started a band that absorbed their lives and produced strong music, the additions of Whitlow’s clear charisma on bass and Ollie Dogg’s sassy blues harp have amplified Paige’s sweeping and soulful vocals and Murphy’s driving presence.

“I came to town and wanted to pimp this style called Americana. But I quit using the term to describe the music because it meant something different to me than to everyone else. So if I had to describe our sound, it would be an American rock band. And American rock is blues and country,” defined Paige. Crafting songs with the reference of older musical recipes, the “fancy stuff” is left out. “Simple and effective, that’s part of the M.O. I want some cool stuff, something for the heart and soul,” and when you experience the band live, you get a show absent of set lists and one that is completely different every time. They’ll play “Summertime Blues” by The Who and sing it “like the Everly Brothers if they screamed too much” and bewitch you with originals like “Rock It Up” and “I Wanna Roll Around With You” that sink you in a groove you won’t want to leave.

“Country is what the Blackfoot Gypsies is to me. A really fast and loud country band,” cinched Whitlow. “But don’t tell anyone,” joked Paige. “They won’t like it.”

Look for Handle It, the band’s anticipated second-full length, out soon. And feel free to get dirty with their sounds tonight at the Monster Bash at Silverpoint Studios.

-Katie A.

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