Sunday, August 26, 2007

Guitar, mandolin, tenor ukulele, banjo, triangle, vocals: The Figs

The Figs playing

The Figs playing

The Figs playing

Interview with The Figs

Artists: Caroline Helm (triangle), Gillian Johnson (tenor ukulele), Page (Mandolin), Sarah Gray (guitar), Claire (banjo)
Medium: Triangle, tenor ukulele, mandolin, guitar, banjo
Location: Union Square by the 14th street and University Place train entrance

A little Southern sunshine on an otherwise rainy New York day, The Figs lent their vibrant energy to travelers and chillers taking shelter under a subway gazebo in Union Square. A lively band playing bluegrass/Americana tunes, it was a pleasure to squeeze in among the crowd and get some video of the all girl band.

Despite the skills you hear here, the band is actually composed of a bunch of people who never really studied music and some of whom aren’t even playing on their normal instruments. Page, for example, explains that she’s actually the drummer of the group but, being unable to transport the drum set, is playing the mandolin. Caroline, on the triangle, similarly notes that she’s actually the bass player (although I think the triangle is quite a nice touch). All the Figs agree, however, that few of them even played an instrument or were very good at it Caroline started the band last May.

The Figs started as a jam session Caroline arranged when she got tired of learning the guitar by herself. All of the members of The Figs have friends who are very talented musicians and they started jamming together as a group of less experienced musicians. In fact, each member of the band has a “real” job in addition to the band – Caroline is a social worker; Gillian is a graphic designer; Page, a graduate of Yale, works for the Lafayette City Parks, Sarah is an English school teacher and Claire is an art school teacher. But, as we all know it takes more than study to be good in music, it takes guts; and soon after jamming they took the streets of Lafayette as The Figs.

Gillian, who had been a booking agent for a lot of other bands, got The Figs a string of great gigs from Louisiana to New York. The girls have had a great time playing and consider playing in the streets of New York “kind of getting back to where we started.” However, they note that playing in New York is different because of the diversity of people – “They look at us like they’re crazy…well, they look at us like we’re crazy in Lafayette too, but the people are more homogenous.”

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1 comment:

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