Locals Only: Saintseneca

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Although three of Saintseneca's four members hail from the tiny Appalachian town of Caldwell, the band doesn't view its banjo-, dulcimer- and fiddle-infused folk tunes as an extension of their regional music tradition.

"People tend to think of [Appalachian music] as being a banjo-picking thing," Zac Little said, "but it's not really. It's more like Toby Keith."

For Little, Luke Smith and Steve Jacobs, switching from amplified power chords to unplugged rustic strums was more of a practical concern. Upon enrolling at Ohio State and moving to Columbus two years ago, they had little choice but to quiet down.

"We were in a band in high school together, and we had pretty much played music together since we were really young," Little said. "We were in a rock band, and we couldn't play that in my apartment, so we just started playing acoustic instruments."

The trio began accumulating stringed instruments, added fellow undergrad Grace Chang on violin and transformed a plastic trash bin they jacked from the basement of Jacobs' dorm into the most unconventional percussion instrument in Columbus since Psychedelic Horseshit used a cardboard box as a kick drum.

"I really didn't want to take it. I didn't think it was that great," Smith said. But he soon became, as Little put it, "the total trash can advocate," often pounding his open hands on the plastic as de facto percussionist - when Jacobs isn't stomping on it, that is.

With all the ingredients in place, Saintseneca quickly found the magic touch that has won them instant approval from an underground network of friends and fans in the local DIY scene. Whether playing in a living room, a bar, a clothing boutique or under a bridge, Saintseneca attracts a dozens-strong throng of devotees singing, stomping and clapping along to their threadbare anthems.

The next such gathering will be Friday at Used Kids, where the band will celebrate the release of its self-titled 7-inch record alongside Couch Forts and Letters to the Moon.

The four-song EP is a sampler of Saintseneca's highly harmonized, deeply rhythmic spin on American folk music, from the wistful, rolling rumble of "God Bones" and "No Names" to the choral splendor of slow jams "Shipwrecked" and "Water to Wine."

Live, the band is a blustery storm of traded instruments and shared vocal duties, waxing and waning between thunderous foot stamps and naked dulcimer strums.

They prefer to play without microphones if they can help it, though their official blog states that they'll play "anywhere, especially where it echoes and there's a good floor to stomp on."

E-mail your local music news to Chris DeVille at cdeville@columbusalive.com


When: 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2

Where: Used Kids Records, Campus

Web: myspace.com/saintseneca