Bands to Watch: Saintseneca

John Ross, Columbus Alive

Necessity is the mother invention, sometimes in the weirdest way.

For Saintseneca, quiet hours and tiny spaces transformed an adolescent indie band into a folky four-piece that now stomps, shouts and strums with the best in the city.

"We had a cheesy electric band in high school, and we wanted to continue something in college," said Luke Smith, who came from a small Appalachian town to Ohio State with bandmates Zac Little and Steve Jacobs. "It was tough for us to find a place to practice where we could make a lot of noise."

Thus the addition of a plastic trash can for percussion and crack violinist Grace Chang, who has helped hone a soft, charming acoustic sound. It exploded in September on a fantastic four-song vinyl EP released with the help of San Francisco indie imprint Paper Brigade.

Literate acoustic acts like The Decemberists come to mind, but Saintseneca takes traditional American folk in even more intriguing directions.

"Something we focus on when we are writing music is filling up that space," said Little, one of three members who rotate among guitar, banjo, dulcimer and other instruments. "Our music can be really sparse, but we try to get a full sound. If everyone's playing an instrument, what can you do but stomp?"

Simultaneously traditional and dynamic, the sound has won the band a loyal following along several recent DIY tours and within the city's thriving house-show scene.

"At some bars, it can be kind of weird or not as personal," Smith said of opting for smaller, residential venues. "Playing for 30 or 40 in a basement can be really cool."

Chang, who grew up reading sheet music and playing in school orchestras, agreed.

"For me personally, I enjoy the house show because you feel like you made friends with the people who hosted you," she explained. "Since it's so small and intimate, people are able to pick up on things more."

The band has recorded five new songs and plans to release them this year, aided by the elbow-grease ethic working just fine so far. A tour through the Midwest and East Coast is slated for spring, and a longer road stint is scheduled during summer break.