Altamont hosts all American family band

By June Bunch – kbunch@unca.edu – Staff Writer | March 4, 2015 |

Three sets of brothers, two sets of sisters and one snowy Altamont Theatre night last Thursday lured a crowd of music fans unfazed by the storm.

 

Doors opened and each seat spilled with clumps of coats and shed winter layers. Spectators came to see the headlining band, The Vespers, along with The Sun Cans and The Maggie Valley Band.

 

The Sun Cans, made up of the Liner and the Young brothers, took to the stage first.

 

“I actually thought the drummer and one of the singers were brothers. I probably would have even believed them if they said they were a band of four brothers, all related,” said Ashlee Stephens, fan.

 

From first glance, a handful of fans said it was hard to figure which brothers were which.

 

“People mix us up all the time. We’ve thought about just playing around with people,” said Micaiah “Kai” Liner, 23, the Sun Can’s singer and acoustic guitarist.

 

The three grinning indie-pop guitarists, all in khakis, shifted back and forth in sync. Kai Liner threw his arms in huge circles between guitar strums. The tempo cranked crisp vibes, Stephens said.

 

“It has been nice to start playing out more because we’ve been enjoying these other bands’ great music,” said Ethan Liner, 21, the Sun Can’s singing electric guitarist.

 

Ethan Liner, the experimental one, said he always wanted to be a musician. When he was five, he said he found a piano in his basement and banged on keys until he was convinced he could grow up to be like Beethoven.

 

Kai Liner, the poppy and formulaic one, said he learned how to play guitar later, which led Ethan Liner to try out the bass. The two practiced in close proximity since.

 

“We still live together. We live in the same room and our studio is above our bedroom. I’ll be asleep and Ethan will be playing songs upstairs,” Kai Liner said.

 

Ethan Liner said he would practice in their room as loud as he could until Kai Liner would finally accept his songs and help play them. The brothers said they butted heads a lot, but always put their “big boy pants on” and helped each other out eventually.

 

Kai Liner said the proximity allowed heaps of trial and error for their music. They’ve played anything, from hip-hop to gospel, according to Ethan Liner.

 

“There’s a lot of songs and genres we’ve worked through to get to here,” Kai Liner said.

 

Regarding working together, the Liners said their lifelong understanding of each other made it easier to shoot candidly through ideas and remain up-front throughout the writing process.

 

“I think Sam and Casey are the same way,” Ethan Liner said regarding the Young brothers, their bassist and drummer.

 

The Liner brothers said having another set of siblings in the band made the whole band an extended family.

 

“We’re coming from the same place. Brothers have a specific type of humor, the lifelong kind,” Ethan Liner said.

 

***

 

After the Sun Cans’ set, they cleared the stage for The Maggie Valley Band. Whitney and Caroline Miller filled the stage with the night’s third pair of siblings along with Blane Fowler, the banjo player in a bowler hat.

 

With oversized sweaters and bopping hair-beads, the trio let out folky Americana sounds with their banjo, steel guitar and upright bass.

 

Once the crowd warmed up, the Vespers made their way to the stage.

 

“It’s family night, everybody,” said Bruno Jones, the Vespers’ upright bass player.

 

The Vespers, made up of the Cryar sisters, Phoebe and Callie, and the Jones brothers, Taylor and Bruno, poked fun at the number of siblings performing before them.

 

“Well, break out the Uno,” said Taylor Jones, the Vespers’ drummer.

 

Without delay, Callie Cryar, the Vespers’ high harmony singer and string instrumentalist, roared a powerhouse introduction. She belted “Grinnin’ in your Face” with a slowly progressing steel-guitar backing. The drums picked up and the stage started stomping.

 

Callie Cryar yanked the microphone off its stand and leaped in high notes and high heels, whipping her ever-swinging hair into knots.

 

“This is the fourth night we’ve toured in a place with a state of emergency,” Taylor Jones said.

 

With snow on the ground, heavy and gray, fans left their weather worries behind to see the show.

 

“This storm doesn’t faze us,” Callie Cryar said.

 

With a baby growing in her belly and a guitar hanging on her shoulders, Phoebe Cryar, The Vespers’ low harmony singer and string instrumentalist closed her big, bright eyes and started serenading “Sisters and Brothers” in soulful, slow breaths.

 

Off stage, the story of the band’s growth spanned their own personal storms.

 

“We grew up together, basically. It’s been six years or so of pretty hectic developmental years. Especially as far as going from teenage years into adult life go. We made that transition together,” Taylor Jones said.

 

After starting the band at 19 when the youngest member, Phoebe Cryar, was just 15 years old, the drummer said the band saw the best and worst of each other.

 

“It was not easy going through all these transformative things, but you’re bonded for life because of it,” Taylor Jones said.

 

Growing out of doubts and beginners’ jitters, the band faced fears together, he said.

 

“I used to be really afraid of an empty room, but then you know what the best thing that happened to us was? To have had that happen. Then all of a sudden, I didn’t have nightmares about it anymore because, well, it wasn’t that bad. It didn’t kill me,” Taylor Jones said.

 

After three albums, he said they’ve learned a great deal about touring, writing and perfection-seeking along the way.

 

“Imperfection is more relatable to the average person than perfection. There needs to be a human element because perfection is a dead end road,” according to Taylor Jones.

 

He said the band played raw feeling and emotion because of such, which was what people drove through the snow to see. They didn’t come to see imitations, they had a relationship with their fans, according to Taylor Jones.

 

“Being vulnerable on stage has been a cauldron for all kinds of disaster and beauty and all that stuff mixed up in one,” he said.

 

The band said they would take their best shot at being themselves and sink or swim doing just that. Because, Taylor Jones said, whether it resulted in an amazing experience or a night to learn from, they learned how to communicate to their audience using their reactions.

 

“Phoebe Cryar, probably our most gifted song writer, interprets the world and communicates it through lyrics. Whether she wants to or not, it’s something that happens anyways. Call it an overflow of creativity, like a coffee cup that’s too full, but she just needs to pour out that creativity that’s inside her,” Taylor Jones said.

 

Hence, music became The Vespers’ outlet. Working independently, the band released three albums including their latest, Sisters and Brothers, which fans helped fund through Kickstarter.

 

“We had to get humbled a little bit with production because this business is completely fan supported. There’s no record label filling up the Vespers’ gas tank,” according to Taylor Jones.

 

Taylor Jones said they dedicate their shows to having an experience with the people that might shine a light on something close to their hearts.

 

“Usually passion makes talents come easily, and if it’s a gift that’s fruitful to more people than just yourself, that’s probably what you should be doing with your life,” Taylor Jones said.

 

 

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