Area Band Sycamore Bones Writing Original Music, Merging Musical Genres

Roots music, including folk, country, bluegrass and alternative rock, guide band making a name for themselves in Western North Carolina

LENOIR, N.C. – When Andrew Massey was struggling to get a start in Lenoir as a musician a couple of years ago, he did something a bit unusual to find folks that would join him to form a band – he posted a plea on Craig’s List.

Massey explained, “I was encouraged by Anna, my wife, to play out more. So, I started at Open Mike Night at 1841 Café about two years ago. Nobody was showing up. I made a flyer and put it on Craig’s List under the music section and that week Cory Kinal showed up. We like to joke and say we met on Craig’s list with ‘No strings attached.’” He continued, “I was excited that somebody my age was there. As soon as he started playing I knew I wanted to be in a band with that guy. We started jamming together and I went and bought an upright bass in South Carolina so we could start an acoustic band.”

Sycamore Bones

The band Sycamore Bones includes Cory Kinal (left), Andrew Massey, Ian Haas and Jason Barr. Photo by Revival Photography.

While the two played together as a duo for a year or more and added a vocalist, Michelle Ervin – who had to leave the band because she moved to South Carolina – in the last year they’ve added the two other members of the band. Drummer Ian Haas of Lenoir and lead guitarist Jason Barr of Newton now round out the group. Kinal, also of Newton, plays acoustic guitar and does vocals, as does Massey, who plays bass. He also lives in Lenoir.

The band is having a gig this Saturday in Newton at Carolina Vines, located at 19 N. College Avenue. The concert starts at 7 p.m.

All of the band members are in their 20s, except for Kinal, who is the “old man” at 30. What sets them apart from many other bands trying to make a living by playing in breweries, wineries, and bars is that they write and play most of their own music. Massey shared, “Cory and me both write. In a three hour set, I’d say about 90 to 95 percent of what we play is original music.” He continued, “We don’t write together. It’s mainly a solitary activity for both of us. Cory and I write and compose on acoustic guitar the lyrics, melody, and basic instrumentation. Then we bring it to the band. They add their touch to it.”

The band’s name was evolutionary, explained Massey. Yet, noted Massey, “It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves. The Beatles is not a good name for a rock group. It’s what you bring to it. I think a band name, if you’re talented, will conform to you.” Indeed, said Massey, once that was settled they could focus on the more important matter – writing music. “It is all based in roots music – country, folk, and bluegrass.” He added, “Given that we all grew up in the 90s there is an alternative rock edge to some of it too.”

They’ve played in venues in Caldwell, Burke and Catawba counties, as well as other locations in Western North Carolina.

While cobbling together time to practice when each member have other jobs is not easy, the most challenging aspect of their work, said Massey, is the pressure they put on themselves to perform their own music. “Three hours of playing your own music as opposed to cover is a lot of work,” he said. The artists they do cover include John Prine, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Neil Young and others.

Kinal has written a song called “Meth.” Massey explained, “The song is tragic. Cory is a juvenile detention officer. The story is about a kid that was a drug addict and he asked Cory how he could stay clean if his parents couldn’t stay clean.” He continued, “It’s upbeat sounding. It fools you. We play it in a major key. It really doesn’t resolve anywhere.”

A tune Massey wrote is called, “Girl.” He shared, “I actually wrote it for my wife when we just started dating. Essentially it’s about wanting to know somebody more. But it’s not about physical intimacy, it’s about relational intimacy. Mining for diamonds is one of the metaphors in the first verse. It’s about digging to build that knowledge and intimacy.”

Next up for the band is making a record. Massey revealed, “Recording is a long and arduous process considering we all have jobs and some of us have families. Just getting everyone scheduled together takes a lot of work.” Still, he offered, “Hopefully we’ll have this done by the beginning of summer. It will have about five songs.”

Song lyrics

In “Meth,” the chorus is, indeed, thought-provoking. “Hey momma’s on the methamphetamine / If she won’t try how could I stay clean? / And her only lullaby is a bottle of codeine, codeine / Why waste life lost on a dream? / Hey momma’s on the methamphetamine, methamphetamine.”  (© Cory Kinal).

Massey’s tune, “Girl” is rooted in natural imagery and expresses a universal theme, expressed by musicians and poets for centuries – looking for a lifelong love. The first verse is: “Girl: / Every time I look in to your eyes / My heart, it gets a little bit jealous sometimes / Of all that you’ve got on inside your mind / I’d like to mine the diamonds underneath your sky.” (© Andrew Massey).

Learn More

To learn more about Sycamore Bones, visit their Facebook page:

© The Lenoir Voice, 2016.

Editor’s note: Andrew Massey is a contributing writer to The Lenoir Voice.

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On Twitter: @lenoirvoice

2 responses to “Area Band Sycamore Bones Writing Original Music, Merging Musical Genres

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