New band, old dreams

The Unknown Americans get political

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The voice of The Unknown Americans laments the fall of the American dream.

"It used to be that as long as you worked hard and lived an honest life, you can have a family and a house," said Danny Shafer, the band's songwriter, singer and guitarist. "It doesn't seem like that would make a difference now."

Shafer said The Unknown Americans' music has become a spin-off of the styles of John Hiatt and Bruce Springsteen.

"We're a generation away from those guys, and we have a different economic scale to live up to," Shafer said. "Our generation is lucky if we have jobs that we like and people that we can relate to."

Shafer's observations of present-day America dominate his songwriting.

"There are so many people who are working so hard to have so little these days," Shafer said. "It's disturbing, because this is the most politics I've ever talked about out of 500 interviews."

The Unknown Americans is made up of a trio of Boulder residents who formed the band in the fall with little effort.

"This band just came together almost without us thinking about it," Shafer said. "The music scene chose this band before we chose the music scene."

Jason Pawlina, Kort McCumber and Shafer each came from other bands that recently had broken up.

"It came together so naturally," Shafer said. "The skeleton was built, and all we had to do was put it together."

Shafer described the band's sound as a mix of Lyle Lovett and Tom Petty.

"We love to play really strong ballads," he said. "There is three of us, but a lot of sound is coming out of trios these days."

Band members chose the name The Unknown Americans to represent the voice of every person.

"I truly relate to that name. When we walk out on stage, we are like everybody else," Shafer said. "Nobody's out in front, nobody's in the back, everybody is equal."

Each of the band members has been in the music industry for a long time. Now, they are focused on taking that experience on the road.

"We're a group that is good at listening to wherever the music takes us instead of trying to plan it all," Shafer said.

He said the band's momentum has been almost too fast to keep up with. He's not sure where the future will take the band, but there's one thing Shafter knows is true: "We can act like we're not, but we are all the unknown Americans."

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