Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank influenced by early folk music
April 24, 2009
Steamboat Springs — When brothers Ian and Teague Alexy started writing and singing folk songs under the name The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, they didn’t mean for the trio to be their main musical focus.
But something about the group’s style – which drew heavily from early folk musicians, relies on relatable lyrics and was supposed to be a side project to the Alexy brothers’ other bands – connected with audiences.
Ian Alexy said he attributes the group’s popularity to “the purity aspect of it, the lack of conforming to commercial expectation. I think people can hear that.” With influences that reach past popular folk musicians such as Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, back to acts more along the lines of 1920s singer Leadbelly, The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank is an old-timey group of three – drummer Paul Grill completes the trio – that allows itself modern touches. The band plays Wednesday at the Old Town Pub.
Ian Alexy talked with 4 Points about how he and his brother came to roots music from respective rock and hip-hop backgrounds, the appeal of folk songs and the ability to keep old music new.
4 POINTS: How would you describe the type of music your band plays?
IAN ALEXY: I guess it’s roots music, like folk blues and bluegrass and rock ‘n’ roll. And the show is usually pretty high energy; we usually put out a lot of music and work pretty hard up there.
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4 POINTS: How did you get into roots music? Your bio mentions having an early interest in hard rock and grunge.
IA: For myself, I started playing guitar when I was about 13, and I was at first just into pop music, rock and the stuff that was going on. : My mom was into Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and then I got really into that sort of ’60s and ’70s folk, and then I sort of traced back to Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson.
4 POINTS: What interested you in roots music?
IA: I guess it always just kind of appealed to me on a sort of spiritual level, you might say, maybe a little more pure than the music I was used to hearing, growing up, radio music, pop music. I guess with folk music it doesn’t have the commercial excesses that make it not exciting. :
It goes back before recorded music to an oral tradition, so it’s a connection to our roots in this country and our ancestry not only in this country, but going back to Europe and Africa and everywhere else. : It’s just a very immediate form of expression.
4 POINTS: Would you say your band reaches outside of that folk rock tradition to be updated, more modern?
IA: I wouldn’t say we were a folk rock band, but I think that our music is somewhat original, maybe because we’re digging back so deep. : We’re going so far back to people like Leadbelly (folk musician Huddie Ledbetter, popular in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s), but our presentation – we’re living in this time, and we’re not exactly trying to come off like we’re out of the Dust Bowl or something, even though we’re putting those influences out front. :
Like The White Stripes, they were getting their influences from old blues stuff, but in this era, they came out as original. So that’s what I hope for with the Hobo Nephews, that in digging back we come up with something more original than your everyday band.
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