Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray are a Chicago duo of incredible talent and ablity. These friends of the club use an arsenal of Americana – from banjo and guitar to keyboard, single kick drum and some manner of finger chime – to put forth some of the most dark and heart-wrenching songwriting you’ll ever hear.
Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray is Erin Frisby (vocals, guitars, organ, piano and bango), Chris Stelloh (vocals, guitars, mandolin, harmonica and keys) and Ben Tufts (drums, vocals and mandolin). We caught up with the band to ask them a few questions about their music, their influences and their funniest moments on the road! Check it out below!
How did you two meet and what encouraged you to become a band?
Erin – Chris and I met at a Hip Hop club in D.C. on Pennsylvania Ave. that has long since closed. But more recently, he invited me to see his band play in Chicago in 2008, and we started playing music together like the next week.
Chris – Both of us were quite serious about doing music full time, so leaving our other projects behind to pursue this full time seemed like a sacrifice we needed to make.
Erin – Then we got on the road and realized we loved it, so we got rid of our apartment and our jobs and lived in our car playing shows for all of 2011, we’re kind of all or nothing.
We met Ben through the suggestion of a mutual friend when we were looking for someone to play drums live after we recorded “We’re From Here” and to that friend we say thank you. Ben is awesome.
How did you come up with the name Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray?
Erin – Shevaughn is my middle name…
Chris – Yuma and Wray are towns in Colorado on a highway sign off of Route 76. After seeing them next to each other, it seemed like a good name.
You released your debut album, We’re From Here, in September 2012. For those who aren’t familiar with your music and haven’t listened to the album yet, what can they expect?
Chris – Loud, heavy Bluesy songs and pretty, quiet folk ballads all in the same set like a Led Zeppelin record.
Erin – We draw influences from a lot of places and listen to a lot of music from different time periods. That along with our constant traveling has really informed our songwriting. We don’t worry too much about genre or image when we’re writing. We just let the storytelling and the unique way of our instrumentation and collaborative approach to performing the songs pulls it together. We all love dynamics, so we usually have a rollercoaster of emotions and impressions unfurling in each live set.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Ben– As a drummer I’m heavily influenced by John Bonham, Stewart Copeland, and a host of classic jazz drummers, including Jack Dejohnette, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Max Roach and “Philly” Joe Jones.
As a musician in general, the short, short list would be The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis, The Police, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Costello.
With MS&YW, I get to use an entire range of dynamics, textures and vocabulary, drawing equally from the post-punk and other aggressive music I grew up listening to near D.C., the rock pantheon of usual suspects, and the jazz and world music I’ve studied. We can get as quiet as a whisper, and the next second be louder than a jackhammer, and I enjoy that sort of high drama. Also, they let me sing sometimes, which is pretty cool.
Chris – My friend, Simon Flory. He introduced me to music I had never paid much attention to while living in D.C. Artists like Steve Earle & Uncle Tupelo – country musicians that weren’t really on my radar before I moved to Chicago in 2005. His influence totally changed the way that I write and play.
Erin – I grew up singing folk music with my family and then studied opera and I joined my first indie pop band in college, so I like a lot of different kinds of music. In our music I hear a lot of my parents’ records that I used to listen to as well as stuff I loved in the 90’s. Most recently, I’d say my influences include: Emmylou Harris, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, PJ Harvey and Jack White.
What is the funniest moment you’ve had on the road so far?
Chris – You do goofy stuff to blow off steam when you are on tour for a long time, but occasionally, things happen that are totally unforeseeable. The other night, after playing a show in Pittsburgh, we camped out in a Walmart parking lot at 3 AM. Our traveling companion and roadie, Chris Darby, (also a great singer/songwriter) emerged with a large plastic bear full of animal crackers and an incredulous look on his face.
Apparently, after purchasing the bear, he asked the cashier not to put it in a plastic shopping bag. He felt he was quite capable of carrying it as ‘as is’. The cashier said that she was sick of “you people” and that if he didn’t want the shopping bag, could he please just “take it outside and then throw it away”. When he attempted to protest, she responded with “don’t give me no attitude”…
Never mind the fact that we now had a giant plastic bear full of animal crackers in the van. The details surrounding the purchase of said bear have been enough to keep us in hysterics for the last week…You can see how our tour adventures have unfolded on Chris Darby’s daily tour vlog.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2013?
Erin – We’ve been playing a ton of new songs on this tour and we plan to start recording them this summer. Ben is going to fly out to California and we’re just going to start recording everything we have. I can’t wait.
Chris – Write songs, play them as much as possible. Try not to starve, continue to play music. It’s pretty much a vicious cycle that we don’t ever want to get out of.
Catch Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray playing at the Black Cat Monday April 29!