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The easy to Google Eli Whitney Houston and the Cotton Gin and Tonics came to the WERS studio in high spirits. The five of them all seemed to be great friends, joking and laughing, they created a very fun atmosphere right from the start. The local Boston act came with an interesting array of instruments; acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drum kit, mandolin, and violin all had an active presence in the mix.
Elias Bouquillon (or, Eli) introduced the song “That One Thing” as being dedicated to his niece. The song’s intro was primarily a vocal harmony, whit the occasion strumming of a chord, letting it ring out over their perfectly harmonized singing. Subtly, the strings introduced themselves and held a presence through the rest of the song. However, what really drove the song was the vocal, which were at the forefront of the song in its entirety. The band employed the use of large gaps of silence between lines in the verse, only to all break the silence at once without any obvious regard for rhythm. This created a strange sense of tension in the song, but the anxiety was always relived pleasantly.
The next song the band played “Tunnels” seemed to come out of nowhere compared to their first. It was far more energetic and had a more rock orientated, aggressive edge. This was largely due to the introduction of the drums, with hi hits being played at a speed I have only heard matched on the sequencer of Lex Luger’s laptop. Lead singer Eli’s voice sounded very much like a 90s grunge singers, especially for a band that is typically labeled as folk. The surprises didn’t stop there, the violin played dissonant, John Cale style tremolos before the song broke into a Stone Temple Pilots style breakdown. The song constantly caught me off guard, and was a bizarre experience. The band’s eclectic sound has evolved over time “We’ve been playing these songs for 3 years I’ve seen them evolve a lot” said bassist Socrates Cruz. “Its been a crazy few years,” Eli continued “We’ve worked with so many different bands. Its hard not to change what I do, with all this crazy stuff going on”
The final song the band played “The Neverben Inn” continued the trend of breaking expectations. The most prominent feature of the song was the plucked violin being run through a delay effect, creating a unique, psychedelic sound. “My main influence came from playing electric guitar,” explained violinist Sarah Fylak, “I wanted it to feel more natural playing violin in a band setting.” As eerie as the sounds sometimes were in the song, it remained impressively catchy and immediate. The mandolin joined in on the fun, having its own solo complete with the utilization of an impressive pedal board. The treatment of a mandolin as a guitar was logical for Sean McDermott, “I started using the mandolin in a band and realized ‘I need to amplify it,’” he said “and I had a pedal board, so I just ran it through the pedals, I started messing around, and it sounded cool and we figured ‘oh lets do that.’” By the end of it, the bands set served as further proof as to how arbitrary the word “folk” is in 2013.