Band gives free kazoos and — yahoo! — fun
Andy Bean is one half of the Two Man Gentleman Band, a fusion of the music of 100 years ago: hot jazz, vaudvillean, classic country, with comedy. To give you an idea, their latest song is an ode to William Howard Taft. They work strings, vocals and kazoos into their family-friendly act. Two Man Gentleman Band played at the Empty Glass on Sept. 18 and at Culture Fest in Pipestem on Sept. 19. For more info, check out www.myspace.com/twomangentlemenband.
Graffiti: You’ve been doing some hard touring. How long will you be on the road?
AB: This is a short trip for us, just four dates between New York City and West Virginia. We typically go out in two-three week stretches. All in all, we perform about 125 dates per year. We’ll go anywhere that there’s the slightest demand for two-man novelty banjo music.
Graffiti: Both you and the WiYos are from New York. What is it about the area that has been an incubator for the music of the Edwardian era?
AB: Incubator? Heavens, no! Quite the opposite, I think. That a city of 12 million can support ONLY two vaudevillian-swing bands is not an encouraging sign for the genre. And I must say: The WiYos are our dear friends, but they’re a bunch of tired hacks who should hang up their washboards.
Graffiti: The music you do is older than any that you would have been exposed to, even through grandparents. How did you get involved with it?
AB: When my gentleman partner, The Councilman, and I were younger, neither of us was terribly enthralled with contemporary music. So, we sought out recordings that spoke to us and somehow we both found 1920s hot jazz and the like. But, we don’t seek to re-create the records we enjoy. The great deception of The Two Man Gentlemen Band is that, with a few exceptions, we perform only our own compositions. We may sound anachronistic. But by virtue of the fact that we wrote all our songs within the last few years, I suppose, technically, we’re making modern music.
Graffiti: Who are your musical influences?
AB: I’m a disciple of four-string banjo legend Eddie Peabody. And I like it when Chico Marx plays the piano. And I also listen to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” every night before we go on stage.
Graffiti: What music are you listening to these days?
AB: Right now, I’ve got on a record by the Jean Goldkette Orchestra with Bix Biederbecke. But, in a few minutes I’ll be listening to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” We’re playing a show tonight.
Graffiti: How did you go from being a Central Park busker to touring band with representation?
AB: Simple. We started giving out free kazoos. We still do at every show, courtesy of our generous sponsor Kazoos.com.
Graffiti: How were you able to spend two years playing in the park? Did you have other jobs or family support?
AB: Unlikely as it may seem, our street and subway performing allowed us to achieve a level of dignified poverty. We did and still do a bit of non-musical part-time work when we have time off, but this is mostly so that we can afford expensive bourbon.
Graffiti: What has been your biggest gig to date?
AB: We played for a few thousand folks at the Pickathon Roots Music Festival in Portland, Ore. We played a private show for late night celebrity Carson Daly at his apartment in New York City. He didn’t invite us on his TV show.
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