You don’t hear a lot of bands sporting a fiddle, banjo, upright bass, mandolin, bass and harmonica on Maui. The string band is definitely a unique sound for the island, and comes courtesy of BrownChicken BrownCow. Their musical influences bubble up from their home, the Appalachian region, but the band has created their own flavor of American folk revival by adding a barrel load of funk. Of course, you won’t get the same experience listening to BrownChicken BrownCow through headphones–their music is in its plucky element only when live.
The band doesn’t usually kiss and tell, but for their upcoming “One Night Stand” show, Maui’s only slot on the BrownChicken BrownCow dance card, guitarist Justin Morris puckered up:
MAUITIME: BrownChicken BrownCow visits Maui at least once a year. What’s your connection to the island?
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: The band has spent a lot of time on island living and being part of the musical community. It feels like a second home to us–it feels very natural to be here once a year. We would like to make it more than once a year if we’re able.
MT: So who’s in the band and what do they play?
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: There’s myself on guitar, dobro, upright bass; Xander Hitzig: lead vocals, fiddle, guitar, tenor banjo; Matt Del Olmo: vocals, banjo, upright bass, guitar; Orion Hitzig: mandolin, fiddle; [There’s also special guests] Hutch Hutchinson: bass [and] Steve Sargenti: harmonica.
MT: Tell us about Hutch and Steve: why add them to your lineup this year?
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: Hutch and Steve have been part of our story since the beginning. Steve and Hutch have always spent time encouraging us and helping us with their talents whenever they have been available. We look up to both of those guys.
MT: For the last five years you’ve toured extensively. How has that affected your music?
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: Meeting all the people during our touring has had a huge effect on our music. Everyone we have taken time to meet, jam and socialize with has a small piece of the puzzle. From East Coast to the West Coast, to Alaska, Puerto Rico and especially Hawaii, our music has gained eclectic musical influences that we have stirred into our recipe.
MT: Describe your musical recipe to fans.
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: BCBC composes and performs original music influenced by our Appalachian roots in West Virginia. Numerous critics around the United States have coined it “BrownChicken” as a genre in light of its unique delivery. We call it BrownChicken… Everyone in the band writes music and writes their own parts to other band members songs. So over the years, we’ve learned how to compliment each others’ style and create the sound that is truly original. Honestly, the music leads us. We have spent so much time performing and living together, we have a strong connection that creates spontaneous and exciting results on stage.
MT: What has being on the road taught you?
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: Every day is new and has an opportunity to be the day to change your future. Turn your obstacles into opportunities. Never judge by appearances, and being humble and living with the spirit of aloha opens doors to life’s treasures. Anywhere we go, our music has attracted the most interesting people and created lifelong bonds within a tribe of like-minded folks that genuinely love life and the joy that music brings people. Music is old fashioned magic. Traveling as much as we have has taught us that if you play from the heart and follow where the music leads you. You will end up exactly where you are supposed to be.
MT: For BrownChicken BrownCow, where was that?
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: We’ve traveled all over the United States–up, down, left, right and center. With every new town or city comes so many different experiences from playing in peoples living rooms to playing on the sidewalk to playing in venues in front of a packed house to playing in front of an almost completely empty room. So many incredible stories come from this after doing it for years on end.
MT: Share with us a little of that old fashioned magic.
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: It’s hard to pick out one or two magic events that are favorites. I guess living in a van down in New Orleans for a few weeks stands out. Talk about a good time! I think busking on the sidewalks in the French Quarter was almost too good of a time and was a very unique character-building experience. I think anyone that’s interested in playing music for a living should go do that–no matter where they are in their musical career, it can only make them better.
MT: Busking on corners, packed house shows and now Maui. How long will you stay?
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: Well, Matt and I are currently Maui residents. As for the Hitzig brothers, they are living in Portland, Oregon and will be on island for three weeks. We’ve been looking forward to seeing each other and our friends and family on island. Making jungle memories and playing music is one of our favorite ways to spend our time.
MT: When BCBC isn’t traveling and playing together, you have side projects–Yum Yum Beast is one and the Hitzig Brothers is another. What are these bands and when can we see them?
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: Yum Yum Beast is a project created by Matt Del Olmo and me with drummer James Bowersox and bass player John Michael. This band is fully electrified Hillbilly Funk. You can follow Yum Yum Beast on their Facebook page. They will perform this spring on Maui. Once a month you can catch the Yum Yum Beast Duet performing at Fleetwood’s on Front Street for the rooftop dining show. The Hitzig Brothers is a duet project that Orion and Xander started. There’s a certain kind of magic that happens when two brothers play music together–kind of like ESP or something crazy like that–and they wanted to see how far it could go. A lot of the music they play is inspired by old time Italian, swing, bluegrass jazz and old style country. The Hitzig Brothers are opening up for the Keels at Charley’s in Paia on Feb. 13 so if you’re interested in hearing them, come on out. They will also be playing around Portland later this spring and be posting upcoming shows on their website Hitzigbrothers.com.
MT: Why is it important for you to flex creatively and musically in different directions?
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: From all the different side projects we get involved in, we each grow and put more tools in our toolbox. Then when we get the band together for shows, each musician is just that much stronger and versatile. It’s nice to have a variety of artistic outlets.
MT: Ok, to wrap up, tell us one thing we probably don’t know or have never heard about BCBC.
JUSTIN MORRIS, BROWNCHICKEN BROWNCOW: One thing that most people don’t know or don’t think about is how our band operates. BCBC String Band is completely independent, self-produced and self-managed. With the help of our fans, we’ve traveled for five years all over the map on BrownChicken Power. Some folks see our tour schedule and hear our albums and assume we’re on a label or under professional management, but we actually have just networked and pushed to keep it all happening. We couldn’t do any of it without the support of our fans.
ONE NIGHT STAND
BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand
Saturday, Feb. 7, 10pm
Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon
142 Hana Hwy., Paia
Photos by: Al Bodenhamer