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Getting Strange
an interview with Brothers Van Kirk + 1

by Cindy-jo Dietz

THIS BAND IS STRAIGHT UP — Local Island Hipster. Complete with trailers in the back yard, a decent tan, a tattoo or two somewhere, plenty of hippie chicks to cover the dance floor, and funky outfits. When you go to a Strange Arrangement show you will be entertained. This is a mish mosh group of friends and musicians who mix it up every chance they get. I would say it’s experimental, but each time I see a show it seems like they’ve practiced it a hundred times. Some might call them a jam band, but keeping the beat going is what I believe makes them popular. It’s a good time from start to finish.

The core of the group are the Brothers Van Kirk — namely, Warren and Greg. They hail from Saint James City out on Pine Island. The group practices in a trailer behind their house. I think this is the part where I get all cliche’ and say “This is where the magic happens”.

With an ever changing lineup, the brothers make it a constant habit to invite friends to join the fun. Whether in the studio or on the stage you can never tell who might jump up and get in on the act. Although, the general lineup includes... Lehel Barabas on trumpet, Garrett Foster on drums & percussion, Mark Drew laying down the freestyle poetry, and David ‘Bear’ Dellipaoli on keys. All are talented musicians who add a flavorful personality to the group.

The band has been playing constantly, especially over the last year. They focus on the Fort Myers area and Cape Coral, but I am suspicious we will be seeing them branch out to Naples and beyond sooner rather than later. The group has been in the studio for months and with no date in site for their newest album release, friends, family and fans grow restless. Producer/songwriter Jamie Wilson has been recording the group at The Live Room Studio in South Fort Myers for the past six months. I pressured the guys to give me a release date, but to no avail.

Equally as entertaining in person as in their performances, I sat with the Brothers Van Kirk along with their studio consort, Jamie, to discuss the latest musical antics of the band.

Can you tell me a little bit about the sound of the band?

Warren: I guess it depends on what kind of collaborations we’re doin’ on a specific project. If we have an idea to achieve a certain sound, we try to locate the players to get that specific sound.

Jamie: When they play out it’s really focused around having a good time, and the energy captured in that moment. There’s a lot of dancing. It’s really fun and funky. It incorporates a lot of different styles from various musicians.

You guys are in the studio right now. How many songs am I going to hear on the new CD?

Warren: Hopefully six to ten.

I know that you come up with a lot of your own samples to use in the recording. Do you sit back and write those in advance, make them up in the studio, or is it a combination of both?

Warren: All of the above.

How will the recording differ from the live performance? Do you feel like it’s a good representation of the live performance, thus far?

Greg: Sometimes in the studio it might just be me and my brother. So, it’s a little harder to get that big sound with just the two guys. Sometimes you have to work at it. It’s just... you can do it in one take if you have six guys.

Jamie: It’s a different type of chemistry when you have a hundred other people in the room jammin’ with you.

Warren: I think live we allow the songs to breathe a little more. Sometimes they might go down an avenue that they didn’t in the studio. Which could be really cool — or vise versa.

Do you have a date for when you’ll be releasing your recording?

Greg: No date yet... that I know of.

So you’re just gonna work until you feel it’s complete?

Greg: Yeah.

Who is your audience?

Greg: I think we appeal to a lot of people. Old people, young people...

Warren: We want to have that; the family-oriented fun good time.

Jamie: The eclectic mix of people reflects the mix in the music. There’s a lot of different influences and a lot of different people come out to see these guys play. I think what the great commonality is that it’s all about people who wanna have fun, enjoy the music and get involved — maybe dance a little bit. Y’know?

Warren: Yeah, a lot of crowd participation.

What is the most ‘engaging’ audience member you have met so far?

Greg: Oh man... I have people come up and play bass with me. They’ll play the low string and I’ll play the melodies. My musician friends come out, plus we have backup dancers that come up. It’s always fun for the crowd.

Jamie: Greg’s also known to get out into the audience.

How often are you playing out?

Greg: We did four shows this weekend.

Do you guys prefer playing live or recording?

Warren: We enjoy both. When the audience is there, the show is right, the sound’s right, the stage is good... It’s really, really fun to play. When you’re in a good studio like Live Room, it’s really good to get in there also.

If I was going to categorize your band, what three words should I use?

Greg: Funky-Good-Time.

What makes you guys different? Why should I go see Strange Arrangement? Why should I drive to Cape Coral and see you?

Jamie: Do you like to bounce? How’s your spine feel? Do you want to add some elasticity to your step? Then you might want to go to a Strange Arrangement show.

What is your favorite song to play out?

Warren: Whatever. It’s not up to us. It’s the one the people request [most]. When we see they’re enjoying it, well then that’s it.

You gotta have one that people like to request over others?

Greg: A lot of people like “Chicken and Shrimp” and “Joint Happiness”. A lot of people like “Money”.

When you write lyrics, what are you thinking about? Are you telling a story? Is it true or is it coming out of your imagination?

Greg: They come out of my (he whistles and points downward)...

Warren: You could have a whole story laid out in your head or you could just have three words that you think sound. I mean, you don’t want to hinder your creative process.

Greg: Five words can say it all. If they’re strong and they mean something then people get the point.

Jamie: Right, and if they capture the spontaneity with the beat, and melody, and the hook...

Greg: Sometimes it’s about the groove.

And any closing thoughts?

Warren: Yeah. Get up with Strange, lets do a project. It’s all music.

Jamie: The scene is what you make it.

Can you give me a website address and tell me a little about what I’m gonna see on there?

Warren: StrangeArrangement.net

Jamie: You’re gonna find all your Strange Arrangement needs. •

from the September-October 2010 issue