Full Cord & 1/2 a Song
by Emerald Butler
“This is not your Grandpa’s bluegrass,” the band Full Cord shares with listeners. “I’ve always been into more of the new grass and jazzier stuff,” founder Todd Kirchner admitted. “My dad was always very traditional, but I’ve always sat out on the fringe just a little bit.”
Full Cord has been playing bluegrass for about 12 years. The current configuration has been together for two years. “When we get musicians that kind of fit we just kind of hang onto them and roll,” Todd said. The group is made up of Eric Langejans on guitar, Brian Oberlin on mandolin, Grant Flick on fiddle, Matthew Davis on banjo, and Todd Kirchner on bass. Like many bluegrass bands, the pickers met at a festival in their home state of Michigan. “We were all raised on traditional bluegrass, and we all listen to traditional bluegrass. When you play The Old Home Place for the two thousand and one times, you’re like ‘hey let’s do something different,’” Todd said. “I’ve got some audio of Bill Monroe saying, ‘once you learn bluegrass then go get your own style.’ We all learned the trad stuff and kind of just went out from there and explored different things and said, ‘hey you know what? Let’s do this tune in bluegrass or let’s do a rock and roll song in bluegrass.”
“Other bluegrass musicians certainly recognize that we’re not strictly traditional, but we do play some traditional stuff, and they like that. They think that the stuff we’re doing is a bit outside, but it’s not too outside,” Brian joked. “It maintains the bluegrass feel even though there are some other things that are going on musically that aren’t just straight one four five chords.” The band shared that Matthew and Grant like to quote songs from every kind of genre in the middle of their instrumental breaks. “You might hear a trad song, but they might start playing a jazz tune in the middle of the break or god knows what,” Todd explained.
These outside the box techniques and breaks can be heard throughout their performances and records. One good example of this would be Full Cord’s recording of “Tequila Hoss”. The song is a unique pairing of the oldies Champs hit “Tequila” and Bill Monroe’s “Wheel Hoss”. Still, the band certainly knows how to put the hammer down on some hard-driving bluegrass, and this is shown in Full Cord’s newest single “Downtown” written by Brian Overland. “Being a mandolin player I’m a big fan of Sam Bush, and I came up with a little mandolin riff one day that reminded me of Sam Bush a little bit and his rhythmic chugging. I wanted to write a song that had a bluegrass feel to it but also had some fancy chords to it kind of like Steely Dan.” Brian shared that the song is also about being a blue grasser having to work downtown in Portland, Oregan where he lived for about 13 years.
While partnering with Crooked Tree Creative, the band had several shows lined up for this year, but like most, they’ve been canceled due to the pandemic. However, the band is still staying active on their Facebook page throughout the release of their new live take singles and videos. “We’re releasing half a song at a time,” Todd teased. The band shared that they’re working towards releasing a new album but Covid-19 has pushed their release timeline back. For a band that has enough material to never play the same set twice, however, there’s no shortage of Full Cord’s creativity and music in sight.