It’s a sticky Saturday afternoon in College Corner, Ohio, and four out of the five members of Grooveshire are sitting under a small canopy on the grounds of Hannon’s Camp America. They’re here for Ohmstead, the camp’s smokiest music festival, a neo-hippie magnet.
As the band settles on the couches, drummer Mike Hennel returns from concessions, fisting five Keystone Lights. Were they free?
“Actually, no, it was free for everyone else, but it was expensive for me,” the drummer says, laughing.
He takes a seat, and I inquire about Grooveshire’s biggest deal yet: The band’s new EP, American Son, drops this month. It’s the centerpiece of the outfit’s “Louisiana Bayou Grunge,” a term stemming from Jacob Jones’ sizzling slide guitar riffs.
“When Jake joined a couple years back, he really put the Blues influence in the band,” says rhythm guitarist Jason Mollette.
“Most of my influences come from ’70s Classic Rock, late ’60s, Delta Blues, Rob John son,” Jones explains.
“I think all four songs on the EP all have greater meanings to all of us … as a prelude to the album we’re going to put out,” says singer Chris Melfi, who’s sporting a beanie and sunglasses that Scott Weiland would steal.
We have five minutes left.
I ask the necessary background questions, which opens a discussion about Keith Roark taking up bass five months ago.
“At the time, you were living … where? Louisiana or something?” Melfi teases.
“Almost Tennessee … it was a good two-hour drive,” the bassist says. “I got a message from Chris online and he asked me to audition.”
Go time. The band snaps up and parts with obligatory handshakes. “Nice to meet you, dude.” “We’ll talk soon.” “Let us know whatever you need, man.”
The band has a two-hour slot at Ohmstead, and its lead axeman greets the surrounding campers with an extended slide-guitar solo hotter than boiling jambalaya. (Yes, you will ask for seconds.)
I catch up with Melfi via phone two days later. Ohmstead was worth his time, he says, even though the crowd was dull.
“We’re real big about networking Grooveshire with other artists,” he says. “I think sometimes Cincinnati bands work against each other rather than with each other. Why do bands have to be rivals? We’re super close with Rumpke Mountain Boys.”
His ideal gig?
“Being able to be on stage with Blues Traveler on Halloween was an honor,” he answers. “Being able to playing with those individuals that you looked up to and maybe were your idol … that never gets old. Whether it’s Blues Traveler, Indigenous, Grace Potter, you learn something from them. Blues Traveler was a different high. It was a band that influenced me as an artist.”
Melfi’s lengthy responses reflect his passion for music and, more specifically, this band. Grooveshire is shifting its focus to the local scene.
“We’re going to be ‘Cincinnati boys’ now, really spending some time here,” he says. “Buffalo Killers and Heartless Bastards have been successful, and they still give back to Cincinnati.
“There’s always room to develop a fanbase. Phish is a prime example. Love or hate Phish, they have one of the largest fan bases in music.”
GROOVESHIRE (www.grooveshire.com) celebrates its new EP release Thursday at the Southgate House with guests The Last Straw. Get event details here.