The band, entheos, was fully in mood-setting action when I reached the upstairs and peered in on the warmly-lit stage. Brother-sister team Alison Shepard (vocals, keys, art) and Carl Shepard (vocals, guitars, bass, programming) let their voices intertwine, creating captivating harmonies -- the kind that burrow into the chest's center, settling inside. The music resonated, digging deep, targeting a gamut of emotions, giving life to their well-matched voices, both innocent and engaging. With drummer Justin Webb holding down beats, there was something striking about the soft yet fiery trio.
Perhaps that's why their name, entheos (say "in-thay-aws") is so fitting. Literally, the word means, "having the God within." Although the music is catchy and the live sound combines electronic elements with smart, pushing, energetic drums underneath the melody, there's also a clear voice, a lyrical undercurrent of hope.
Alison explains, "We would even go so far as to say that the message is more important than the music itself ... the music is a vehicle for expressing the hope of love."
Wearing five silver hoops in his left ear, Carl, a bass/guitar instructor at Keller Music, plays in numerous cover bands. He studied at Chillicothe's The Recording Workshop.
"In the past few weeks, I've probably picked up 40 new songs," Carl says. "Learning all that stuff obviously is time consuming, but I'm using a lot of the money from cover bands to record our album."
Also a visual artist, Alison looks sharp in her v-necked red coat; she has striking, alluring eyes and despite an age gap, she and Carl look enough alike that they could be twins.
The duo originally played mostly acoustic gigs. In 2004, entheos recorded their first self-titled EP. Labeled "Dream Pop" or "Trip Hop," entheos' first effort held acoustic hooks and trademark harmonies with production influence by Paul J. Falk.
"He had a similar music aesthetic," Alison says. "We wanted to take it to the next level and use a lot of electronic sounds and give our sound more space and atmosphere."
She mentions Massive Attack and groups that embrace classic electronic sounds. But entheos' EP only shows the shell of what they sound like live. After working together for three more years and adding drummer Justin Webb in 2005, entheos has clearly evolved into something more intense, complex and multi-faceted instrumentally.
Justin (formerly of Caustic Edge) sports star and flame tattoos on the undersides of his arms. He explains his background like this: "Always drums." He's been picking up beats since he was 2 years old.
This month, the band will hit the studio hard, working on their new album.
"The new CD will be a world of difference from the EP," Alison says. "It'll be more plush and layered."
Carl says, "Now we have distorted guitar stuff and the drummer. Yeah, we're a Trip Hop band, but lyrically we're trying to serve. I've never been attracted to any kind of negative lyric. A lot of times, it's our music that people hear. Then the message."
Justin agrees: "It is its own entity. I really don't like bands that are superficial. That's what sets this band apart. We have the same belief system."
"We want to make people seduced by the sounds and later become interested in the message," Alison explains. "We acknowledge the struggles in life, but we want our music to be about transcending that and realizing that the light is always there ... love has the power to heal. Even in the temporal nature of existence, love is the one thing that is eternal and love is present and available if we choose to have the eyes to see it and believe it. When we believe it, we are open to receiving it."
All around, a positive energy lurks about the room when these three come together. An underlying presence, if you will. Not a ghost, but a spirit, an energy nonetheless.
ENTHEOS (entheosmusic.com) plays an acoustic set at Starbucks in Eastgate Saturday at 7 p.m.