Try 1 month for 99¢
hillfolk noir2

Hillfolk Noir is scheduled to play Sunday night at Duffy's Tavern. (Courtesy of Hillfolk Noir)

Duffy's lineup on Sunday features bands that specialize in providing a sound far from the mainstream, with heavy historical influences from America's past.

Though Dean the Bible, Hillfolk Noir, Boneheart Flannigan and the Hollands all might be in the same vein of music stemming from bluegrass and folk, each has a different interpretation of that style, especially in the case of Hillfolk Noir.

The Idaho quartet of Travis and Alison Ward, Mike Waite and Jared Goodpastor incorporates everything from the guitar, banjo, harmonica, kazoo, washboard, tambourine and standup bass to the singing saw. The band offers up sounds from America's diverse musical fiber reinterpreted through its own influences.

From Travis Ward's accordion-playing grandfather with his polkas and waltzes, his mother's guitar-playing for bar rock and country bands to Waite's jazz influence from his love of stand-up bass, each member's background has helped form the foundation of the band's dimensional sound.

Hillfolk Noir even created its own word, junkerdash, for its genre of music, a gumbo-like combination of folk, country, rock 'n' roll, acoustic mountain music, medicine show culture and Depression-era string band blues. The name was an attempt to separate them from any misconceptions about their music.

"We have a lot of reverence for the old music. We want to be sort of authentic, but we also just want to have fun and do it our own way as well," Waite said.

Alison Ward said their dedication was to beautiful melodies, whether the songs are 100 years old or ones they've just written.

"That's kind of the indie rock mentality we cling to," she said. "None of that is really contemporary, but I think our attitude is."

The members of Hillfolk Noir not only sound like a reimagined past, they look that way, too, taking a lot of care and pride into their presentation.

Waite said he found the aesthetic appealing after living through all the subgenres of grunge music, where ripped pants, T-shirts and crazy hair were the norm.

"Part of the attraction also is that it's raw," Waite said. "There's no … pretentiousness in this kind of music, it's direct. It's kind of infectious. I think people are kind of surprised that they like us, but that's rewarding."

Along the way in their seven years or so as a band, they've grown as musicians and as friends, including the adaptation of their band name as a verb for really messing things up: When they get hopelessly lost on route to a show, they call it "hillfolking" it up. Travis and Alison Ward also have grown as a couple, celebrating their 13th anniversary next month.

"We both take it seriously and can help each other not take it so seriously. And usually can be strong when the other one is weak, and I think that's important," Alison Ward said. "And some days we're both strong and it's pretty awesome."

"There's a lot of growth in this kind of music," Travis Ward said. "We've definitely grown into what we are. Whether it's backwards or forwards, we're not real sure, but I guess we don't really care either."

Reach Shannon Smith at



Load comments