By John Benson
Going mainstream usually means catering to the tastes of the masses.
For the Speedbumps, this goal involves bending the mainstream’s tastes more toward the Kent-based band’s unique style, which singer, guitarist and ukulele player Erik Urycki describes as being an offshoot of the Americana sound. He says the group’s new album “The Harbors We Seek” is the self-coined genre Midwest-cana.
“That’s the problem, we don’t really fit into an Americana mold,” Urycki said. “There are a couple of songs on this record that the Americana people will like and alt country people will enjoy. And then there are other songs that are divergent, that Americana fans would scoff at.”
As far as roots-rock, he points to “Chasing You Down” and “The Heart of it All.” Then there’s the adult alternative “Montreal” and acoustic groove-oriented “Opposites in Love.”
What about this Midwest-cana genre? Urycki said it’s a product of environment and influence. The latter includes listening to different artists ranging from Ryan Adams and Air to Wilco and Blackalicious.
“When you make a record, it’s a reflection of your community and your culture,” Urycki said. “And in Ohio, we’re this mish-mash. We’re not really Midwest or East Coast. We’re kind of unidentifiable but the result is if you’re doing it right, you’re making music that’s a reflection of where you are and the time you’re in. And that’s what we’re doing. Maybe this means that we’re a part of a new music scene or new genre.”
Formed six years ago, The Speedbumps — Urycki, Sam Kristoff (cello), Kevin Martinez (upright and electric bass) and Pat Hawkins (drums) – decided to take a more-organic approach by recording in an isolated Pennsylvania cabin. Heard on the album are birds chirping outside the window and the band dog barking in the background
Urycki said the band really wanted to create a unique feel for this record. However, going into the project the members were OK with losing certain sonic elements if it meant gaining emotion and warmth.
One area the band didn’t avoid was the cello, which really defines The Speedbumps’ sound. Urycki said “The Harbors We Seek,” which the group is celebrating with a CD release show Friday at the Kent Stage, includes some of the best cello playing he’s ever heard.
“Cellos are usually on a lot of records, but it’s not at the forefront like it is for our band,” Urycki said. “Some bands have lead guitar, we have lead cello. So it’s our lead instrument and our signature. It’s the dot of the i.”
So are The Speedbumps going to take the cello mainstream?
“I think probably The Avett Brothers have already done that but we intend to take our sound to the mainstream,” Urycki said. “That’s what we want to do. We want a lot of people who listen to this to get something from it. And if people are going to get something from it, then we’re doing our jobs.”