Photo by Kayli Kunkel
Drake University’s Quad Creek Café has been offering more entertainment to students than TV soap operas. Tar and Rosin, an up-and-coming, old-time Appalachian string band from Des Moines, has played several casual shows in the café and has evoked eye-catching outbursts of barn dancing among audience members. Students may recognize Joe Brauner, a Sodexo employee, on string bass. Other members include guitarist George Lane, Kyle Cox on fiddle and John “Fly” Martin on banjo.
Tar and Rosin’s sound is best described as traditional American string music.
“We play mostly old, old, old songs,” Cox, 23, said. “Like pre-Civil war music from the 1830s and 1840s.”
The band’s inspirations are a mixture of old and modern groups, including Flat Mountain Girls, Foghorn Stringband, Uncle Earl and Hot Buttered Rum. At shows, the band combines old-time covers with original songs.
Tar and Rosin typically plays one show per week, with many arranged spontaneously. The band occasionally will enter a coffee shop or other establishment and ask management if they can play a show on the spot, which the band calls “door-pulling.” The band has “door-pulled” several of its shows at places such as Smokey Row Coffee Co. and the Chicha Shack. As for the group’s Hubbell performances, Brauner asked his Sodexo manager for permission and had the band scheduled in no time.
The band’s Quad Creek Café shows have inspired foot tapping and dancing from students, but Tar and Rosin also has fans that regularly attend shows. All band members agree that shows are “definitely more fun to play” when the audience is energetically involved.
“We’re trying to make a cult,” Cox said. “A dance cult, if you will. This music is dance music. That’s what it’s made for. It’s a community-based entertainment. You’re fueling this huge dance.”
Tar and Rosin has no recorded albums yet, but the band is currently writing music for a demo album and planning shows at future venues. The new album will be a mix of traditional American covers and original tracks written by members of the band.
As far as expanding the group goes, all members agreed that a potential band mate must first have a connection with the existing group.
“What we have going right now works really well for us,” Cox said. “We’re all buddies.”
Cox and Martin, the band’s original members, said they have been involved in the music game for years.
“(We started it) just to entertain ourselves and to keep us from going insane,” Cox said. The other members had been introduced by fellow musicians and joined later on in the band’s career.
“We just started up one day and never stopped,” said Brauner, who joined Tar and Rosin six months ago.
Lane joined the group two months ago as the final member.
“Tar and Rosin is still in the baby phases and will be up and running pretty soon,” Lane said.
Aside from writing music and playing shows, the four members often get together and play purely for themselves.
“What we do happens regardless of if we’re playing a show or not,” Cox said. “It’s like, I’m going to have a good time with my friends, and I’m going to bring my fiddle.”
Tar and Rosin can be found both on Facebook and on YouTube. The band’s plans include Hubbell shows and shows at other nearby venues with dates and times to be announced on the group’s Facebook page.