The Tillers

In 2007 Sean Geil and Mike Oberst joined musical forces and started busking around the streets of Cincinnati; their pickin’, grinnin’, stompin’ and wailin’ attracting an audience every bit as eclectic as their deep-cut song choices. Since then they’ve won multiple awards and traveled this great land coast to coast, averaging 120 shows a year, winning over crowds and gaining converts every step of the way. They toured the UK and Ireland opening for St. Louis crooner Pokey LaFarge, and veteran NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw featured them on a documentary about US Route 50 and showcased their now-classic song “There is Road (Route 50)” as a testimony to the highway’s role as a connective tissue of the nation.
In 2010 Sean’s big brother Aaron joined the group on bass. Since 2013′s all-originals release Hand On The Plow The Tillers have been committed to composing their own music, and with that have seen their craft take tremendous creative leaps forward. Over the last decade we have seen these rambunctious young men grow and mature into the road-tested musical artists that they are today, losing none of the fire that made them so captivating and compelling from the jump.
Hell, if anything, a latter-day Tillers show is even more raucous than ever before.
Though the time since Hand On The Plow has been fraught with peaks and valleys both physical and emotional, the bonds of family and friendship within the group have only strengthened. And the laughter and the tears have enriched their music in equal measure. And just as The Tillers have grown tighter as a unit over the years, with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Joe Macheret, their sonic landscape has expanded exponentially as well. A spin of their stunning new album shows definitively that this band represents the very best of what is broadly called “folk” music. From barn-burners like “Mona” to the exultations and strife of the working class in “Migrant’s Lament” and “Riverboat Dishwashin’ Boy,” to the contemplative yearning for home of “Postcard” and the deep and personal sorrow brought on by environmental devastation in “Dear Mother,” the music of The Tillers speaks directly to our collective heart, and reflects the tears in our eyes and the sweat on our brow with an unparalleled authenticity. The Tillers are the street corner; they are the factory; they are the river and the woods and the rich, tilled soil. Their songs speak to America at our most joyful and in our deepest heartbreak, and their driving rhythms and gorgeous, soulful harmonies live in every strand of our collective DNA. They are us. And with the call-to-arms of “Revolution Row” and a scorching rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “All You Fascists” the boys show that they are more than happy raise a defiant fist and lob a gob straight into the face of the powers that be as well. “ALL YOU FASCISTS ARE BOUND TO LOSE!!!” they scream. “Give ‘em HELL!”
Understand: this commitment to positive change is not just empty platitudes and shoutable choruses. From the very beginning The Tillers have leant their music to numerous benefits and fund-raisers for causes they believe in. And for the past several years Mike has helped run and organize the annual Salyer Park Sustains festival in the greater Cincinnati neighborhood of Sayler Park. The mission of this free summer event, in addition to showcasing some of the best folk and roots musicians in the region, seeks to educate and empower festival-goers to bring D.I.Y. sustainable practices into their daily lives through workshops and family-friendly activities. At the end of the day, after all, The Tillers are just a bunch of blue-collar, midwestern boys committed to representing their region, spreading joy through their music, and bringing as many good people into the extended Tillers family as possible. That is what they are. And they also happen to be one of the most important bands of their kind in the world today. “Good evening, friends!” Sean often says at the top of a Tillers concert. And every time, in every town, that is precisely how everyone feels.

The Harmed Brothers

Nestled between the rolling farmland of Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the impossibly tall trees further south, the gold and timber town of Cottage Grove has always drawn an eclectic mix of dreamers, drifters and prophets to its downtown Main Street.

For about a decade now, many of these frontier misfits have gathered to carouse and quench their thirst at the Axe & Fiddle Pub, and if the Harmed Brothers owe the path they’ve forged these past few years to any particular beer-soaked barroom along the way, it’s got to be the Fiddle.

It’s more than likely the place where, in early 2009, singer/songwriter Ray Vietti — already the veteran of one ambitious but ill-fated musical dream — first encountered Alex Salcido, and it’s probably where the two musicians first decided to jam. Soon enough, Vietti would come to recognize Salcido as a kindred spirit in both vision and song, and the young tunesmith would help write the Harmed Brothers saga with an insightful, often wistful lyrical and instrumental voice that offers a fitting complement to Vietti’s gritty baritone and powerful chords.

The fledgling duo paused in the Grove for a moment, gathering steam, trading tunes and talking possibilities, performing for crowds there and in nearby Eugene before striking out for the open road — their second home ever since and the undeniable inspiration for many of the songs and stories to follow.

Soon after their first meeting, Vietti and Salcido quickly recorded and released their independent debut, “All The Lies You Wanna Hear,” and began to tell the tales of love, loss, hard-drinking and redemption that have since endeared them to legions of fans and fellow musicians.

In 2011, the Harmed Brothers’ evolution as songwriters and as a touring act showed through with their sophomore effort, “Come Morning,” a release from Oklahoma-based Lackpro Records that sways with the rhythms of the road and the forlorn waltzes of a nation’s dive bars and dance halls.

These days, they call it “indiegrass,” the rustic American musical blend that celebrates and chronicles the physical and emotional gauntlet the Harmed Brothers have always ridden, zigzagging endlessly in vans across the nation. It’s an inclusive sound, the melding of two unique voices adorned each night with the contributions of the many pickers, singers and songwriters the Brothers have encountered in their travels.

It’s known as the “Harmed Family Roadshow,” and it’s as much a nightly happening as a sound in constant flux — from a jangly acoustic three-piece one night to a manic mariachi string band the next, a wall of rock-and-roll bombast at times giving way to the whispered incantations of two folk troubadours, often within the span of a single song.

Two years more on the road brought a European tour and a host of new fans, and by 2013, Salcido and Vietti stood poised to offer their most ambitious album to date. “Better Days,” recorded in a St. Louis studio and released by Portland, Oregon-based Fluff and Gravy Records, draws inspiration from themes of personal growth and redemption as well as the hurdles, heartbreaks and mishaps that have always accompanied the traveler’s search for enlightenment. Praised as “honest and inspired, devoid of posturing and pretense,” “Better Days” features some of the Harmed Brothers’ deepest grooves and their most plaintive and enduring tunes to date.

In the winter of 2015, the “Harmed Family Roadshow” gathered together in all its tattered glory in Portland, Oregon, the Brothers’ adopted home and headquarters, to begin amassing the riffs and recollections that will become their definitive recorded work. Due from Fluff and Gravy in early 2016, the album draws from the tales and talents of many of the duo’s closest collaborators and dearest friends. It promises textures never before captured on a Harmed Brothers release, brought together by the two visions and voices that propel the band toward an inspired and undeniable future.



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