The name 18 Strings is ideally the total number of strings on the instruments in the band mandolin (8) + guitar (6), + bass (4) = 18. We know basic math. We wanted the name to reflect the idea and approach of this band– “it is what it is”– humble, simple and direct, but also keep people guessing about it. And when we have other musicians sit in, or Tuck breaks a string, or plays a 12-string guitar– that’s when the potential confusion arises. “Hey, what’s going on? That’s not 18 strings up there! Liars!” Oh well, that’s all part of this adventure with this band. At this point it could be any number of people and things in the band– but the main function is that we are in fact a string band.
Andrew Tuck plays guitar, harmonica and sings, and writes songs.
Greg Thurman plays the bass and does most of the managerial activities.
Ryan Krofcheck plays mandolin, guitar, a little banjo, and sings.
18 Strings came about because it was something that just needed to happen in life. It more or less spontaneously arose almost 4 years ago, from a Tuck solo gig at Black Bear in Morgantown, at which Chris Jones mentioned he would like to play mandolin in a band again. Tuck, of the 15-year old WV rock & roll band The Greens had known Chris from his rock band Surgeon General’s Warning, with Tommy Bailey and other fantastic Morgantown area musicians. (There are a lot of those in these small WV towns.) Case in point– Greg and Chris knew each other from WVU and from Whitewater, a bluegrass band around the area, and Chris brought Greg to meet up and start kicking ideas around for songs and shows. And there it was! Now Ryan is the new guy, sharing us with WV jam legends Fletcher’s Grove. We are dang lucky the show can go on with Ryan courageously jumping in and replacing Chris, who, with his wife and singer in the band, Hellen, recently moved to Florida, which is not in Appalachia. All the best to Chris and Hellen, and we are dang grateful to have Ryan bring his talents, skills, and personality to the band. Also note Ty Jaquay is a frequent flier on fiddle.
Genre: hmm I never know what our genre is. Got to call it something… How about American Folk music? Too generic? Appalachian soul music? Eclectic acoustic rock? Umm… I would not call us a traditional bluegrass band– we’re more varied in our styles– versatile, adaptable, evolving, revolving, maybe a bit schizophrenic… a set can go from an original soul song, to Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway” to Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” in two or three moves. Each show is really different than the last, but consistent in its presentation of good songs for good people. The diversity keeps it interesting, for the point is to do as much as possible within the acoustic music framework-concept- thing. Here is our recipe for a good musical meal: take 3 acoustic instruments, put in about 1/3 original songs, 1/3 traditional American music an add 1/3 British classic rock. Mix well, bring to a boil, let it cool, serve it up right, and enjoy!
Influences: we are all stupid crazy music fans, so there is a lot of cross-pollenization going on. Greg is a killer jazz player, says his main man is Ray Brown on upright bass. But he knows a lot of blues, country and rock & roll. We all do. It’s very open and free as to what influences and inspires us. As long as it is REAL. To name today’s list of influences (tomorrow’s menu subject to change): Bob, Neil, Jerry, Stones, plus Allman Bros. the Band, CCR– the “A-B-C’s” of classic rock clear on through Zappa. Then there’s Bill Monroe, Leadbelly, Tom Waits, John Prine, and Aretha Franklin. REAL.
The creative act remains a beautiful mystery. Tuck cannot briefly explain the music making process. He just somehow receives the raw material for melodies and lyrics, and works on refining and crafting them– finding the right the guitar chords, and writes them all down, usually way too late at night. The band does the arrangements as a group. We are looking forward to working more with Ryan who writes his own material as well. Most of our songs are about simple themes–single syllable words, such as love, fear, sex, death, birds, cars, jail, home, loss– oh wow! Maybe we ARE a bluegrass band!
Evolution: We just want to continue to work on writing and performing really good timeless songs. Back on the 1st album, it was mostly Tuck-written Greens songs, because they were already there, so we could plagiarize as we needed, to set the tone for doing original material. The 2nd album was a hybrid– about 1/2 older re-arranged songs, and 1/2 brand new stuff. (Side note: Not counting covers, this was the 1st time on a record that someone beside Tuck got a song on there. Greg broke the monopoly) And then the 3rd album as almost all newly-written songs, 2 of which Chris wrote, and 2 which Tuck wrote specifically for Hellen to sing, which was a fun and new thing to do. And then Chris and Hellen have since left the group, so we are once again re-arranging the furniture of our musical house with Ryan and Greg. Just don’t go in my room.
Venues: So many great ones. We very much dig the venues that are there for the music– not so much the average pub or sports-bar or dinner gigs. Not that we don’t appreciate the work, just that it is so much more enjoyable where the crowd is into it and you can bounce the energy back and forth. These include: 123 Pleasant Street, Gene’s, Adelphia Theater, the Rendezvous River Lodge. Too many to name in this space. And all the Fests: Meeting of the Minds, Farm JammaLamma, the Back Home fest, Cheat Fest, The Whiskey Rebellion Fest, and Groovin’ with The Grove coming up really soon! Yes, the fests are the bests.
We want more fests!! Specifically Mountain Music, Del-fest, and also Mountain Stage. We want on there bad. Help us people!
Challenge: what else but time? Time is the biggest challenge– so much we want to do, but coordinating schedules is tough; frustrating. Not enough hours in a day! We all have very busy lives outside the band. Overcoming it is just us saying “Let’s go for it; make it happen”. It is really all about momentum. Do not stop. Just keep working and playing as much as we can with the time we have available for music, art, creativity, community. Music as a career is as much as we can do with our circumstances and resources. It is very important to all of us and that is how we have been able to stay pretty active with it, despite the hectic and turbulent world all around us.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
As a band our biggest challenge is time. There are so many places we want to play, but corridinating travel, and lining up schedules can be tough. Overcoming it has been as easy saying “screw it”… let’s make this happen \
Any big upcoming shows, tours, festivals, new albums yall are stoked for coming up? Where can the fans experience you next?
Our fall is packed with awesome shows like Groovin With The Grove 2, a night with Larry keel at, rendezvous river lodge and way more.
We just released our 3rd album and are planning our fourth right now
What is the message that you are giving out to your fans and the community?
What do you strive to have people leaving your shows thinking and or feeling?
Some advice or experience for younger aspiring musicians?
“Our shows are about good songs, good times, and no bs within the band,
We want people leaving our shows to think. ‘Those guys can really play’ but not ‘how the f@ck did they do that ‘ the music needs to entertain first of all.
“Young musicians need to find guys or gals they really like on and off the band stand,I mean you are gonna be spending a lot of time with these people. Make sure each member has a voice and a real role in the band. This shit is tough and everyone has to contribute. Make sure those dynamics are worked out early and play to each other’s strengths on and off stage.”