Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Maudsley: Duo slaying them in Europe ... we think

Still no action on the band's web, but it's still early. Maudsley's mad musical adventure, or "grand European tour," as the duo puts it in its tongue-in-cheek video biography, has just begun. Barely. Ashley Plante and Joe Berardi are on the ground in Belgium, the beginning of a two-week, seat-of-the-pants Old World buskers tour of Europe that will take them from Amsterdam to Brussels to Paris to Marseilles. They'll be singing for their supper, tightening what they have and writing and posting new songs born on the road as well as shooting video to document this tour and to acquire raw material for future projects. They'll be dragging around their gear, crashing in hostels, making mad dashes through puzzling train stations. And they'll also be blogging about the tour and writing to the folks back home and .... and it's beginning to sound a lot more like work than fun. But, like all good plans, it's not set in stone. "It's about living in the moment," Plante said during an interview just a couple of days before mandatory groping by the TSA. "We'll know what to do when we get there."

Not an unreasonable thought, considering how the whole thing came together in the first place. Maudsley formed, almost completely by happenstance, less than a year ago. Berardi grew up in Georgetown and is probably best known for his work not as a musician, but as an actor, performing in a pile of musicals at the Firehouse and North Shore Music Theatre, but was last seen locally in the Actors Studio production of "The Goat." When he gets back from Maudsley's Old World ramble, he'll be in rehearsal for a production of Steve Faria's "Boxed-in" in Portsmouth. And Plante? Yeah, she's one of "those" Plantes: Her father, Bill Plante, has been a musical presence in the area for years,  mostly recently performing in Pleasant Valley Social Club, brothers Joe and Chris are in The Brew. "Every day was a rehearsal in that house," she says, while joking, sort-of, that she has been "living in the shadow of my brothers" for most of that time.

Berardi, a  Georgetown native who had been living in New York and working as an actor, came back to Newburyport in January to work in a movie being made by Andrew White, a pal from Triton. Plante, a visual graphics artist for New Media Associates, was also working on the film, working as assistant director. They met on the set, started talking about music, and discovered they have similar tastes musically — Americana, older European folk traditions — and similar ambitions. They decided to collaborate on songwriting, often working at Maudslay State Park, hence the name. Something just clicked. It was "wonderful and unexpected," says Berardi. "It happened very easily," says Plante, 24.. "We let it pull us along."

They've just recorded a demo, now in the process of being manufactured, and, pre-tour, have 25 tunes — mostly originals, but a couple of choice covers, like "I Am Weary, Let Me Rest," the Cox Family classic, and the Beatles' "Mother Nature's Son" —  ready for a full-length release, which will be produced by Alex Sandman, the Port native and multi-instrumentalist who produced the Red Tail Hawk album earlier this year. The sound is mostly Americana, but with "bits and pieces" of their influences:  jazz, old folk, Brazilian, Italian, French traditions. To get a taste of what the band is up to, musically, check out http://maudsleymusic.com.

But will Maudsley slay them over there? Still waiting to hear. On their web page, there's a link to the Grand European Tour happenings and to their Facebook pages, both of which have tour updates and road war stories. Nothing yet, but ...

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