While some bands search for a clean sound within a musical niche they strive to embody, for a Nanaimo duo coming to the MAC this week, it’s all about celebrating the mess.
And an entertaining and energetic mess it looks to be, with Marty Shepherd on trumpet and his son Kyle Shepherd, a.k.a. VoxMan Kyle, performing a range of vocal styles from operatic to broadway, funk and even some beatboxing.
Together they are The Big Mess, and will be performing at the MAC (the McMillan Arts Centre at 133 McMillan St. Parksville) on Friday, Feb. 9.
They look to bring their audience down a musical rabbit hole of genres and songs, some of which the audience will likely never have heard before, and almost certainly never heard played in this way before.
Asked where their combo of energetic, experimental and even comedic style (peppered with moments of straightforward skill) comes from, Kyle said that’s how he and his dad are in general.
“We both, my dad and I, are people who can… at least in the same conversation, be very serious and talk about really important issues and be very vulnerable, but then in the next sentence can be joking, can be laughing and embracing the humour of life.
“Or honestly, the big mess of life,” added Marty.
It may come as no surprise then that the pair’s first performance was an impromptu one.
About seven years ago, Kyle had travelled down to Victoria to watch his dad perform solo.
“He wasn’t in a very good mood,” said Marty. “I did a song called Feed Me from Little Shop of Horrors, and I just walked over to where he was sitting and I put a microphone down on his table.
“I didn’t say anything, I just walked away and started playing it on the trumpet and I knew that he knew the song, and he just started doing it from the table, and the place just stopped.”
“The place was transfixed,” Marty said. “We were both kind of in shock.”
“So afterwards,” said Kyle, “people kept coming up to us and saying, ‘So what’s your band called and where are you playing next?”
That was the start of The Big Mess. The father/son pair admit that working together has at times been a challenge, but one they feel has contributed to what they’ve been able to create as a band.
“We’ve worked through a lot of stuff by having this musical connection,” said Kyle. “Since we’ve worked through a lot of stuff, we’ve found a really authentic place, musically.”
That place involves strong, solid trumpet playing from Marty with a blues, jazz background, and wild creativity from Kyle who finds new ways to perform a genre-hopping repertoire that continues to grow.
From swing to broadway to funk, latin, pop and more, the pair enjoy and perform a wide selection of music, taking care to ground their audience in the familiar and then introduce them to something new.
Their selection process is simple, though — whatever they enjoy they play. And their lack of genre inhibition is matched by Kyle’s improvisation, which he says also comes from a very genuine place.
He said he feels his life is a mess and out of his control at times, and that his creativity comes out of that.
“What do you do when your life is a big mess? You’ve got to go with the flow… and that’s kind of where a lot of the improvisational element comes from, is not necessarily knowing what to do in the moment, but going for it anyway.”
The Big Mess performs at the MAC on Friday, Feb. 9 with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 or $15 for OCAC members.
For more info, go to mcmillanartscentre.com/the-big-mess-in-concert/.