Going back through the generations of music, it’s always been easy to trace a group’s inspirations and label them in a genre. That may be because access to music was limited. I’ll quote my parents for a moment, “we just listened to whatever was on the radio.” With that in mind, artists’ music related inspirations were probably limited too. There were the initial innovators and the imitators that followed suit. That’s how genres were built. The classic rock, folk, country, and grunge artists would all have a lot of overlapping inspirations. So what about in today’s internet driven, endless information, modern era that we’ve come to know? With itunes, Spotify, Youtube, XM radio, etc, there is basically endless amounts of music at our fingertips. But where does that leave genres? How do you label music inspired by bluegrass, classic rock, the 90’s alternative, and jazz? Welcome to the age of blurred lines.
This blurred lines era came to light for me when I sat down with the band Universal Sigh the other day. Universal Sigh is an up and coming band out of Athens, GA made up of four young but crazy talented musicians: Steve Terry (guitarist), Austin Parker (Bass), and brothers Pace (guitarist) and Jones Maynard (drummer). The first questions I had for the group was how they label themselves, what genre do they think they fall into? I could see the hesitation on Pace’s face as he warmed up to answer the question. He explained to me that they’ve called themselves “progressive rock.” Yet calling yourself that is basically putting yourself under a massive umbrella that is really undefined. He went on to talk about how they have jazz/funk influences as well as hip-hop and of course jam band inspirations. The group told me the Maynard brothers listen to a lot of Phish, Umphrey’s, and The Dead. While Steve’s writing is inspired by Radiohead, Yes, and Frank Zappa. And of course like any good bassist, Austin has a love for funk and hip-hop. It’s pretty easy to understand why their genre is so undefined.
While Universal Sigh’s genre may be unclear, their talent is not. Their live sets are a mixture of tight guitar playing, great vocals and amazing improv jams. Pace and Steve can both shred, and have a relationship through the music that you see in a band who have been playing together for decades. On top of that Austin and Jones are masters of rhythm, giving you something to really move to while the guitarists do their thing. They are also creative, adding in multi-member drum solos, horn sections, and keys; making every show something new and exciting for their audience. Keep your eyes out for these guys. If they’re in your area you don’t want to miss them. I brought Steve and Pace two Bohemian Guitars to try out and see what they can do on the spot. They did not disappoint.
This new age of blurred lines is something that excites me. Let’s throw away directions, erase the lines, and think outside the box. With all this music at our disposal, bands should be more like Universal Sigh. Creating sounds that are rock, jazz, funk, and progressive masterpieces. It’s a new era of undefined possibilities and it’s awesome to see music keeping up with the times.