Harmony Through Diversity

Harmony Through Diversity

Karmacoustic, a new local band, hits the scene next weekend with their first show at Janet's Java.

Roughly three months ago Giles Kesteloot sat down in front of his computer, logged onto www.craigslist.com, an internet community Web site for posting classifieds, and put the word out about a new band he wanted to form. In no time at all, Karmacoustic was born — a new Alexandria group that is slated to make their debut headlining performance Saturday, June 10 at Janet's Java. But unlike bands formed from like-minded musicians, Karmacoustic has proven to be as diverse as the medium from which it spawned.

"We're all from different backgrounds," said Kesteloot. "I'm from France, one of the girls is from Germany. Its funny that the music is the main common bond between us."

"I came here when I was five," continued Kesteloot. "Most of us are married and have families. The age range is from 23 to 33."

MADE UP OF SIX INDIVIDUALS, including Kesteloot, Nina Rowan, Sam Hensley, Brian Highsmith, Mary Wilkerson and the most recently added Wilson Sawyer, Karmacoustic combines a wealth of musical experience which has proven useful for preparing for the upcoming show.

"For me, I have been trying to learn the songs. I just got the gig," said bassist Wilson Sawyer, a 12-year veteran in the local music scene. "It is a unique experience because there are a lot of talented musicians. As far as having a diverse range of styles, in D.C. you have a lot of everything so it's musicians looking to play with different people. It's important as far as trying to be a well rounded musician."

According to Kesteloot, the lion's share of the band's set comes from the stockpile of original songs that he has written over the years.

"I do about 95 percent of the writing," said Kesteloot. "I have probably 40 to 50 but I have only brought a few to this group because it fits with the group. There are probably 20 originals that we are ready to go with."

With four demo recordings under their belt, available for listening on their internet Myspace account, the band's focus on three-part harmonies shows how one person's songs can unite a front.

ALTHOUGH 20 ORIGINAL SONGS is more than enough to fill a set-list, that doesn't mean that there isn't room for covering songs by major-label artists — which has proven to be a lesson in the diversity of the band's influences. Ranging from Paul Simon to Toad the Wet Sprocket to jazz great John Coltrane, the range of influences comes through in Karmacoustic's sound.

"It's funny about the cover songs that have come into play," said guitarist and supporting vocalist Sam Hensley. "The female vocalist, Nina, is from Germany and she brought 'Dead Or Alive' by Bon Jovi. Who knows if any of us would have brought that. That's the cool thing about the band, we are willing to try anything.”

And with three vocalists harmonizing together, two guitars, a violin, bass, percussion and the occasional harmonica, Hensley believes that their sound is unique because of their influences.

"We sort of pull from them," said Hensley. "I don't even know what we sound like. We have our own thing going on."

SLATED TO PERFORM their first full show next Saturday, even the newest member isn't too nervous despite having just auditioned and practiced twice with the rest of the band.

"You get the butterflies to a certain extent," said Sawyer. " "But it's a really player friendly environment."