Sunday, August 10, 2008

Iowa-based Euforquestra sets up camp in Fort Collins

Originally published in Scene Magazine, August 2008

The men of Euforquestra are Colorado boys at heart.

Guitarist Mike Tallman takes on the tone of a giddy 80-year-old when he looks back at the summer vacations at his father’s cabin in Routt National Park.

“I spent pretty much every vacation as a child going up to that area and just spending a couple of weeks every summer getting away from everything,” Tallman recalls. “People tend to enjoy life to the fullest in the mountains.”

Among other reasons, a longing for purple mountain majesties inspired the Afrobeat ensemble to leave their home state of Iowa and settle down in Fort Collins, where the living is cheaper than Boulder and life functions without the big-city frenetic of Denver.

Despite the apparent excitement, the decision to move didn’t come easy to the seven twentysomethings who have spent the past five years carving their worldly beats in Iowa City.

Tallman spent his high school days in Des Moines, alongside keyboardist Eric Quiner and drummer Josten Foley. The three teamed with another buddy on bass to form Euforia, the funky rock predecessor to Euforquestra. Following graduation, the group took to Iowa City, where they crossed paths with percussionist Matt Grundstad and tenor saxophonist Ryan Jeter.

Other members would come and go as the years rolled by, but latching on for the long haul was alto saxophonist Austin Zalatel and bassist Adam Grosso. When the lineup began to resemble what Tallman describes as a “rock-band-orchestra kind of thing,” Euforia became Euforquestra.

The group has established a sizeable following in Iowa City’s community, largely attributable to Camp Euphoria, an annual musical festival on the edge of Iowa City that Tallman and the boys have been putting on since the summer of 2003.

It’s with the same eager nostalgia he expresses towards the mountains that Tallman talks about the music and arts of Iowa City: “I see it as a kind of an oasis among the cornfields out here.”

He describes the music scene as a tight-knit community, where competition takes a backseat to companionship. Each bar serves a specific set of genres. Then there’s the University of Iowa, a sizeable school that is always pumping in fresh faces and new listeners.

It’s the kind of environment that every band looking to break big would desire as a starting point. So why would these guys leave it all behind to start anew in the average-sized Fort Collins?

“Fort Collins has a very similar feel to Iowa City; it feels like it moves at the same speed, a really laid back place.” Tallman says.

Tallman adds that the group feels there’s a better market for their funked-up sound in the Western region, particularly in the jam band haven that is the West Coast. But don’t stick them with the label; Euforquestra is a rhythm-heavy flash pan of world music, seasoned with vocals from all seven members, and as a result, the music pulls from a wide variety of genres: jazz, bluegrass and rock, to name a few.

But there is always a familiar Afrobeat sound; their top influences include Fela and Femi Kuti, Steel Pulse and Burning Spear. And the one disc that never strays far from the tour van’s CD player? Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars’ definitive Living Like A Refugee.

“I can’t even count how many times we’ve listened to that entire album in our van,” Tallman laughs. “Over the course of one tour, we’ll listen to that album like twenty times.”

While Euforquestra has performed in Fort Collins in the past, their residential debut will be a cannonball entrance. Besides several August shows, including a Bohemian Nights performance at NewWestFest on August 16, Tallman expects the group to begin laying down tracks for a second album by October. So much for a transition period...

“It’s gonna be hard to leave,” Tallman said. “But just like anything, it’s turning over a new leaf. When one thing ends, something else begins.”


Anonymous said...

Iowa City is missing our band, Euforquestra. They are an energetic, frenetic group of guys with a big sound. Saw them three times during their back to the mid-west tour this last week. They are not to be missed!

pat shields said...

Im from Saint Louis and I love this band. Me and my buddy drive up to Iowa City every time they come back from the Rockies because they hardly ever come down to the Lou. I cant wait till the third album to come out as well as the Live album they are recording on April 24 and 25 @ the Iowa City Yacht Club. I have seen them 12 times and every show is better than the last. See you at Camp Euforia!