LINVILLE, VA - One unrenowned local band has effectively taken the locavore movement to heart by successfully gigging within only a 15-mile radius.
“Popular bands,” the Clymer Kurtz Band’s Maria Clymer Kurtz said, “have to travel a lot and perform tiring, high-energy acts that leave fans exhilarated and begging for encore after encore. We may as well have pledged to take a different route: boring obscurity.”
“Maybe even to the point of exasperation,” Clymer Kurtz’s husband Christopher Clymer Kurtz added. “At a recent gig our final number left the one person who was really listening to us in tears. Although,” he confessed sheepishly, “she said it was because she really liked the song.”
The band’s 2012 “Arms Uncrossed” release was pieced together on a shoestring budget in a bedroom studio in Harrisonburg. Boxes of the shrink-wrapped CDs still fill the Clymer Kurtz’s bedroom closet and show little promise of moving.
“Our CD sales haven’t slumped at all,” Christopher said. “They’ve just continued in their swampish ways, never lifting off the soggy bottom of lackluster.” The band’s digital sales are worse: $18.81 in the last two years, gross.
The band has, however, had a few scrapes with fame.
The first radio airtime for the Clymer Kurtzes came years ago when they were still a duo. Christopher’s mother, who at the moment was at her home one hundred miles away, called Harrisonburg’s public radio folk music program Acoustic Cafe to request a song from the CD the band had submitted.
The show host said he hadn’t heard of the band but found the CD, and asked her, “How do you know about this group?”
“Well, Christopher is my son,” she said. “And actually, I’m in West Virginia right now, so I won’t even be able to listen to the song if you play it.”
The host obliged--but only after commenting on air, “How can you refuse a mother’s request?”
While WEMC’s Mel Lee’s Songbag has played several of the band’s songs over the last months, Terry Gross has not invited the Clymer Kurtzes to interview on Fresh Air, and Tom and Ray of Car Talk have neglected to use the band’s one road-trip song for intermission music.
“We’re just that dedicated to being a local band,” Maria said, stamping her foot emphatically.
The Clymer Kurtzes have performed in bluegrass, country, choral, Americana, and jazz groups. However, they especially enjoy the Clymer Kurtz Band format as an outlet for their original songs.
Drummer Craig Zook and bassist Ry Wilson also add vocal harmonies, and the Clymer Kurtzes credit them with bringing their music to life.
“We take new music that we’ve written to the band, and before we know it, the song is way better than we ever thought it could be,” Maria said. “It’s scary to think, ‘Uh-oh. Is this one going to mean people in another county are going to want us to come sing for them? You mean we might have to drive all the way to Staunton?’”
“Our musical-career potential isn’t what keeps us going,” Christopher said. “We just play music because being little known is only as fun as you make it.”