“Right now, we are going with ‘music for travel,'” said Bennet Cerven, violinist of The Trouble Notes, when grappling to define their sound. We caught the group during a three-month tour that will take them throughout France and Germany – including Leipzig this Friday.
A mix of plugged-in violin, nylon string guitar, and a single percussionist combine to give this trio a specific flavor – part Romani, a large dash of folk, with some traditional Irish rhythm and modern-day indie influences thrown in.
The Trouble Notes love to pick up ideas from traditional folk music while on tour.
“We called it ‘indie world fusion’ for a while too, but honestly we just want to make cultural music for everyone to enjoy,” Cerven explained. “Every single song was written on the road, and we want to take cultural music from many places and make it very digestible for Western listeners.”
Spawned originally in New York, the band’s current members also include Florian Eisenschmidt on guitar and Oliver Maguire on percussion. Their instrumentation directly reflects the music that brought them together in the first place.
“Our instrument choice is based on street music – when we first started touring, we were still using the train to get to our concerts, which naturally limited our choice with what instruments to play,” Cerven said. Traveling by bus, “we can now use more instruments, but we like to stick to our busking street music roots.”
Cerven started playing violin when he was only 4 years old – a young age to start for any musician. He soon grew disappointed of classical music and branched out into other genres. “I always had an affinity for Celtic music, and I would also accompany my sister’s Irish dance lessons,” he told me.
At the age of 18, Cerven moved to New York City from Chicago. He soon heard of a band that wanted a violin player and reached out to them. “At that point the possibilities of the instrument opened up to me,” he said.
After working at the United Nations for a year, and then a few more years at a hedge fund, Bennet decided to move to Europe: “I had Wanderlust. I wanted to see the world, and thought I should give it a chance.”
The group has been touring consistently with this line-up since January 2015.
At that time their touring schedule was different.
“We would pick a city, rent an Airbnb for a month, and try to play everywhere we could. We would try to take over the city,” Cerven said. The band picked up quite a dedicated fan base as a result.
“We are now more professional,” he said. “We have a bus and two people working for us, although we still do a lot of the promotion ourselves.”
The trio is playing at Horns Erben this upcoming Friday night. They have already played at Elsterartig and Oskar in the past, and are looking forward to visiting Leipzig again.
“It’s a beautiful city, and every time we visit we get a great reaction from the public,” Cerven said.
By Christopher Lade
Originally from Los Angeles, California, Christopher lives in Leipzig with his beautiful wife and lovely dog. He adores all things music, and when he isn’t occupying himself with that, you can find him cooking, reading, cycling, or attempting to learn the German language.
The Trouble Notes – Lose Your Ties Tour ** 23 February, 8-10 pm, Horns Erben
Cover shot: The Trouble Notes. © Anton Capellmann