From new Americans to all-women groups, Boise bands represent eclectic music town

Artists from Idaho's capital city discuss their tight knit community and diverse music scene.
Boise artists Afrosonics (left), Canyon Kids (center) and The French Tips (right) performed at the 10th edition of the Treefort Music Festival in March. (KHOL [left and right] and courtesy of Christie Quinn [center])

The 10th edition of the ever-growing Treefort Music Festival took place in Boise from March 23 to 27. KHOL Music Director Jack Catlin was there and had the chance to interview three Boise-based bands: The multi-ethnic group Afrosonics, Jackson’s own Canyon Kids and the all-female rock band The French Tips.

The Afrosonics have conscientiously integrated new American musicians–a group of former refugees from several war-torn countries–into a collective with roots in country, rock, jazz, reggae and opera. Bo Elledge and Dusty Nichols, aka Canyon Kids, are longtime friends with a knack for rich harmonies who made a name for themselves in Jackson, where they grew up, before making the move to Boise. Garage rock trio The French Tips are about to release their sophomore album filled with “disco damaged dance-punk.”

The following interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.

JACK CATLIN/KHOL: From an outsider’s perspective, looking at the [Treefort] lineup, you guys definitely pop out from the page as a multi-ethnic [band]. You know, you have African music, Middle Eastern music and European [sounds]–so many influences kind of in a melting pot of inspiration. How did that all start, originate, and how has it evolved over the years?

TODD DUNNIGAN/AFROSONICS: Well, it really just started with bringing some different people together: Some folks native to Idaho, some folks native to Africa… we’ve had people from lots of different countries in Africa, Turkey, Iraq, South America, all over the place, and [we] just wanted everyone to just ‘bring what you do.’ We’re going to fit it into this thing that we have collectively made. But we want, you know, we want you to bring your unique voice or talent to it. And that’s kind of where it got started.

DAYO AYODELE/AFROSONICS: Yeah, and it’s grown since then. You know, the beauty of it all is that the project itself is we make it community-based, because we do some other things like mentorship, you know, for the people who call themselves ‘new Americans.’ [For some of them,] when they come here, they don’t know what to do. They’re musicians so we welcome them, bring them in and try to get them involved in the music scene and the community. So yeah, so it’s kind of like a pseudo hybrid parliament-funkadelic. All that stuff together, you know?

BEN WIELAND/AFROSONICS: Boise is a really diverse town musically. Having said that, you know, as a drummer, you can kind of end up playing similar styles a lot of the time or [with] bands that are obsessed with representing a certain era of a certain genre, something like that. And so, the really nice thing about Afrosonics and about having people from different countries, different continents, is that I can play the music that I would not normally get to play otherwise, that I really like, and that I would just normally play in my studio alone, right? So, that’s nice.

KHOL: Now that you guys are both based in Boise, how do you compare the scenes in Boise to that in Jackson and vice versa?

DUSTY NICHOLS/CANYON KIDS: Boise is a completely different animal, I’d say. I mean, I think that we’ve only really scratched the surface so far. We’re still very new on the scene here. But I think the major difference between here and Jackson is there’s actually a number of venues to play. As we all probably know, a lot of venues are starting to close in Jackson. It’s just harder and harder to keep a venue operational there. And it’s nice to be in a city that has so many options of places to play. We’re hoping to take advantage of that going forward.

BO ELLEDGE/CANYON KIDS: 125 of the 525 bands playing [at Treefort this year] are local, which is a really cool stat. I’ve met several bassists, drummers, guitarists and singers. I was working the door at Pengilly’s Saloon for a little bit, and that made me feel at home because it’s like the most Wyoming bar, and is kind of reminiscent of Mangy Moose or whatever. So, I met a bunch of musicians through hanging out there.

 

KHOL: I was watching a panel today with Eric, the founder and organizer of Treefort, and he said the most important thing to take away from a festival like this is the social impact. You have a unique impact being an all-female band. How do you feel about your social impact and the impact of the festival, specifically on, say, a young girl in the audience that may not know your music and just draws that light bulb above her head and wants to join a rock band immediately?

RACHEL COUCH/THE FRENCH TIPS: I think on a very personal level, it’s been so cool to be a part of something different because I mean, throughout my time of playing music, it’s always been with men. This is newer for me to play with all women, and it’s an incredible, amazing experience. And I think that if I were younger and I was able to have more role models and people to look up to, that representation then would have made such a huge difference to me. So, I think it’s a really beautiful thing to be able to hopefully in some way, be that [inspiration] for someone else.

IVY MERRELL/THE FRENCH TIPS: One story, I guess, that comes from the Boise music scene is that myself and a few other women who are playing in bands here, somebody had the idea that there should be a cover band of mostly women. And so we played 10 years of fundraiser shows we did once a year. And Rachel came and joined us as a guitar player in the last several years. It was really empowering for all of us to get together and do that. At the time that I started playing covers, [it] wasn’t something I even really enjoyed, but I learned so much and playing with other women was really inspiring. And when that band finally disbanded, which we only did because it was just so much work, we all went off and started other bands with lots of other women because we wanted to play with other women. Then there’s a group of younger female musicians that got together and they actually took over kind of the cover show. So, I think that that was a really profound experience for me, and I’m blown away by how many people tell me that that was like one of their first experiences seeing so many women play onstage and that [it] inspired them to want to play with other women, too.

ANGELA HEILESON/THE FRENCH TIPS: Yeah, and that’s kind of why we like to do these all-ages shows or somewhere where kids can go. I mean, I’ve been approached many times by parents that are like, ‘Oh my gosh, my daughter started playing drums because she saw you at The Modern, like four years ago,’ and that’s really cool. And that’s kind of like, I wouldn’t say the whole reason that I play, but I mean, that’s a big part of it is just inspiring younger girls or kids, in general, to get into music.

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversations with Afrosonics, Canyon Kids and The French Tips.

This coverage is funded in part with an Arts For All grant provided by the Town of Jackson and Teton County.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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