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Louisville, Kentucky: The next Seattle, Toucan Cove, Muckrakers, Digby
Louisville, Kentucky: The next Seattle?
by: Mike Farley

Music Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

What do you think of when someone mentions Louisville, Kentucky? The Kentucky Derby? Louisville Cardinals basketball?

As far as music, you surely would assume Louisville, which is three hours north of Nashville, to be a hotbed for country music. Well, maybe it is, but some of the best Louisville-based bands that are garnering attention right now are rock bands.

Indie record label Toucan Cove was smitten by two Louisville rock bands in particular over the past few years, the Muckrakers and Digby, and signed both of them. These are not hip, cool, Next Big Thing bands, but rather hard-working pop/rock acts that write great songs and aren’t afraid to get on the road and show the world who they are.

But why Louisville?

“Well I think one of the really cool things about Louisville is that there’s not just one style of music,” says Rob Carpenter, front man for the Muckrakers. “You have your bands like My Morning Jacket and VHS or Beta. Then you also have your Days of the New and Tantric, but then there’s also a wide-open space for good pop-rock bands like us. And every one of those bands can succeed, but also support each other. So I think it’s been really nice to see this recent appreciation for Louisville sound. I think certain publications try to peg it one way or another, but the actual music scene in Louisville doesn’t allow that. It is so diverse. There’s room for everybody.”

There is also a perception when the bands play out of town that comes with being from Louisville, or from the south in general.

“Yeah, for some reason if people don’t know who we are or where we’re from, they think we’re British,” says Rich Oeffinger, guitarist for Digby. “We’re all influenced by English music, so it probably comes out that way. But when we tell them we’re from Kentucky, they’re like, ‘What?’ Especially when we go north of here. They seem kind of shocked by that.”

So once the rest of the country comes to realize that Louisville is a breeding ground for new rock bands, maybe even in the vein of early ‘90s Seattle, they will start to appreciate the depth of talent the city has to offer. Toucan Cove certainly has its work cut out in that regard, but both bands appreciate being on a label that believes in them, as opposed to being a number in a major label game.

“The major labels have more muscle behind them, obviously,” says Oeffinger. “And with more muscle comes somebody pushing you harder to do something you don’t want to do. So we’re not really interested in that.”

Carpenter agrees wholeheartedly. “We had been at the point with our band to have offers from major labels,” he says. “But they all wanted us to change our sound to become harder, edgier, depending on what the newest trend was in music. And we said, ‘You know, that’s not who we are, why fake that?’ We haven’t hit any of those big battles and I have full confidence that Toucan Cove can carry us though all that. When you see how many great bands are strictly with independent record labels, you don’t need to go through the channels anymore.”

As far as touring, this is also the kind of situation where a band has to work extra hard to gain fans one at a time. Both the Muckrakers and Digby have great songs; it’s just a matter of getting more and more people to hear them. Sometimes that calls for unique marketing strategies, including spending the entire day of a show promoting the gig.

“We will walk around the streets passing out flyers,” says Carpenter. “We will set up our laptops and let people listen to the album. We’ll do downloads into people’s iPods if they have them with them. I’m very lucky to have a couple of guys in the band that are really good at coming up with those kinds of ideas.”

It’s this kind of work ethic that, long term, should get both of these fans the national, and maybe global, recognition they deserve.

Great rock bands emerging from the center of Kentucky? Absolutely. And why not?

Send any questions or comments to mfarley@bullz-eye.com

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