Birds Over Arkansas will perform 10 p.m. Friday at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St. The touring duo of Scott Haskitt and Laura Hartshron is based out of Milford, Conn., and records with Philadelphia's John Mondick. The Birds' Scott Haskitt answered some questions for the Sun-Gazette.
JOSH BROKAW: Who is Birds Over Arkansas?
SCOTT HAZLITT: When we're touring, it's a duo, with myself and Laura. We also record with John. Laura and I are both music teachers (in Connecticut). I went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania for percussion. Laura went to NYU for keyboards. John's actually a scientist - he went to school as a guitar major, but he switched to chemistry pretty quickly.
Birds Over Arkansas.
JB: How did you all get together?
SH: I started playing with Laura in a cover band three years ago. John and me, we've played together since I was 13 or 14, in Philly. I've got a couple solo records from work that I did with John. Laura and I record with John, and we're always working together though we're in different states. John's in another band, too, New West, down in Philly.
JB: How do you collaborate over state lines?
SH: All three of us write sporadically, and then we finish each others' songs. E-mail, the Internet, it makes it pretty easy. The thing we like doing most is collaborating, I'd say.
JB: How much has Birds Over Arkansas toured?
SH: Laura and I just did a full tour for the first time over the summer. We started in Connecticut and made a loop out to Fort Wayne, Ind.
JB: What sort of influences are in your background?
SH: Laura's into old R&B, like Aretha Franklin, that sort of Detroit sound, and a lot of singer-songwriters. I was into a lot of metal when I was younger, actually; that's what got me started playing drums. As I got older, I realized my singing voice was built for other stuff than metal. We have some songs I think that kind of blend that metal influence with influences that aren't metal, at all.
JB: You use lots of instruments in your songs. How do you reproduce your sound live?
SH: I play guitar or keyboard and we've got a drum set with microphone. Laura plays mostly piano, and the ukulele and harmonica. We have a loop machine that we use - it's like playing another instrument. We use a lot of percussion, like the glockenspiel, too. To do a set without (the loop machine) you really have to rework songs, really rewrite the songs to arrange them if you can't physically play all the parts. Say, you have to forget about the bridge, for example. You have a boundary to work around - it's a good challenge.
JB: What recording have you done so far?
SH: We finished an EP before the summer tour. We have a lot of material we've been trying to finish. Some of it is very progressive, and some gets very singer-songwritery. We've been thinking about doing a double EP, with five straight-ahead like singer-songwriter songs, and five that are more weird and progressive. It all comes together in the end, we think.
JB: Where does the band's name come from?
SH: On New Year's of 2010, a flock of blackbirds fell out of the sky over Arkansas. Everybody thought the world was ending, there was a lot of media coverage. It turns out it happens a lot, but there was all sorts of media attention because of the date. I'm skeptical of stuff like that; I just kind of threw the name out there and it stuck.
JB: Have you been through Williamsport before?
SH: We've been to Alabaster Coffee three or four times now. They popped up as a new venue looking for artists on Reverb Nation. Every time we come through Williamsport we go to the Bullfrog, so we're excited to play there. It's a pretty long gig at the Bullfrog, so we'll be playing a good mix of covers and originals.
More about Birds Over Arkansas may be found by searching "Birds Over Arkansas" on Facebook and YouTube.