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Folk face the music

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Folk Faces fan the flames of burning Americana and other root styles with a casual unpretentious swing. Electric guitar, banjo, washboard, saxophone, et al — the combined instrumentation isn't the least bit normal. The band looks like it picked up its gear at a garage sale. Though at times they come on frenetic, Folk Faces frequently cops to a beautiful waltz-time signature for pitching woo or pitching a fit on the dance floor.

Founded on the streets of Buffalo, Folk Faces hasn't lost sight of its asphalt roots. Nor has it abandoned them on the new Folk Faces release, "How Long?" where singer and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Westcott sings appropriately glib with an ever-present excitement and urgency.

Folk Faces falls in the folk phylum nicely even though they have the look and attitude of a rock band to a certain degree. When the band played Photo City a few weeks ago, it casually blended load-in, set-up, sound check, and its opening number all into one fluid movement. Before you knew it they were chuggin' away full speed. It was like a rock 'n' roll ballet. Now that's cool.

Westcott got on the phone to talk with CITY about his influences, songwriting, and wrestling in chocolate pudding; an edited transcript follows.

CITY: How would you describe your music?

Tyler Westcott: Ok um, uhhh, I'm gonna say... uhh acoustic, or it's a lot...I dunno. I'd say it's a bit jug band a bit rock 'n' roll... and a whole lot of energy. I like to call it a variety show of American roots music.

How did the group get started?

The band got started 5 years ago as a trio. I'm the only original member left. I'm from Hunt, New York and moved to Buffalo. I was riding my bike to work one day and I saw a couple of people busking. I ended up hanging out with them later playing some music. They had some line-up changes and needed me to fill in for a gig. We started another little thing after that and that eventually became Folk Faces.

But you don't come off exclusively as a busker band.

It's all about the time and place. If we're in a coffee shop we'll play more of a busker set. If it's more of a rock 'n' roll bar, we'll bring in electric guitars and do the louder stuff.

List some of your influences.

I'm really a fan of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joe Strummer, Rev. Gary Davis. Dave Van Ronk, David Bromberg...

How do you write?

Everyone is different. Somedays you're like a weathervane and you get struck by lightning and it all comes out at once. Other times you start with a melody you may already have, or a chord change, or sometimes you have a poem and you intentionally write for that poem.

What's the funniest thing that's happened to the band on stage?

We've played a lot of weird places that I'm not sure some of them even had stages. One gig last summer there was a kiddie pool that was filled with chocolate pudding and there were two grown men wrestling in it shortly after we played. That was pretty awesome. But it's not always on the stage; it's at the party afterwards.

What's important to Folk Faces?

What's important is the variety; it's very eclectic, the instrumentation isn't normal, and my influences are from all over. I try to include some themes of social justice and unrest, all the while trying to have a dance party.

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