"We booked six months of shows and got rid of our jobs and apartment."
— Erin Frisby, better known as Miss Shevaughn
Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray, also known as Erin Frisby and Chris Stelloh, will be bringing their fuzzed out, heartfelt alt country songs to Galaxy Hut, 2711 Wilson Blvd., on Sunday April 28 starting at 8 p.m., and Monday April 29 at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C., starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for each show; more information on the band is available at www.missshevaughn....
From the greater Washington area to New Mexico and back again, Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray have crossed the country with their malleable songs.
It's been a few years since Miss Shevaughn (Erin Frisby) and Yuma Wray (Chris Stelloh) decided to quit the 9-to-5 life in the hopes of making a living off their music, a blend of lighthearted country, church-like organs and sunny 70s AM radio-inspired tunes.
It's been paying off.
Calling from a campsite near Santa Fe, N.M., Miss Shevaughn, the vocalist and sometimes instrumentalist, and Yuma Wray, instrumentalist and sometimes vocalist, spoke of tour dates at least six months in advance, traveling the country in a car, and playing from town to town in venues big and small.
Both are natives to the greater D.C. area — Stelloh used to work at Revolution Cycle just down the road from Galaxy Hut in 2002 and Frisby grew up in Maryland — and first met in 1999 through mutual friends.
A few years later, they were in Chicago, brought together at a time when both were playing in different bands but found they were more interested in the music they were writing together than the styles of music they were playing with their respective groups.
"The band I was in at the time was very southern rock, and Erin was more into 90s indie rock, and we found the songs we were writing didn't fit with either band," Stelloh said.
By 2011, they had written enough songs to go out on their own, and they haven't looked back.
"We booked six months of shows and got rid of our jobs and apartment," Frisby said. "We drove around and went to 29 states and loved it. The next year, we recorded our first album."
The songs they write have been prepared for a duo, which is what Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray started as, in part because it was easier to drive around in a vehicle with two people and a variety of instruments that didn't include a drum kit.
That also means they can "play to the room" in a number of ways, Stelloh said. If they've got a big open space in which to play a gig, more instruments, including guitar, keyboard and assorted stringed instruments, will be brought in to accompany songs. But in a tighter space, like Galaxy Hut, the songs can be stripped down to a more acoustic arrangement, so the music doesn't overwhelm the crowd, and effects pedals are used to manipulate instruments to sound different from song to song.
It's an intimacy that Frisby said she enjoys sharing with the audience.
"We don't mind if people come up and talk to us" during the show or between sets, she said. "That happens to us quite a bit."
Added Stelloh, "Don't expect anything to remain static. We'll bring it up and down [emotionally]. We spend the whole night messing with emotions," he laughed.
They do occasionally bring in the help of a drummer, the very talented Ben Tufts, who plays with several other bands in the D.C. area, but Stelloh said he and Frisby are trying eagerly to steal him away from those projects.
Their music has a "spaghetti western" sound in some songs, a louder, raucous rock and roll soul in others, a dynamic that fluctuates from room to room and day to day. Stelloh and Frisby said the ability to strip songs down or amp them up keeps the setlist fresh, even though they supplement older songs with those they're "road testing" for a new album, to be recorded soon, Frisby said.
And Stelloh is glad they are making a go of their musical careers now, instead of in their 20s.
"Had we tried to do this when we were in our early 20s, I don't know if we had the focus and drive to do that," he said.
But now, they've made their music and the road their lives, and they're eager and happy to play anywhere they can. Their tour calendar is booked several months in advance, still, and they continue to drive themselves across country, writing songs as they go.