Vienna video from The Bad Oats

We’ve commented several times over the years about the burgeoning string music scene in Boston, enriched by the city’s two major music schools accepting folk and bluegrass music as a field of study. Not only are the New England Conservatory and the Berklee College of Music located in Boston, they very nearly abut one another in the same neighborhood, where students and faculty commonly share facilities and classrooms.

Of course, now that these prestigious schools are attracting young pickers – and music students from other backgrounds are being exposed to traditional string arts – opportunities abound for new groups to form and pursue their own ideas. This had been the proving ground for Mile Twelve, perhaps the most recent new bluegrass band to form in Bean Town, as it was for Crooked Still, Joy Kills Sorrow, The Lonely Heartstrings Band, and The Deadly Gentlemen before them.

The very nature of the college experience encourages students to try on new ideas and concepts, and so it goes with the young musicians in conservatories, exploring different and experimental sounds.

Today we look at another such group, calling themselves The Bad Oats. The quintet are all current students at Berklee, who met in class over the course of several months. And with an undergrad’s sense of humor, they initially performed as The Tinder Sweethearts, doing house shows as well as the Joe Val and FreshGrass festivals.

But mandolinist Sam Powers tells us that while the name was not without its appeal within their age demographic, they all figured it might not be the best going forward.

“We started the band under the name The Tinder Sweethearts, but decided that a more professional route didn’t involve the name of a dating app. It was a hotly debated subject for a while, but we eventually settled on The Bad Oats.”

Along with Sam on mandolin, The Bad Oats are Charlie Jack Fuertsch on guitar, Graham Northrop on banjo, Lucy Singelton on vocals, and Jeff Halpin on bass.

They have a debut EP set for digital release next month, and have a live performance video of one of the tracks to share.

“The roots department at Berklee is so small that just about everyone knows everyone else. Lucy, Charlie, Graham, and I were in an ensemble taught by Greg Liszt, where we arranged and performed contemporary music in a stringband setting. Our arrangement of Vienna came out of that ensemble. After the semester ended we had a rehearsal where we invited Jeff to join on bass and from that point on we were a band.”

See what you think of their take on this Billy Joel classic.

The Bad Oats couldn’t completely abandon their original name, so the upcoming EP is titled, Tinder Sweetheart. Pre-orders are available now online.

It is set for a September 15 release.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.