Strings attached

Heartbreak beat: Singer-songwriter-composer Silas Durocher transformed a painful breakup into beautiful music, with the help of Opal String Quartet members. Photo by Max Cooper
Heartbreak beat: Singer-songwriter-composer Silas Durocher transformed a painful breakup into beautiful music, with the help of Opal String Quartet members. Photo by Max Cooper

You probably know Silas Durocher from various high-energy roots-flavored bands. You might recognize his ubiquitous headband and acoustic guitar (the former is no longer part of the picture). What you probably don’t know about Durocher is that he has a degree in music composition and writes pieces for chamber groups outside of Asheville. However, you’re about to: The local singer-songwriter’s two worlds — classical composition and roots rock — collide in his new band, The Lovestruck Suckers.

The backstory is multifaceted. First, local roots collective Soulgrass Rebellion, with whom Durocher played guitar, disbanded last summer. That group’s members, minus lead singer Oso Rey, formed The Get Right Band, a touring outfit that, says Durocher, “very much came out of Soulgrass and that energy, but a little further away from the Americana side.” Blues, funk and jam is closer to the sound of that band — a recipe for fun. Until another breakup happened.

It was the dissolution of a romantic relationship that drastically changed Durocher’s perspective. “Heartbreak was 100-percent what created this band,” he says of the Lovestruck Suckers. For that group, Durocher teamed up with violinist Amy Lovinger, viola player Kara Poorbaugh and cellist Franklin Keel (all of whom perform in local classical outfit The Opal String Quartet and the Asheville Symphony Orchestra). “Strings are so expressive,” says Durocher. “Lyrically and musically, I was getting into way more emotional, personal, raw material than I’ve dealt with before, and I knew that the strings would be a good way to express that.”

What started as a way to process one particular pain soon transformed into a project with a much wider reach. Durocher says his breakup experience gave him empathy to others going through that same situation and lent depth to his ability as an artist. “So, now I’m super happy that it happened,” he says. From that starting point, the Lovestruck Suckers evolved from personal heartbreak to “heartbreak for the world — there’s so much, loss, pain and suffering in the world,” says Durocher. “How do we deal with that, and how are we able to focus on the beauty, the camaraderie and the good things?”

While he doesn’t necessarily have answers, Durocher does see the Lovestruck Suckers’ performances (so far there’s only been the group’s debut at the Grey Eagle, but this week’s show at the Altamont Theatre could be the start of more regular appearances) as an opportunity for catharsis. “I hope that people will come with open hearts and allow themselves to be taken away by the experience and be able to share, all together, this personal thing that’s universally experienced,” he says.

This doesn’t mean that a Lovestruck Suckers concert is a downer. “I’m not the iconic suffering artist,” says Durocher. “There’s a sense of humor to my music.” (Also, keep in mind that while the string musicians are known for their stirring and elegant recitals, Keel and Lovinger also perform with absurdist-gypsy-funk outfit Sirius.B. They know how to get wild.)

Although the Lovestruck Suckers is still a new band, and the all-seated concerts (both the band members and the audience are in chairs) are a departure from typical rock show fare, the concept is not a total departure for Durocher. While based in Florida, he put together the band Everybody Knows, which included clarinet, cello and upright bass. It also included a drum set — an instrument absent from the Lovestruck Suckers.

“It’s initially intimidating. It’s way more raw and personal. I go through thoughts of feeling exposed,” Durocher says of that concert experience. “The Get Right Band is all about, ‘Come to the show and shake your ass.’ I’m all about that; that’s my roots.”

He says that while he loves that kind of music and will always play with that type of band, “it’s so powerful to have a seated, quiet, attentive audience and to hope that they come with open hearts.”

The process has taught Durocher to remain open, himself. Of a new song, he says, “I thought, ‘This is totally not going to work with Lovestruck Suckers. It’s not the right style.’ But then I thought, ‘This is my band and it’s whatever style I want it to be.’ We figured it out and now it’s hands down the song I’m most excited to be playing at the show.”

And, he says, it’s nice to perform in Asheville, where audiences embrace new and experimental styles. Lovestruck Suckers’ experimentation may find its way into the studio in the future. “I think this band lends itself to recording,” says Durocher. But for now he seems content with defining the band’s unique style, from emotional expression, carefully vetted covers (one per show) and new material that brings listeners up-to-date on Durocher’s current romantic status.

“What’s interesting is being separated by months or years from those feelings and then playing those songs,” he says. “I’m excited to have another go at balancing the emotion, the fun and the way things have changed since I wrote the initial songs.”

— Alli Marshall can be reached at amarshall@mountainx.com.

who: Lovestruck Suckers with Ten Cent Poetry
where: The Altamont Theatre
when: Saturday, June 9 (8 p.m., $8. http://myaltamont.com)

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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