The gypsy in their souls

“Who is this band, Gogol Bordello?” asks Xavier Ferdón, guitarist for Asheville folk-punk collective Sirius.b.

Citizens of the dog star: Sirius.b channels otherworldly grooves.

It’s the band’s gypsy-infused violins (they have two), European street sensibilities, world-traveled tunes and multiethnic lineup that warrant comparisons to New York City gypsy-punk icons Gogol Bordello, a group fronted by Ukrainian-born lunatic-turned-actor Eugene Hütz that did much to inject Slavic culture into the New York underground music scene.

Sirius.b, likewise, boasts some far-flung roots. Ferdón claims Vorkuta, Siberia, as his hometown (then again, his MySpace page names “prankster” as his occupation and he speaks with no trace of an accent). He’s joined by drummer Imhotep (a recent New Orleans transplant) and songwriter Pancho Romero Bond (who speaks multiple languages). Fully manned, there are six members, including new recruits Jamie Davis on bass and violinist Hannah Furgiuele.

Sirius.b, however, isn’t planning to follow (at least not directly) in Gogol Bordello’s footsteps.

“We saw Everything is Illuminated,” Bond says of Hütz’s 2005 big-screen vehicle. “We thought, ‘This is great,’ but for the longest while we didn’t have any Gogol Bordello albums. It’s only sort of recently we started to learn more about them.”

Instead, the group considers its sound a happy accident. 

“Fusion would imply intention, that’s my impression,” Ferdón says. Neither he nor Bond wants to classify the band as fusion or world music.

“Absurdist” is one description they’re comfortable with—which is fitting with lyrics like, “Your aunt was a microbe who lived in a bathrobe. She’d wear it night and day.”

“This is more our own thing,” the guitarist states, “flavored with various elements.”

And discovering those elements has been years in the works. Ferdón and Bond met at college in Columbia, S.C., where they first played together in a band. The guitarist delicately explains, “We only had two shows.”

Ferdón went on to study flamenco guitar in Spain for most of a year before returning to Asheville to head up U.S. distribution for Spanish-made Alhambra guitars.

Violinist Laura Baskervill came into the band through providence and plenty of wine. She found herself missing her old fiddle during a jam session at the house shared by Ferdón and Bond, and picked up a sad, out-of-tune violin that was missing a string. “Stuff started flowing,” she recalls. “Or maybe I just thought it was because I was a little drunk.”

“At the beginning, things all started falling together and we were kind of amazed,” Bond remembers. “People wanted to play with us.”

And, since winning a third-place mention as one of Xpress readers’ favorite as-yet unknown bands, it’s obvious people want to listen to them, too.

An early version of Sirius.b was Ferdón on guitar and drummer Imhotep (who seems to play with nearly every other band in Asheville, when he’s not mentoring student drummers at the W.C. Reid Center), accompanied by a loop pedal.

“It failed,” the guitarist quips.

It was Imhotep who brought the band their name: A reference to a dwarf sun mysteriously known to the West African Dogon tribe long before its discovery by astronomers. One theory is that tribal members actually came from that distant galaxy illuminated by the Sirius B star. The songwriter and drummer mused that they, too, might have descended from the same cosmic locale.

But intergalactic travel aside, Sirius.b’s music remains firmly rooted to earthly traditions. “Without even knowing it, we had this klezmer thing going on,” Bond says. With the occasional addition of August Hoerr on accordion, that Eastern-block piquancy is sure to rise to the top of the Sirius.b stew.

Old-world flair rubs elbows with new-world themes as the band—now fleshing out not just its sound, but also its mission—begins writing material as a group effort.

“The writing is really changing now, because it’s geared toward the band,” Bond explains. His new song, “Guerra Santa,” means “Holy War”. The group’s first political number, it challenges what they see as a plague of apathy among young people.

But don’t expect Sirius.b to get too, well, serious. Ferdón is quick to point out that other new material (slated for upcoming album, Dazzling Urbanites) is sure to earn more gypsy-punk comparisons. “The songs move toward a Gogol Bordello style with driving, syncopated rhythms,” Ferdón offers. “It’s something people want to move to.”

who: Sirius.b
what: Absurdist folk-punk
where/when: Broadways on Friday, Nov. 30 (10 p.m., $6. 285-0400); and Root Bar on Saturday, Dec. 1 (9 p.m. $5. 299-7597)

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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