Angie Flynn-McIver discovered Atlanta-based trio Girlyman when a childhood friend contacted her through Facebook and said something like, "If you're not listening to Girlyman, then I don't even know who you are." Effective, if dramatic; of course Flynn-McIver, producing director of North Carolina Stage Company, is in the drama business.
Thing is, Girlyman (whose album Flynn-McIver immediately bought and loved) is not in the drama business. Girlyman is a folk-pop band known for rich harmonies, touring with the Indigo Girls and challenging gender stereotypes. Still, after a Decatur, Ga. show, Flynn-McIver approached first singer/songwriter Nate Borofsky (he's the one in the lipstick) and later the group's booking agent, about setting up an Asheville date.
"I told [the booking agent] I had a theater but I knew that probably wasn't the type of venue where they usually performed," Flynn-McIver recalls. "She emailed right back and said a 120-seat theater is great. It just happened from there."
"We've been wanting to play in Asheville proper for awhile now," Borofsky tells Xpress. Girlyman recently performed at Hendersonville's Blue Ridge Performing Arts Center, but they've yet to have an Asheville show. As for odd venues— Borofsky says that he, along with band mates Doris Muramatsu (in the dress) and Tylan Greenstein (in the tie and vest), has played any number of unusual spaces, from acoustic music clubs to churches to house parties and "even a barn one time."
What matters more than the setting is the finely crafted sound, lush melodies, and thoughtful lyrics Girlyman brings to its audience. "Can the members of Girlyman read each other's minds?" asks the band's online bio. "Sometimes it seems so. Onstage they often finish one another's sentences or burst into improvised three-part ditties so tight they seem rehearsed."
That closeness comes from the fact that Muramatsu and Greenstein have been best friends since second grade. Borofsky met the two in New York in 2001 when all three shared an apartment (they've since moved South to Georgia); their proximity in a small space fostering a shared love of 60s folk music that blossomed into original songs.
Harmonies are what Girlyman is known for; equally, the group — which took its name as a joke — is known for gender bending and being a "queer band." Some songs, like "Young James Dean" with the lyric "All the real girls with their backs turned called me crazy" address sexual identity. Other songs, like the gorgeously storied "Easy Bake Ovens" deal with other growing pains: "Back then we had to be cool / But nobody taught me the rules / So I just wrote it all down / On the inside of my fast food paperboard crown."
While the members of Girlyman are quick to point out that their audience includes queer- and non-queer identified listeners, the bulletin board feature on the group's Web site serves as a gathering place. Visitors discuss song lyrics, personal issues and seek to connect. "I haven't had much time for making new friends on my own," wrote one poster, "so I was just wondering if there were any Wichita-area Girly-fans who might be up for hanging out sometime!"
"It makes me really happy to think the music we do can help people find a community," says Borofsky. "It's all kind of a dream come true for me because this is the music we'd be making even if no one was listening."
But people are listening. First there are the fans, who — when Girlyman decided they needed a $10,000 microphone to record this year's Everything Is Easy — raised the necessary funds in a few short months. Borofsky said the band had used the magic mic before and were surprised by the staggering cost but, "If you have an okay computer you can record at home. What does make a difference is the mic."
The musician adds, "It was so amazing to get that kind of support from our fans." The band, who used to be on the Indigo Girls' Daemon Records but now uses their own Girlyman Records imprint, welcomes all forms of support and encouragement. This year props came from an unexpected source: Comedian Margaret Cho approached the group about recording with her on her forthcoming album Guitarded (as anyone who made it to Cho's recent Asheville show knows, the comic does indeed write and play songs).
"We wrote a song about a male stripper that was a lot of fun," says Borofsky. "We were all fans of her stand-up but it never would have occurred to me … sometimes I sit around fantasizing about who it would be fun to collaborate with; who it would fun to play a show with. Not ever once did I think Margaret Cho."
what: Harmonious folk-pop trio
where: North Carolina Stage Company
when: Sunday, Dec. 6 (7-9 p.m., $13 advance/$15 doors. ncstage.org or 239-0263)