What’s a band to do once they’ve conquered Portland? Local groove band Sly Chi sets its sights on overcoming all of New England. Sly Chi, described by friend and sound man Dave Butler as a “smooth moving aura,” is working on moving into the touring circuit.
Sly Chi is a multitalented and eclectic group of individuals who have performed together for three years. Brought together by similar interests, many members became acquainted through the USM Music Department. The four original members–Tyler Stanley, keyboardist; Brian Pierce, trumpet player and singer; Matt Day, trumpet and flugelhorn player; and Rafael Keilt-Freyre, bassist–began their Sly Chi careers playing Monday nights at the Basement in downtown Portland.
Coming a long way since those days, the band now plays coveted venues such as Ri Ra and the Big Easy. With the addition of guitarist Jay Desormeau, drummer David Henault, saxophonist Ken Ordway, vocalist Kate Violette, and percussionist Carlos Villegas, the band has become a “big family,” Desormeau said.
“A lot of bands don’t do well when there are so many people involved,” said Desmorneau. It’s apparent that this easy-going bunch of musicians allows one another the space they need to live (four of the nine live in the same house) and work together successfully.
This past March the band was lucky enough to persuade a financier to fund the production of their first compact disc, “Something Crazy.” Before they could master and distribute the compact disc, the band’s investor backed out.
With female vocalist Violette unable to perform because of Lyme disease and a temporary hold on distribution of “Something Crazy,” the band faces hardships. Not allowing these bumps to overwhelm their good natures, the band remains positive, maintaining hopes of eventually touring New England. Although Stanley said “gigs take forever to get” in the club circuit, Sly Chi is secure within its Portland connections and no longer struggles to get a gig. “Bars call us,” Stanley said.
When the band was young, they hired an agent who frequently booked gigs in northern Maine where crowds were less than plentiful. Though generally not the ideal situation, the band realizes the value of those experiences. Members of Sly Chi agree that the time spent playing in desolate bars in rural Maine allowed them the opportunity to learn to play as a band while creating and strengthening the bonds that secure them to one another. “Every band has to do that to start,” Desormeau said.
While no longer employing a permanent booking agent, the band received calls from agents interested in booking Sly Chi for out-of-state shows. The present potential connection could score gigs in New Hampshire, which would further the band’s progress in achieving their goal to tour New England.
Sly Chi plays regularly around Portland, appearing every Tuesday night at the Big Easy, 55 Market St.