It’s not often in 2017 that a music fan would stumble into a venue and be met with the nimble violin-playing, banjo picking and soaring vocal harmonies of bluegrass. But one band, Hammersaw, is bringing back the bluegrass sound with added influences from country and metal.
The band is comprised of five members who have all spent a majority of their lives in Nebraska. Jesse Laney and Jacob Hawco play the guitar, Jeff Tate plays the drums or the banjo depending on the song, Andy Haldeman plays the guitalele and Lisa Vuong plays the cajón, a box-shaped percussion instrument.
After attending Lincoln High School and Lincoln Southwest High School, Vuong said she and Laney started messing around with instruments, not expecting it to lead to anything. Tate and Haldeman, on the other hand, were two friends who started playing together and eventually met the rest of the group to form Hammersaw.
The name Hammersaw stems from a term in construction for sheeting a roof, according to Haldeman. When the construction worker is guessing measurements and they’re wrong, they use the hammer to make it smaller instead of going to the saw. Haldeman thought this term was the perfect name for the band, encompassing the exciting and intriguing feeling the music creates.
“I figured that was a nice rowdy bluegrass name for a drunken blues project,” Haldeman said.
Bluegrass is more of an overall sound with hints of other country genres intermixed with the music. With all the band members having different musical influences from metal or other genres like folk, they incorporate those sounds in their own music, like their song “Cecelia D.”
Tate said one of the band’s favorite aspects of bluegrass is its acoustic sound. By not having to carry around amps and extra equipment, the group can focus on the instrumentals.
“I suppose it’s complex country music with good vocal harmonies,” Laney said.
The band has not put out any EPs or albums, but plans to by the end of this year according to Vuong. With the high costs of studio time, Laney said the quintet has been saving money and searching for other alternatives, like home studios.
With the help of his father’s home studio, Laney said the band can avoid the cost of regular studio time. The plan for the moment is to record this EP in the home studio and in the future be able to use a professional one.
“We’re gonna try, in at least the next month, and get some high quality recordings,” Tate said.
Another problem the group faces is finding time when every member is available to rehearse. With everyone having day jobs with different hours, Vuong said it can be a struggle to find time that works for all of the members.
“Coordinating five schedules is semi-difficult,” Vuong said.
Hammersaw uses its bluegrass sounds to bring back what Tate calls “a genre not common around here.” Using its live performances around the Lincoln area at places like Zoo Bar, the band hopes to create a fun time people remember according to Haldeman.
“Hopefully it would be cool to be a little footnote in local history,” Tate said.