Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem shine on RiverScape

By Matt Clevenger

Photo: (l-r) Anand Nayak, Scott Kessel, Andrew Kinsey, and Rani Arbo of Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem; photos: Joanna Chattman

When drummer Scott Kessel of Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem opens up his suitcase, it’s hard to predict what strange new instrument might come out.

“He’s a pretty creative guy,” guitarist Anand Nayak explains. “He’s got a drum kit that he put together himself; the suitcase is a bass drum, he uses a cardboard box and tin cans, and he rigs up a tambourine foot pedal. He’s always kind of adding to it and trying different sounds out.”

“It sounds fantastic, once you put it through a sound system,” Nayak says. “We found pretty early on that to have a drummer in a band that was primarily an acoustic band meant that the drummer needed to think a little differently about what he was playing on, because real drums would just drown everything out.”

That creativity and willingness to experiment comes through in the band’s music, as well, adding a strangely modern twist to the New England-based quartet’s traditional American folk sound.

“We cover a lot of ground,” Nayak says. “Our sound is what happens when you put together a group of people who love traditional music of all different kinds and aren’t afraid to mix things together. We’ll play a song from the eastern mountains, but we’ll put a sort of New Orleans kind of beat behind it. Or, sometimes we’ll play a straight-up old English folk song next to an original song that one of us has written in a more contemporary style.”

The band will bring their unique repertoire (and instruments) to Dayton’s RiverScape MetroPark Sunday, Sept. 11, performing with the Central State University Chorus at radio station 91.3 WYSO’s annual Community Concert. The event will also feature food trucks and a commemorative “Peace Heroes” walk at RiverScape before the concert starts.

“Audience members may experience excess smiling, tapping feet, a sudden urge to sing along, a feeling of recognition, and something totally new!” Rani Arbo says. “We’re also really looking forward to collaborating with the Central State Chorus on a few tunes.”

Originally formed in 2000, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem features Nayak on acoustic and electric guitar, Arbo on fiddle/lead vocals, drummer Scott Kessel, and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Kinsey.

“Rani is actually from New York City, but the rest of us grew up in Massachusetts and Connecticut,” Nayak says. “Rani and Andrew Kinsey had been playing together in a band called Salamander Crossing throughout the ’90s. We all came together in 2000, so it’s been 15 years, unbelievably.”

The band has released a total of six full-length albums, including one family-oriented album, Ranky Tanky, which has gown into a separate musical program the band performs mainly for schools and nonprofit

“Ranky Tanky is the family album that we made,” Nayak says. “We have performed it in schools, at outreach programs, and performing arts centers all around the country. We’ve performed in hospitals and soup kitchens.”

“It’s one of the things that I love about this band,” he says. “We can step onto the street corner or onto a stage and have just as much fun either way.”

The group is currently working on their next release, a collection of winter-themed songs that should be out sometime this fall.

“A number of them are sort of Christmas-oriented. We have a couple of very old carols, and we have some more recent songs about winter or the holidays.”

“It’s just a mix,” he says. “We have a Cajun tune on there, and we have a Georgian Seas Islands song. Like our show, there’s something in there for everybody.”

“We have one more day in the studio to finish recording,” Arbo adds. “It’s a wild and offbeat collection, as holiday CDs go. I think we turned up some treasures.”

The band has been taking it relatively easy on touring this summer, Nayak says, focusing on the upcoming album. “We’ve actually been having a pretty low-key summer,” he says. “Everybody has been taking a little time. We all have families, so we all kind of took the summer off, although we are working on this album. We’re in the mixing phase now, so we’re pretty much done.”

“What we hear from audiences more than anything else is that people who come to our show feeling down for some reason tend to leave feeling a lot better,” he says. “We really value that opportunity to reach people in that way, and just try to make somebody’s day better with music.”

Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem perform Sunday, Sept. 11 at RiverScape MetroPark, 237 E. Monument Ave. in Dayton. Admission is free. The Central State University Chorus will also perform. For more information, please visit RaniArbo.com.


Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at MattClevenger@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at MattClevenger@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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