Flying Underground rises again at Blind Bob’s
By Gary Spencer
Photo: Flying Underground’s (l-r) drummer Chris Arduser, lead vocalist Kelly McCracken, guitarist Brian Lovely, and bassist Dave Ramos; photo: Sybilka Storie
It should come as no surprise that some of the best art is often created amidst the turmoil and adversity of life events that sneak up on you. This is definitely the case when it comes to Cincinnati-based guitarist and songwriter Brian Lovely and his band Flying Underground. The group’s metamorphosis from what they once were to what they are now is an incredible journey.
“I formed Brian Lovely’s Flying Underground in Cincinnati in 1999 with Chris [Arduser] and Dave [Ramos],” Lovely says of the band’s early days. “I put out my solo record and we played largely in support of that. We did that regionally for a few years, adding new songs and having a great time.”
Soon after, Lovely put Flying Underground on hiatus and went back to school to get his master’s degree in jazz studies, which subsequently led him to a teaching gig. That’s when an unexpected tragedy developed that affected not only his ability to sing, but also his ability to communicate at all.
“All the college lecturing and general mayhem in my life triggered a Parkinsonian gene in my family, and I developed spasmodic dysphonia, which is a muscular neurological condition where my vocal cords kept spasming shut,” Lovely explains. “I sounded like someone was choking me when I tried to talk. I refer to it as the Diane Rehm curse. That was the end of my college teaching career.”
In the face of what seemed like a life- and career-altering affliction with no light at the end of the tunnel, Lovely chose to focus instead on the bright side—he could begin to work in creative music again.
“Luckily, I could go back to being a freelance musician without a lot of starting over,” Lovely says. “I realized it was time to pick up Flying Underground, but now we needed a singer.”
With that, Lovely went about searching for a vocalist for the reconstituted Flying Underground. Eventually, they found the heir apparent in Kelly McCracken. It took a few adjustments for the new addition to get worked properly into the fold, but when it finally happened, Flying Underground was reborn.
“I looked at a lot of people and nobody seemed like the right fit,” Lovely explains. “I started going through websites full of all kinds of people. One night I came across Kelly on a site and she had it all together—great sound clips, video, everything all very professional—and she kicked ass! I thought ‘No way she’s available,’ but I contacted her anyway. We played as a duo for about a year while I learned to adapt to writing for her voice, and she learned to sing my songs. About a year ago, we started rehearsing the whole band and of course the guys loved her. Our first year as a band is almost up and we’ve come a long way.”
Indeed, Flying Underground has come a long way from their humble beginnings as a vehicle for Lovely’s songwriting. Shelved almost for good, the band is now a fully integrated and functioning rock band. The group is scheduled to be part of this year’s heralded Bunbury Music Festival and hasfinally released its debut ensemble EP Death of Stars. The five songs within the EP are a short but hard-hitting collection of catchy, would-be power-pop-rock anthems. The guitars slash like a razor’s edge, anchored by simple yet effective bass lines and insistent beats. McCracken’s sweet but powerful vocals are the icing on a very tasty musical cake.
“[We’re] visceral, psychedelic, whimsical, oblique, heretical, and subversive—in other words, a rock band,” Lovely says. “We have a lot of influences—Beatles, Stones, The Who, The Kinks—and that includes all the subsequent extensions of those bands, i.e. Todd, XTC, The Replacements, GBV, Queens of the Stone Age…”
In a live setting, Flying Underground maintains their sound with a simple attitude and approach that continues to win them fans wherever they go.
“We just let it all hang out—a lot of smiling and grooving,” Lovely explains. “If you’re interested in a lot of overwrought, developmentally arrested emotion, staged posing, and forced pseudo-shamanistic jumping around, don’t hold your breath. We let the music take over body, mind, and soul and anything could happen, but we’re not gonna do the monkey dance to try to convince you we’re serious.”
Lovely says he once got a compliment that he thinks pretty much sums up Flying Underground in a single quote:
“One of our enthusiastic admirers has described us as a band that gives you a hug and kicks your ass at the same time. We’re extremely flattered by that and think it’s a good reason to come to our show.”
Flying Underground performs Friday, March 17 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth Street in downtown Dayton. Me & Mountains are also on the bill. Tickets are $5 at the door. This show is 21 and up. Doors open at 9 p.m. For more information, please find ‘Flying Underground’ on Facebook or visit BlindBobs.com.