Evil Eye Gypsy brings psychedelic rock to
South Park Tavern

Evil Eye Gypsy (L-R) Cat Shift, Sherree Emmons, Aaron Snyder, and Mike Emmons. Photo: Jennifer Taylor

By Mike Ritchie

Evil Eye Gypsy has been around for almost a decade, taking stage-filling form in 2010, playing their first gig in 2012. For three years, member-wise they were Dayton’s version of Lynyrd Skynyrd. As members came and went, the volume of people and sound went up and down, from three guitars to one and a bass.

“Some people pick children over rock n’ roll,” guitarist Mike Emmons says smirking.

Emmons went through trial and error during the transitions. “Could I do with one guitar what three guitars did? Our opener, ‘Mojavi,’ I was concerned. Can we do it with so many guitar parts?” Emmons turned up the delay, compression and overdrive and got this big fuzzy sound. “I thought, maybe we could do it with one guitar player. I can’t imagine this band with two guitars now.”

They began as a social media experiment. “We started as the musical part of a multi-media thing on YouTube,” Emmons says. “The original singer, Sidney Burgan and I were putting together comedy parts with animation. I came up with some comedy things and some serious songs. I didn’t wanna do all comedy and before I knew it, I’d written a CD’s worth of music.”

They focused on the music, putting the band together, starting with a show at the University of Dayton coffee shop. “They decided to do it indoors and we blew the windows out,” Emmons recalls. Yellow Cab Tavern and Oregon Express were early venues. “We consider those our home base. Oscar’s is becoming our northern home, a great venue that’s always been nice to us.”

Drummer Cat Shift joined in 2014. She’d been a fan since seeing them at Bojangles in 2012. “She came to audition, got through half a song and I stopped, thinking I had my drummer,” Emmons remembers. Shift thought she’d failed the audition but Emmons said no, you’re in.

Mutual acquaintance and photographer Jennifer Taylor helped make the band happen. “We wouldn’t be who we are without her,” Emmons says.

Sherree Jane, Emmons’ wife, was originally percussion and back-up vocals. Emmons got tired of singers coming and going and asked her to take lead vocals. “She said she couldn’t sing, I said I don’t care. I’d rather have someone who’s committed. She’s really evolved as a performer, dancing and stage diving, all that crazy stuff.”

The name came from an inside joke. “On my grandfather’s side there’s gypsy blood,” Emmons says. “It came from a joke between me and Sidney. She was walking out the door, said something as a joke and I said, ‘I’ll give you the evil eye.’ It came out
Evil Eye Gypsy.”

“Mojavi” is the closest they have to a “Free Bird.” Shift loves the psychedelics in that song. It’s usually the opener with lots of feedback, tribal drums and trippy stuff. “Ryan Palcic from ThunderTaker says he can imagine it being in Fear and Loathing
in Las Vegas.”

It came from a trip to the Mojave Desert years ago that Emmons and a friend took. They were enjoying the scenery, searching long into the night for a town they never found. Thirty years later, he wrote the song.

As a percussionist, Shift began humbly. “I started playing an empty beer bottle with a nail file at Norton’s jam.” Since high school, she wanted to play drums. She played Canal Street with Paradigm Shift and was a sound apprentice in the McGuffy’s days.

Emmons and Aaron Snyder (bassist) have been writing a new record. “We’ve got songs we’ve been playing for about a year,” Emmons says. “Aaron’s got some pretty good ideas.” A new album is projected for June 2019. “I like to start and go from song to song with eight to ten really strong tunes. I want it to feel organic, like a journey.” Emmons’ plan was to go more shoe-gaze on record but they’ve never been shoe-gaze in performance. “If we were thrash metal and stage diving, Aaron would be shoe-gaze,” he jokes. “We’ll never be metal but we have the attitude and tone of the early Sabbath sound and acid rock.”

Emmons’ style partially came from Black Sabbath, partly from the Cowboy Junkies. “I do what I do with lots of volume and confidence and do my best to make it
sound cool.”

On the possibility of using video screens, “I’m already carrying the biggest pedal board in Dayton,” Emmons jokes. “I think our music would be perfect with ‘60s psychedelic stuff in the background, Dayton’s version of Jefferson Airplane.”

Emmons has always been fascinated with music. “The best part for me isn’t artistic statements. It’s hanging out and jamming. I have as much fun going to the studio and jamming with these guys as on stage. Being part of the scene is awesome.”

Evil Eye Gypsy will play at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave, on Saturday, April 21, at 10 p.m. The Typical Johnsons and Mandy Jewell are also on the bill. Call 937. 813.7491 or visit southparktavern.com for more info.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Ritchie at MikeRitchie@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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