A! Magazine for the Arts

Annabelle's Curse from last year's BR&RR. (Photo courtesy Josh Weilepp, Virginia Intermont College)

Annabelle's Curse from last year's BR&RR. (Photo courtesy Josh Weilepp, Virginia Intermont College)

Annabelle's Curse appearing at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

August 28, 2013

"This will be our third year at the festival as Annabelle's Curse but will be our very first year as this full five-piece band," Richard Graves, the band's manager, says. "We are extremely excited about this one; we are actually taking several weeks off in August to prepare for the festival. I will not give any secrets away, but we are planning something very special."

The band began in 2010 as the brainchild of Tim Kilbourne, John Warren Watson and Zack Edwards. Since then Travis Goyette and Carly Booher have joined the group.

Graves says, "The backstory behind our meeting is rather complex and random. The condensed version is that I met John at a coffee shop late one November night. We played Rock Band in some random apartment and didn't speak again for months. In February Tim and I were introduced through a mutual friend and started jamming. We decided we needed a bassist, and I remembered I had met this guy once. So I called John, and he drove up that night. We started playing some shows and went through a couple drummers. I had played with Travis in a former band, which had recently broken up, which worked out great for us because Travis is an animal on the set. We met Carly in Harrisonburg while she was on tour with the David Mayfield Parade. Months later, after the tour was over, a mutual friend of ours wanted to bring over this girl who could sing and play mandolin. It turned out to be Carly, who ironically enough is from Bristol. So we kept her, completing our five-piece. For the first time, our sound feels complete. We are truly blessed to have the personalities and musicianship that the five of us do.

"It's been a crazy road so far. After three years though, I feel as if we are truly just now starting our journey. We have had so many great experiences and have met some of the most incredible people in the world. In December we had the opportunity to perform at the Loveless Cafe in Nashville for Music City Roots with one of our favorites, Langhorne Slim. Earlier this year, we ran an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign in which we raised $11,800, surpassing our original goal of $8,000 for our second full-length album. This crowd-sourced fundraiser allowed us to record at the legendary Suma Studios where greats like Fleetwood Mac, Wild Cherry and the Black Keys have concocted magic. Grammy-nominated producer David Mayfield lent his ears and expertise for the project, and on June 18, we released "Hollow Creature.' We have so much to be grateful for and are extremely excited about the future; we've already started writing for the next one."

"We are very proud of the vocal harmonies that complement our bold musical arrangements to deliver a sound that is as complex and enjoyable as the meaningful lyrics. On top of that we are best friends; if we are not playing shows or practicing, our evenings are spent together for the most part doing anything from cooking out, to going to shows. We are a family."

The band comes complete with a family curse. "When the band first started we pulled our money together to purchase our first upright bass, Annabelle," Graves says. "We were still without a name on the night of our first show. Between the venue and car, the case broke and Annabelle cracked her head in the middle of State Street. The neck split vertically which left the bottom two strings playable; we all know the show must go on. Immediately after that, we had the bass propped up against the wall after practice one night, and she rolled over crashing through the front window of the house. Two shows later, the back separated off the body due to some serious playing. Since the three of us were actually starting to pick up some shows and dedicating more and more time to music, our personal relationships outside the band started to become exhausted (i.e., our girlfriends got jealous and ultimately disappeared). It started to become apparent that we were carrying a curse. Annabelle has since been retired because she's completely unplayable, but the curse lives on: broken strings, cables shorting and van troubles. We feel that the story complements our message of community and hope through dark times."

Graves says the group comes from diverse musical backgrounds including bluegrass, hardcore, folk, experimental and techno. Their music is "about evoking emotion for everybody who listens and creating an experience that makes people feel as if they can relate. We hope that everyone will come out and hear us and decide for themselves."

The group's tour regimen varies from dive bars to major festivals ranging from Chattanooga to Charlottesville, Greenville to Charlotte, and anything in between. But BR&RR is a favorite.

"We have always had a blast at the festival. We spend so much time during summer playing all over the place, it feels like a homecoming of sorts for us. All of our friends are there; a lot of the bands we want to see are there; and we get to play too; it doesn't really get any better than that. We played the Piedmont stage last year, which was a big deal for us. We always try and re-work our set in September to do something special for it."

If you want to hear what Annabelle's Curse has put together for BR&RR, it will be appearing Friday, Sept. 20 at 7:34 p.m. at 620 State Street and Saturday, Sept. 21 at 6:15 p.m. at O'Mannin's Pub.

-- This year's local line-up