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Volume 40 Issue 8 • June 24-30, 2010
now in our 40th season

Four EZ Payments

by Stephen William Bowler

It’s a gorgeous Nantucket Saturday afternoon and you, an over-sunned beach bum, are drowsily pondering shaking off the sand from your faded Bermuda shorts, packing up the cooler and the Kadima, and heading in-land for something cold to counter the late day summer heat. A trip to our island’s own libation amalgamism — the brewery/distillery/vineyard hybrid — better known around town as simply “Cisco Brewers” is just what the doctor ordered.  You take the familiar left off Hummock Pond Road onto Bartlett Farm Road, find a parking spot and wet your lips as you step into the scene.  When what to your wondering ears do you hear?  Is that...wait I think it is? That’s Klezmer! Traditional Jewish music from Eastern Europe!

Well okay maybe that wasn’t or won’t be your initial reaction, since, frankly, Klezmer is not a type of music most people can probably readily identify quite that easily (admission: I had to look it up), BUT, if you have found yourself in similar circumstances as described above then you may already know; and if you haven’t, then you should probably find out: Four Easy Payments, veritable house band for the brewery with shows every Wednesday and Saturday this summer, rocks.

They play bluegrass, they play acoustic roots, they play mountain folk, Irish pub music, waltzes, fiddle tunes, and, of course, the infamous Klezmer — something the band freely admits that they are proud of having played at, among other locales, the Chicken Box.  Doing mainly acoustic sets (saying “amplifiers wreck a lot of the charm of acoustic strings”), they mix in originals, with traditional old tunes, and some cover songs – often turning non-bluesgrass refrains into their own by “putting the hillbilly on it.” I’m told “Modern Love” by David Bowie works quite well in bluegrass form and I’m sure Bowie himself would be proud to know it.

When asked where they had played on island, and where they hadn’t, but would like to, they responded: “We’ve played pretty much everywhere that they offer live music,” but quickly corrected themselves by quipping “We’ve never played at the dump, but we would love to.”

The brewery, of course, is their favorite.  Having known Cisco founders Jay Harman and Randy Hudson for a long time, Four Easy Payments were, in their words, “a natural fit” when the brewery started doing live music a few years back. “The scene there is ideal for us.  It’s kid and dog friendly and the clientele is more mature than your standard beach bar crowd.  They’re open to something more organic than what they hear on the radio.”

The quintet also plays private parties and functions quite frequently during the summer months.  “We can be pretty aggressive at a raw bar, but people like us anyway.”  Still interested (who wouldn’t be!)? Booking information can be found at http://fourezpayments.com.

If you haven’t already figured it out, they have a tremendous sense of humor. “We are all massive goofballs and we try to work humor into everything we do. We put a premium on fun.” There’s no denying this.  If you head over to their website and click on the band section you’ll see a little bit of their quirk in action.  A standard candid picture of each member, their full name, their instrument of choice, and… we’ll I’m not sure how to put it? An “extra” skill, or trait or quality I suppose - perhaps an essence? 

Billy Humpries: banjo, beard.
Bob Dickinson: guitar, stalling tactics.
Paul Flynn: bass, static cling.
Rob Dunbar: mandolin, consternation.
And finally, Caleb Cressman: fiddle, indifference.

When pressed for an explanation this is what I got… “Billy's facial hair grows unnaturally fast and he's been known to grow a full beard in as little as 48 hours. Bob is known for stalling tactics because it takes him a lot of time to get around to things and it can make the time between songs a little long. Paul is hyper-energetic and always moving. If you put him in a room with a carpet he generates a lot of static. Rob's consternation comes from trying to lead the band. It’s like herding puppies. Caleb is indifferent to all this.” And while trying to originally get in touch with the group and being directed to “manager/accountant” Bob (consternation), he characteristically commented “since when am I the manager?  It’s like trying to manage Jell-O.”

The guys also have their lives outside of the band. Bob, originally from NYC, works for the town as an accountant.  Billy grew up in Hanover, MA and works as an electrical contractor.  Paul, of Westwood, MA is a building contractor, Rob, a house painter, is from Warwick, RI, and Caleb, the lone island native, is currently trying his hand as a gentleman farmer (that’s what I’m told). They are all married, and, besides some of the guys in the group working together on occasion, the long time friends also hang out together socially whenever possible.  In fact, that’s why the group was formed in the first place.

“Eventually we got together to pick a few tunes and drink beer. All four of us — the group was origianlly a foursome — were guitar players at the time but we shared an interest in Bluegrass and Old Time music, so we decided to give that a go. Billy borrowed a banjo and Rob borrowed a mandolin. We pitched in on a plywood bass and had about two weeks to learn our new instruments before our first gig. We were dreadful at first but, for some reason people liked us anyway.

Eventually we got good enough to attract the attention of Caleb who sat in with us at an open-mic and quickly became part of the band.

Or, if you prefer the more provocative, scintillating version of the tale, the following can be found on the band’s My-space page (http://www.myspace.com/foureasypayments):

“The four original members: Hump Humphries, Ybbob Dickinson, Flynny Flynn and Slick Dunbar were forced to form an acoustic roots quartet after losing an ill conceived Super Bowl bet.  They quickly emerged as heavyweights on the local keg party circuit.  In need of a sex-symbol, they turned to journeyman fiddler and world famous underwear model Lub Cressman. The quintet has since become a local institution, dishing out live entertainment and serving as a cautionary tale for Nantucket youth.  Kids, you do not want to wind up like these guys.”

The band, having also gone under the monikers “The No Brainers” and “The Foggy Island Hogs,” also has a humorous story (as you probably could have guessed) about their current title.
“We were joking at band practice when we started making fun of infomercials. We kept joking back and forth about various fictional products that could be purchased for ‘four easy payments of 19.99.’ We were a quartet at the time so ‘Four Easy Payments’ fit us. When Caleb was added to the lineup, we didn't feel like changing the name to ‘Five Easy Payments’ so we just tell people we're bad at math.”

Four Easy Payments plays at the brewery every Wednesday and Saturday from 4:30 to 7pm.  They also have a gig planned at Children’s Beach on July 11 and potentially other locations throughout the summer, so come on out and see them perform.  As they put it, “[our] live shows are high energy bacchanalias where veteran fans flock to bask in an aura of sheer greatness while more timid souls cower in the corners in naked awe of [our] raw acoustic prowess.”

You can find song clips and other information on their Facebook and Myspace pages, as well as their own home page (listed above). They’re talented and a lot of fun, but be warned “if you see them on the street, just pretend you don't know them.”

Stephen Bowler is a part time Nantucket resident who has lived in both Boston and San Francisco. He has spent the last two summers on Nantucket working at Epernay Wines and the past two winters travelling throughout Asia and South America. Questions and comments can be sent to swbowler@gmail.com.

 

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