Austin band MilkDrive returns to town for Agave show on Thursday

AVON — While camping at a fiddle contest in Idaho, a group of three preteen boys built a musical bond that still holds strong today.

Dennis Ludiker, Brian Beken and Noah Jeffries of the band MilkDrive met as youngsters competing in the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser, Idaho. Jeffries grew up about 30 miles from where the contest was held. The band’s name goes back to that time in their adolescents lives.

“We would sometimes go early and hang out at (Jeffries’) house for a few days and jam and get ready to go to Weiser,” Beken said. “Nearby was a dairy and the road that led there was Milk Drive. It’s something that reminds us of our past.”

So far, the name has worked for the Austin-based, bluegrass-inspired band.

“Everybody remembers the milk part and that’s good enough for us,” Beken said.

Eventually the three men migrated to Austin, where they toured with an eclectic mix of bands and honed their songwriting chops before joining up with bass player extraordinaire Matt Mefford and forming the band, originally a side project in 2008. By 2011, the four men had quit their day jobs to pursue MilkDrive full time.

The band performs at Agave in Avon tonight at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5.

The four-piece last played locally in February at WinterWonderGrass.

“One of the stand out performances at WinterWonderGrass, MilkDrive delivers a unique and technically powerful blend of bluegrass and jazz-infused music,” said Scotty Stoughton, the founder of WinterWonderGrass and the promoter of the Agave show.

‘A lot more layers’

MilkDrive isn’t a traditional bluegrass band, by any means.

“I like to say we play modern music with old instruments, but that’s still a pretty broad thing to play,” Beken said.

When the group first started, they described their music as “jazz grass.”

“We were blending genres, kind of like David Grisman has done,” Beken said. “Now, since we’ve added vocals, the record that we’re making right now has a lot more rock ‘n’ roll going on than anything else. It’s kind of weird.”

The band’s sophomore studio album “Waves,” produced by Bil VornDick, was released two years ago this month, in June 2012. The album showcased a number of original compositions and featured guests Noam Pikelny (of Punch Brothers) and Futureman (of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones).

The band just finished recording a new album last month.

“We’re in the process of mixing it,” Beken said. “Our last few records we rushed through and wham bam. This one we’ve really taken our time, and I think it’s going to show in the way that it sounds. It’s a lot more involved with a lot more layers.”

It’s not slated for release until this fall, likely in September or October, Beken said. But attendees at tonight’s show will get to hear a few songs.

“I think we have three or four songs we’ll play that night,” he said.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984, cschnell@vaildaily.com and on Twitter @caramieschnell.


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The VailDaily Updated Jun 11, 2014 05:39PM Published Jun 13, 2014 09:28AM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.