Stripped-down, folk rock music comes to Vail |

Stripped-down, folk rock music comes to Vail

Charlie Owen
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

One brother likes rap, the other likes heavy metal, but together they write … folk music. Huh?

They are Ian Thomas Alexy and Teague Alexy, brothers and founding members of The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, a Minnesota-based band that relies on a bare-bones, old-timey sound to separate itself from the pack. Drummer Paul Grill rounds out the line-up, adding a percusive depth to the music unattainable by the Alexy brother’s strings.

“We’re just trying to keep it simple and play simple really well,” said Teague Alexy, who sings and plays acoustic guitar and harmonica in the band.

The Hobo Nephews play Tuesday night at the Sandbar in Vail ” one stop on a 22-stop tour ” with another band from Minnesota, Trampled By Turtles.

Capturing the sound of a by-gone era that neither brother experienced firsthand isn’t as hard as it sounds because they limit the type and amount of instruments used, Alexy said. Their latest album, “Sing!,” is a testament to the band’s ability to write stripped-down folk-rock songs that actually sound like they were written during the depression, not by two young men who grew up in New Jersey in the technology age. “Sing!” sounds raw and unpolished while bringing together the typical elements of folk, bluegrass and country with instruments like the mandolin and fiddle.

“A lot of the songs we hand-picked people to come in to help us kind of capture that sound,” Alexy said.

This ability to pick and choose guest musicians, coupled with the total control they had in the production of “Sing!” is what makes it a great album, Alexy said.

Even though The Hobo Nephew’s music is nowhere in the realm of hip-hop or heavy metal, Alexy acknowledges that without the brother’s prior influences and experiences, they wouldn’t be able to write a lot of their songs. He said that without his background in old-school hip-hop and reggae, many of the lyrics on their new album would never have come into existence.

It’s not just the brother’s musical history that shapes their sound, though. Over their lifetimes the brotheres have traveled much of the country and seen things that New Jersey would never be able to have shown them. It was through these travels that much of their music was born.

“Experience is invaluable to songwriting in general,” Alexy said.

Shaping those experiences into something that the rest of the world relates to is the hard part. Often, Alexy said, it’s hard for people to relate to the constant road life of a musician. Finding that common ground is part of the songwriter’s job.

“If you’re just kind of following where the music takes you and where the road is laid out before you it seems that all the experiences happen along with it. And the places where the music takes you and the people that you meet because of that, you know, that can be really strong for your songwriting,” Alexy said.

In the short two-and-a-half years since the Hobo Nephews came together as a band, they have come a long way. For starters, they have been able to avoid the sibling struggles so common in most family bands. They are accumulating a fan-following, especially in Minnesota, and they have already released two albums with an EP titled “One For The Time Capsule” on the way. But it hasn’t been easy. Because the two brothers come from different musical backgrounds, they’ve had to overcome some differences in style and ego to get this far.

“I think it’s going good … I feel lucky just to live in a place and be in a position where I can be a full-time musician, really, and be able to make my own music … and perform my own music. I feel like that’s a real blessing,” Alexy said.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or

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