Vail Valley band Darth Crooks offers classic bluegrass sound, gig Friday
Local band on their bluegrass roots
Call it what you want, roots music, honky tonk, Americana or bluegrass, local band Darth Crooks will take it, and play it, too.
Only about a year old, Darth Crooks is made up of six friends, blending a unique combination of instruments with classic bluegrass to create a sound of their own. The band is made up of Randy Aichele (mandolin, guitar, vocals), Jeffrey Brinn (percussion), Brett Parsons (banjo, guitar, vocals), Dustin Moore (guitar, vocals), Jason “Junkyard” Taylor (harmonica) and Glenn Reynolds (bass, vocals).
Darth Crooks, a catchy play on Garth Brooks, came about after Parsons and Moore, who played in a band together in Ohio, moved to the valley and met Aichele. The three started playing gigs around town and eventually met and added the band’s other half.
One thing that makes the band stand out among the others in the Vail Valley is Aichele’s mandolin. A mandolin is a small, eight-string guitar-like instrument often used in bluegrass and American roots music.
“I had played guitar for years, and a coworker asked if I wanted to borrow his mandolin,” Aichele said. “And that was it.”
Aichele started playing guitar when he was a kid, borrowing an “old, crappy” guitar to play with a friend.
Behind the music
Aichele isn’t the only one with a musical background, however. All the men in the group have long histories with music, noting that they grew up with it.
“I’ve been around (music) my whole life,” Parsons said. “My mom is from Kentucky so I heard that kind of stuff all the time.”
Brinn noted that he was a “total band geek” in sixth grade.
“I remember my parents gave me a drum set for Christmas that year,” Brinn said. “I was practicing in school, I was practicing out of school, just all the time.”
Their sound is classic; sighting The Osborn Brothers, Earl Scruggs and The Stanley Brothers as some of their biggest influences. They don’t let that box them in, however.
“We’re drawn to a song or a type of music, and we say ‘hey we should cover that,” Brinn explained.
“But we’re always trying to write new ones, too,” Moore added. “And we’re transitioning into rock ‘n’ roll covers with Americana.”
The band plays a mix of covers and originals, most of their own music being written by individual members before being brought to the group.
“We’ll play with it in rehearsal and spitball around a bit,” Brinn said.
The band members unanimously noted that more recently, however, their songwriting has become a group effort.
Darth Crooks has recorded a few of their songs, but they refer to the recordings as “rough,” and look forward to putting gig money toward recording time in a studio.
The group efforts go far beyond the six men, however. They occasionally play with other bands around the valley (The Cliffnotes, Primal J. and the Neanderthals and more) and they’ve played everywhere from Eagle to Vail (Mango’s, Route 6, and Bonfire Brewing, among others).
Additionally, Steve Corr, a friend of a band — a 12th man, if you will — has been Darth Crooks’ “biggest supporter,” often setting up sound equipment, plugging the band and helping them in any way that he can.
What can you expect from a Darth Crooks show?
“We inject bluegrass standards throughout the set,” Taylor said.
Additionally, Taylor and the crew noted that some of their crowdpleasers include “Zombie” and “Billie Jean,” during which, Aichele pulls out the stops and moonwalks across the stage.
Darth Crooks’ music and upcoming shows can be found on their Facebook page, and they can be found at Vail Ale House in West Vail on Friday at 9 p.m. to show off their bluegrass skills.
Arts & Entertainment Editor Nate Day can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2932.