Fishtank Ensemble's eccentric membersvocalist Ursula Knudson, violinist Fabrice Martinez, guitarist Doug "Douje" Smolens, and bassist Djordje Stijepovic share a vibrant passion for unbridled creativity and music with Roma roots. The quartet with a quirky name blazes new musical trails on their new album, Woman In Sin. They will be performing their unique brand of music on Sunday, October 28 at the Arcata Playhouse at 8:00 p.m.
"We all met at a performance space called the Fishtank," explains Knudson, who often finds herself explaining the group's unusual moniker. "It had lots of windows, so passers-by could peer in on the activities inside like a fish bowl." The budding ensemble then spent the weekend learning an entire repertoire of Romanian folk music. They quickly got a local gig, when someone asked the name of the band. Caught off guard, Knudson recalls, "I just blurted Fishtank. It doesn't fit, and I actually like that."
Their gallop across traditional and original sonic landscapes began in Europe, with serendipitous inspirations, irresistible urges, and love at first sight. It stretches from the echoing caves of Granada to the bombing of Serbia, from rollicking Venice to brooding Transylvania. "We were all guided by unseen forces and random acts of fate," Knudson reflects.
Passion struck opera-trained American Ursula Knudson as she stood in a mass of masqueraded partiers at Venice's notoriously decadent carnival one year. "Everyone was just staring at each other. After becoming bored with this scene, I went to a casino where Vinicio Capossela was playing," recalls Knudson. From across the crowded room, as if by fate, her eyes met with those of a stranger: Martinez, who was playing with Capossela at the time. "He came up to me and we began talking about music," she continues. Despite having respective fiancés, a year and a half later the two were married. Guided by hidden forces, they soon began their romantic wagon wanderings through Transylvania, and eventually wound up in Oakland, where they teamed up with Smolens.
These traveling troubadours soon picked up exceptional Serbian bassist Djordje Stijepovic, who literally wrote the book on upright slap bass and has lent his trademark slapping style to some of the best rockabilly, Gypsy, bluegrass, and blues acts around the world. Growing up in Serbia, he got his hands on recordings by Elvis and the Stray Cats despite bombs, sanctions, and political upheaval. His masterful bass playing won him gigs with local Romany stars in smoky bars and coffeehouses from the tender age of 13, where the unique pulse and flash of the Balkans became second nature to the omnivorous musician.
With a new emphasis on original material and old-school skills, Fishtank Ensemble has matured into their distinctly odd yet remarkably apt name, performing a self-aware selection of twisting timbres and tempos that capture an ineffable joy. "We want to produce music that people have never heard before, taking audiences to new places, so they can experience a range of emotions that we transmit through song," muses Knudson. "That is the best thing we can offer: our heart."
Arcata Playhouse (View)
1251 9th Street
Arcata , CA 95521
|Kid Friendly: Yes!|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|