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Indie-folk darlings Hoodoo branch out to new territory

May 25th, 2014 Posted in Arts and Life

By Paul Christiansen

LOGAN — Cache Valley’s music scene is constantly changing. Bands often come together and fall apart within only a few weeks; musicians fall in and out of the spotlight quickly and sometimes disappear entirely.

Lacey Johnson is aware that evolution is necessary — and unavoidable — when maintaining a degree of musical longevity. Johnson, best known for her vocal and fiddle talents, and Megan Simper, a guitarist, vocalist and composer, make up the local duo performing under the name Hoodoo.

The band will play gigs in northern Utah throughout the summer, including the Ogden Arts Festival on June 14 and the Mendon Mountain Music Festival on June 21.

“We’ve got some good shows coming up this summer, but they’re really taking hold — at least from my end — of what we want to do and how we want to spend our time,” Johnson said. “It’s not out of need but just out of fun.”

But the band has seen its own share of tumultuous change since first coming together in the early months of 2012 and quickly becoming one of the prominent indie-folk bands in Cache Valley. Originally Hoodoo was a trio consisting of Johnson, Simper and now-departed multi-instrumentalist Dan Fotheringham, who Johnson said left the band in summer 2013 to pursue “different walks of life.” When Fotheringham left the band, Simper and Johnson took on new roles in the group, giving way to new approaches to the music and writing.

“I’ve been kind of trying to slide into a more managing role,” Johnson said. “I’ve always wanted to kind of do that and explore it, but I also love to play. I think Hoodoo as a band is just going to be a platform for whatever we’re working on individually at the time and we’ll just collaborate on it. Guitar, fiddle and vocals — it works out.”

Johnson has been working on an MBA in music business through Southern New Hampshire University and the Berklee College of Music, something that has helped her take on what she calls a behind-the-scenes role. “It’s online and paid for by work, which is awesome,” Johnson said of her educational persuit. “Time has been a constraint lately, but I can do a lot of backend stuff as far as managing, and I don’t have to necessarily be there as things play out.”

Since the beginning of the year, Simper has been composing and finalizing her Folk Suite, a musical piece that includes a three-movement guitar sonata and five group movements written for guitar, violin, mandolin and cello.

Simper wrote the suite to be included in her portfolio for graduate school applications. “I have so many pieces and I get so much of my inspiration from the natural environment here in Logan Canyon, primarily,” Simper said. “I decided to name the pieces after hikes or places that I’ve been in the canyon and just kind of evoke the feelings I get when I go up there and communicate that through the music itself.”

Because Johnson has been busy with school and unable to perform, Simper said it was necessary to “outsource” to other musicians — including fiddler Laura Grimany and Kelin Gibbons on mandolin — so the suite could be debuted in full on May 5 in Murray at the Summerhays Music Center.

But it isn’t as if Johnson wasn’t involved in the suite project. “She’s able to help a lot with the rehearsals though because she knows a lot of the pieces,” Simper said.

Simper plans to perform the suite in its entirety in Cache Valley. She’s searching for the right outdoor venue and hopes to perform it sometime in late June or early July.

“I’d like it to be early enough in the night where you can still see the mountains,” she said, adding how the valley’s natural beauty inspired her in her writing. “It’s all about the ambiance.”

The suite will be performed by the musicians who debuted it, Simper said. Admission will be by donation. “That way people that can give more are free to do so, and those who can give less are free to do so,” she said. “That worked out well for me when I premiered it.”

Simper believes her suite helped her prepare for her future. She said her main goal is to have her art sustain her, and she believes a degree in musical composition is in her future. “I feel like I’m still checking things out, kind of shopping for what specific degrees I’m looking forward to,” she said. “I’m really interested in film scoring. I’d love to do that, but depending on cost I may just do a composition degree and see how that goes. I’d like to get more into the technological side of it, too. With how the industry is going, it’d be very helpful to know the ins and outs of programs and whatnot.”

Simper has already written the scores for a few ventures and recently finished work on music for an animation project. “I just recently finished one in November,” she said. “It was by a friend that I grew up with. He had done a five-minute-long animation. I wrote the music for it and then we recorded it. It was a learning experience, for sure.”

Hoodoo plans to move on to different things later this summer by relocating to Colorado.

“We’re going to move to Denver or the Boulder area in August,” Johnson said. “That’ll be the next step. We’re looking to take advantage of the music scene out there and Megan’s been looking at music schools.”

Simper, who has lived in Cache Valley for 10 years, said she’s ready for a change. “Me personally, I’m ready to be motivated by something new,” she said. “Colorado is still in the West, it’s still in the mountains.

“But it’ll be something new — a different music scene that’ll help us to push ourselves,” Simper said. “It’s really for us.”


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