Though Maselle is a longtime musician, Strung Like A Horse is his first band. He traded his mandolin for a guitar when the group formed about two years ago. Maselle and Crawford, the only other original member, bonded over a shared love of the band Split Lip Rayfield, which naturally turned out to be a major influence in their collaboration.
Originally formed with a focus on bluegrass and old-time music, the band’s sound has evolved significantly since the beginning.
“We decided to take a different angle because when I started writing songs everything came out darker than all that old country,” explains Maselle. “So we started turning toward punk rock sounding stuff. Ben developed his own banjo picking style—he does the three-finger style, but not traditional rolls—and it worked really well. Today, the songs come from all different places. BJ wrote ‘Gypsy Jane’ a while back, and we decided to put it on the new EP. And Ben is really good at coming up with banjo parts that we like and then we develop a song around that.”
As for Maselle’s lyrics, he says songwriter John Hartford is his single biggest influence.
“Even though most of the songs seem to be dark and have death in them, I’m not a dark person,” he assures. “Maybe it has something to do with growing up in Mississippi and listening to the blues a lot.”
The Flowood, Miss. native settled in Chattanooga after a post-college road trip which included the Scenic City as the final stop.
Strung Like A Horse’s current lineup of members came together about a year ago. Since then the guys have scored some major gigs, including a slot at Bonnaroo 2012, where Fuse TV saluted them as “Best Band Name at Bonnaroo.” In February, they opened for bluegrass stalwart Sam Bush at Track 29, and in hindsight Maselle laughs about accidentally introducing him as “Sam Like A Bush.” Strung Like A Horse also played in Atlanta at the wrap parties for the major motion pictures “American Reunion” and “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” After concluding a recent east coast run, the band is booked in coming months for west coast dates including Texas and Colorado.
The band’s high-energy performances have contributed mightily to its growing popularity, according to Maselle.
“Our shows have more head banging and jumping up and down than you would normally see at a punk show,” he says. “I think a lot of people come to our shows just to see BJ because he is such an eccentric character onstage. He will ride his bass, hang it from the rafters, or play upside down. He is a madman when it comes to upright bass.”
Maselle also attributes Strung Like A Horse’s success to community support, and thanks Chattanooga Presents and McKay’s for giving a local band the opportunity to headline Nightfall.
“In the four years since I moved here the music scene has grown and grown,” says Maselle. “I don’t even think it’s that there are a lot more musicians involved, but all these people who go see live music are more motivated to go see it now. It’s like everybody is finding out about this music scene that has probably been here for a long time, and word spread so well that everybody is getting involved and it’s getting bigger. I really think that someone can make it in music from here. It’s like being a big fish in a little sea—here you can build it and people are paying attention. You don’t have to be famous for people to listen.”