Full of authentic talent and an eclectic slate of performers, the Bozeman music scene is ready to better acquaint you with the genuine starlight soul harmonics group, the Hawthorne Roots, a Bozeman-based band lead by sister duo Madeline and Emma Kelly. The genre-sampling, vocal instrumentalists hit the local scene less than a few years ago as the band they are today, but have been musically inclined since early childhood. The Hawthorne Roots have teamed up with fellow Bozeman bands The Sweetbacks and Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs for a two-night benefit concert to support of the Red Ants Pants Foundation, responsible for the popular music festival held every summer just outside of White Sulphur Springs. In anticipation of these exciting nights of original music, the Rolling Zone was able to sit down with co-frontwoman Madeline Kelly to talk creating tunes and carving out a place in a busy local music arena.
RZ: Hey there! Your band has a big show coming up. What’s that all about? MK: The Hawthorne Roots are teaming up with two other bands in Bozeman–one being the Sweetbacks and the other being Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs. We are working together to put on a fundraiser for the Red Ants Pants Foundation in the form of a show. The show will be Saturday, November 7th at the Faultline starting at 8pm. RZ: Faultline is a relatively new venue, have you had a chance to play there before? MK: No, this will be our first time playing [there]. It’s really exciting for Bozeman to have this new venue, and I know that Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs opened a few weeks ago for the Lil’ Smokies and they had an incredible time. They said the sound was amazing, the lights were amazing–it’s just a really great venue to play. We’re all looking forward to playing together at the event.
RZ: You mentioned the event is raising money for Red Ants… MK: Yes! The Hawthorne Roots booked a show at the Faultline, so we decided to contact bands in Bozeman that also had females. There aren’t as many bands in Bozeman that have female members, and we wanted to reach out to other bands that do so we could sort of come together and support one another in our ventures as artists in this community. The idea to do a fundraiser just built off of that idea of “why not take our new connections and our influence and raise money for a cause.” Our choice for Red Ants Pants happened for a few reasons. One, both Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs and the Hawthorne Roots have performed at the Red Ants Pants Music Festival, which is a fundraiser for the Foundation. There are three branches to Red Ants Pants. First, they have a clothing line, which is essentially work wear for women and they design pants that are amazing. Second, the Foundation, which supports women’s leadership in the community–they support working farms and ranches in rural areas across the state. And then finally, the Music Festival developed as a fundraiser for the Foundation. Basically what we’re doing is holding a winter, or fall version if you will, to raise money for the Foundation. We reached out to each other as women to perform together, so why not reach out and support a cause that also supports women in the community. Red Ants Pants also combines music with supporting community members, so it all tied together really well.
RZ: How did Red Ants Pants react to your potential support of their Foundation? MK: They were floored when we told them that we wanted to take all the proceeds of the event and give it to Red Ants Pants. To help build excitement and to show their support, they are donating four weekend music festival tickets. We will have a raffle of two of these tickets at the Bozeman show on Saturday the 7th. The other two will be raffled at our Billings show at the Pub Station, the evening before, on Friday the 6th. This is a two-night run of fundraising for the Red Ants Pants Foundation. Those tickets range from $125 to $140, so this will be a chance to plan on attending this great festival (to be held July 28th-31st of next summer).
RZ: Very cool. The show sounds like it’ll be awesome. Female-driven performances, like this one promises to be, are a little more rare than some of us would like. MK: Exactly. Bringing them together, we thought, it would make the event that much more special to have these bands with really great performers. The Sweetbacks have Brianna Moore who’s an incredible singer and plays the tambourine. Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs have Lena Schiffer, who plays guitar, she sings, andplays the washboard. And the Hawthorne Roots–my sister and I both sing lead and write. I play guitar and then we also have a bass player named Haley Ford who is incredible.
RZ: Sounds like quite the collaboration. What can you say about the Hawthorne Roots’ sound and how the band initially came together? MK: The Hawthorne Roots has an original sound. The majority of our sets is original music mostly written by myself, and some co-written with my sister, Emma. We have a really hard time pinpointing ourselves into one genre. We have drums and bass and electric guitar that back us up. The music is Americana because it pulls from a lot of different roots music, including rock, country, folk, even a little bit of jazz. We just combine all of those different genres to make our own, which is pretty unique. Another key point to our sound is that my sister and I typically sing harmony throughout the songs. You’ll hear a lot of tight harmonies–not just on a small part of the song like the chorus, but we either sing in harmony with each other or sort of bounce off one another as we sing through a song, which the audience really tends to enjoy.
RZ: So a Hawthorne Roots show is highlighted primarily by its original material? Do you guys play music by other artists as well? MK: It’s a mix. At first, as a songwriter, you really just want to play your own songs and get them out there. But then you realize people want to hear what they know as well. It isn’t that hard of a lesson, but it kind of was for me at first because I wanted to play my songs. Covers are actually a really great way to segue into a new song to write, if you learn a chord structure or a lyric that speaks to you, it can help you develop new songs. So it has been a useful tool. We always throw in a few covers, but we mainly play original material. We’re constantly writing and creating new material, so we want the majority of our set to be original. And the more we play them, people start to remember the words and sing along.
RZ: The ultimate goal. MK: Yes.
RZ: What can you say about the style of the other bands you’re set to share the stage with? MK: The Sweetbacks have a really cool classic rock feel to them, and Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs define their music as more raw blues-driven, upbeat energetic folk, and traditional bluegrass.
RZ: This upcoming show seems to boast a plethora of musical styles. MK: Definitely. The women from the bands have gotten together to plan the event and just to get to know each other better, which has been such a positive experience for all of us–to not only put on this event together, but to become friends. We’ve also worked on a few songs that we’ll be collaborating on at the end of the set. The final major piece will have members from all of the different bands, so we’ll be doing some pretty sweet five-part harmonies. It should be pretty awesome.
RZ: Perfect. So shifting gears a little bit, and you’ve already touched on this, but why did you and your sister decide to start the Hawthorne Roots? MK: She and I both grew up in a very musical family. Our mother went to the New England Conservatory of Music for performing and built her career in Boston as a classical baroque solo performer. Our father went to Berkley and graduated with a degree in composing. So we actually grew up attending classical performances and with music in our lives. I started writing when I was sixteen [when] my parents bought me my first guitar, but didn’t actually start performing until a few years ago, after graduating college and deciding to step out in Bozeman as a songwriter and performer. My sister moved out here several years after I did. I had her join me for my first recording to sing harmonies, and then we decided to go out and try to perform live together doing the songs that I recorded. We went to the Haufbrau–which is a great spot for musicians to go and try out their new style. It’s just a really unique and awesome music spot. We got such positive feedback, we decided to keep going as this duo, performing together. Then we were approached by Casey George–who is our first bass player–and he said “I really want to play bass with you guys, I’ve got a few drummers I can talk to, and let’s form a band.” That was a year and a half ago, and it’s just been this natural, organically forming entity. We’ve continued to write and perform. We love to sing, we love to write, and we love to perform. Also, having your sister as your partner in creativity and business is a unique opportunity, and it also sets us apart. So we’ll keep creating and pushing and see how far we can take it.
RZ: How did you decide on the name “Hawthorne Roots” for the name of the group? MK: Wow, that was so hard. (Sighs) Part of it was that I started out as a solo artist and went under the name “Madeline Hawthorne,” Hawthorne being my middle name. Then for a while the band was “Madeline and the Hawthorne Roots.” And as our group–[including] our drummer [Michael] DeJaynes–started to contribute to the band as a songwriter with his material, and Em started contributing with her songwriting skills. We decided to stick with “Hawthorne” because it was already sort of out there. And then with “Roots,” we played around with different terms to describe that Americana style of pulling from different American roots music. That’s sort of “Hawthorne Roots” came to be and it stuck, so we decided to roll with it.
RZ: What can you tell people to expect from one of your shows, and specifically to those who may not necessarily be familiar with the Hawthorne Roots? MK: Em and I work reallyhard on getting our harmonies super tight. Even to the point where our inflections match. We both have really unique voices–[those combined with] our lyrics really speak to people. Our lyrics aren’t very complicated and you can understand them. A lot of people can relate to the subjects of our songs. There’s that aspect. We also bring a lot of energy. Every member in the band brings a lot of energy, a lot of talent. Our guitar player Jon Cheryl does incredible solos, Haley [Ford] is a really strong bass player, and Mike DeJaynes is not only a great songwriter, but also a great drummer. We’re practiced, we bring a lot of energy, and a unique sound.
RZ: You’re a graduate student and everyone has day jobs, but you still find time to fine-tune your material. MK: It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s worth it. We have weekly rehearsals, and sometimes–if we have a big show coming up–we’ll meet multiple times a week to prepare, but we love it! We get along as a band really well. RZ: So it’s just kind of like hanging out. MK: Yeah, makin’ music.
RZ: What to you envision for the future of the Hawthorne Roots, being such a young band as you are now? MK: We’ve been working with a graphic design company called A Thousand Arms. They’re working with us on producing our first merchandise and artwork. And their partner company, Low Country Studios, we’re working with for our first recording as a band. We should have that recording completed by late fall/early winter. With that, we hope to slowly grow as a band in Montana. We’ve traveled a little bit, but we’d like to branch out and start off with having the “Hawthorne Roots” be a name a lot of people in Montana know. Then we’ll hopefully grow from there, continue to produce music and more albums, and slowly, organically begin the spread of our music.
RZ: Well we wish you only the greatest success. The Hawthorne Roots will appear alongside The Sweetbacks and Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs at Bozeman’s Faultline North on Saturday, November 7th at 8pm. Tickets are $8 and will be available at the door only.
All proceeds from this concert series–including the Billings show–will directly benefit the Red Ants Pants Foundation and concertgoers will have the opportunity to win a pair of 2016 music festival weekend passes at the show. So come out and support, Bozeman! This is going to be an awesome show. Doors at 7pm. For more information, visit faultlinenorth.com or the Roots’ official Facebook page. Faultline North is located at 346 Gallatin Park Drive, just on the edge of Bozeman. •