All in with Unaka Prong

All+in+with+Unaka+Prong

Abi Shaki

The well-known local musical act, Unaka Prong, played a groovy set at Murphy’s on Sept. 24.

This year, band members Michael Welsh, Daniel Stevenson, John Hargett, Jonathon Sale, Chris Pope, Nic Pressley and Coleman Christopher have increased their visibility in Boone.

Larger than the majority of local bands, original member Hargett said the run of sifting through band members has finally settled.

“I first met our guitarist [Welsh] at a gig held at Crossroads who was playing bass for The Nude Party,” Hargett said. “We inaugurated Daniel into the band shortly after, and we really liked the way our sound was evolving through endless jam sessions. This all happened before the summer of 2013. We had to let a lot of people go through the process, but we finally feel that we’ve constructed a cohesive and solid band now.”

The band mixes a variety of genres that embody classic acts like Phish and Steely Dan, Pope said.  Their talent as a cohesive band lies in their polished ability to fuse classic sound with contemporary influences, resembling acts like MGMT and Kendrick Lamar.

“Daniel brings a more folky, rocky and all around badass nature to the vocals and guitar,” Pope said. “The songs that John writes embody a Beatle-esque tone.”

But he did say that everyone has a unique place in the band in terms of music. Most of the members are multi-instrumental, and they each bring a different personality to the instruments played.

“I enjoy form in a pop sense,” Hargett said. “But, at the same time, I like to challenge music by pushing the boundaries of what is considered ‘pop’ by mixing it with jazz influences, which is where a lot of our fusion sound originates.”

Stevenson acknoledges that Pressley is still the only one who can adequately play the trumpet.

The band members’ close relationship is evident through their effortless vibe, when jamming together. Songs like “Truffle Shuffle” showcase the band’s ability to elegantly change meter.

Sale, the band’s bassist, writes songs rooted in complex music theory, like “Crunch Berries,” Sale said those types of songs are some of the most crazy and enjoyable to play.

“Jonathan is like the mad man in the best sense possible,” Pope said. “He has an incredible ear for perfecting parts of a song that are rendered unfinished or dissonant.”

For songwriting, each member might come up with a line and a cohesive song will flourish if it sparks the creative process of all the band members, Pope said.

“This is the way most of our songs are derived,” he said.

Inspiration for Unaka Prong spans from various outlets, usually dependent on the person composing the song. Hargett is currently writing songs based on a recent breakup.

“[The breakup] has been the drive behind my creative ingenuity to write a song,” Hargett said. “In turn, this challenge with myself and my music motivates me to see how far I can take a song. It pushes me to see what I can create solely using myself as the medium. I’m learning a lot about myself by exploring this territory at this moment in time.”

When playing live, Unaka Prong is no stranger to improvising on stage. Setlists usually stay behind, Pressley said.

“We make it a point for every live show to improvise on stage,” Pressley said. “If we feel the need to make a set list, then we do it an hour before the show. Depending on the energy and where the show is heading, we could just be like ‘screw it, let’s just play this song instead.’”

Energy, edge and excitement is the aesthetic the band strives for in a live setting, Pressley said. The group has strong intentions to stay together for future endeavors, potentially in Asheville, Greensboro or Nashville, where the music hub is more expansive.

Story by: Abi Shaki, Intern A&E Reporter