Beards are no longer just a trendy style of facial hair — but a local band from Vermillion, which sprouted up like stubble on the face of the local music scene.
The Beards are made up of USD biology professors Jake Kerby on electric guitar and Jeff Wesner on drums as well as English professor Joe Raiche on guitar and lead vocals. The band formed when Kerby was jamming with beardless bassist Amy Askew at a party, and Askew’s husband Jason soon joined the group on the keyboard.
“I had a birthday party at my house, and a bunch of people were playing music,” Kerby said. “Amy and I were jamming together and she’s like, ‘We should just come over to my house and play.’ We both knew Jeff, so we invited him to come down, so the three of us just played one session. Then Amy said she knew this guy (Joe) who thinks he can write music.”
The group’s sound could be classified as indie or alternative rock. They rehearse in the basement of the Askew home, so there is a very do-it-yourself element to the music. They have set aside the rowdiness of youth and the ambition to become rockstars for their more realistic pursuits in academia.
“We’ve all got kids and real jobs,” Amy Askew said.
The group demonstrated their individual musical skills in a recent practice session. They played “Breaking,” which has parts that play to the strong suits of each musician. Amy Askew knows her way around the bass, Jason Askew is a skilled keyboardist and Kerby controls his guitar pedals with ease.
Another of their songs is “Robin,” which is a touch more emotional. Raiche has an acoustic part in that song, and Amy demonstrates her vocal talent by singing along with him.
The Beards played their first few shows in town. One of their earliest shows was Thursday on the Platz downtown on May 4. That show was the beginning of all the buzz about The Beards.
“Thursday on the Platz was fantastic because there were a lot of people there,” Raiche said. “When we started a song it was quiet and we were downtown in this space where there were bouncy castles and all this stuff where people were interested and sticking around.”
Their most recent show was at the Varsity Pub on Main Street. All of the Beards were excited at the turnout at that show — an intimate, but interested crowd.
“There were a lot more people than we expected at that last show,” Amy Askew said. “And they stayed the whole time, which was really cool.”
The show at the Varsity caused a bit of a stir in the local community, most likely for the posters that could be seen around town featuring Raiche’s angry bearded face. On the top of the poster, there was also a link to the band’s website, a playground for Raiche’s sense of humor.
“I kind of put stuff up there as a joke,” Raiche said. “It’s fun that people are going and looking at it and we’re bumping into people that we don’t know who have heard the music or been to the site or heard somebody talking about us. It’s fun. It’s a pleasant surprise.”
The Beards hope to continue to share their music with other people.
“I think that’s the spirit of the band, as you see,” Kerby said. “We’re just a bunch of friends, we have fun and we are kind of surprised that people are into it. We love it and we just keep doing it. I think that’s part of the spirit too, like we’re 30 years older and we thought we were gonna be rockstars, but we just (mess) around and have fun. Music comes from a creative place.”
The Beards’ next performance will be at Maya Jane’s on Oct. 15. They will perform there with fellow musical group At Ease.