The music of Minnesota’s aptly-named Good Morning Bedlam bears both the ring of familiarity and the promise of delightful chaos; the four-piece “furious folk” outfit freely fuse various rural and traditional styles, and perform in such a way as to channel both the raucous energies of rock and the off-the-wall theatricality of vaudeville or cabaret.
“We like to blend pop melodies with old-school genres, forms that we then change and build upon and experiment with,” says GMB co-founder Isaak Elker. “And in the canons of folk and traditional music, there’s just so much available that we can play around with.”
Though the band itself is only about four years old, the members’ roots go deep. Elker says he, fiddle player Sophia Mae, and banjo player Noah Pearson were childhood pals. Bassist Tori Elker — Isaak’s wife — is the late-comer, though even she had chipped in as a part-time tour manager, merch seller, and sometime-backup singer well before she became a proper member of Bedlam some nine months back.
Isaak tells that he and Mae and Pearson went through a litany of musical coming-of-age rituals and rites of passage together, from their collective teenage heavy metal fixations to their discovery some years later of folk and Americana.
One way or another, all of those experiences are manifest in Good Morning Bedlam. “Performance wise, we’re influenced more by big rock bands,” Isaak says. “We like having a crowd that wants to jump around and dance. So we try to bring the same energy that a hard rock band would bring. We want to be entertaining.
“We do a lot of rocking out, head-banging. One of us might start doing the Charleston if we’re in the mood. When we get to the end of a set, we want it to be like, ‘Wow. I don’t think we could have done one more song.'”
Perhaps the band’s best asset, though, is its versatile vocal attack. Every member of the band sings, trading off on lead, backing and harmony parts in such a way as to lend texture and diversity to the melodies as well as another layer of theatricality to the presentation.
“Sophia grew up listening to lots of classic jazz, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday,” Isaak says. “Tori liked those artists, too, and she was also big Amy Winehouse fan. So listening to people like that, really great singers in other genres, that’s how most of us got our vocal training. We’re all self-taught, and those old records were our lesson books.”
More recently, GBR entered the studio in preparation for a full-length release in 2018, the follow-up to last year’s “Prodigal” album, and Isaak says he and his mates are looking to push the boundaries of their mix-and-match vocal strategem, exploring new ways of creating their trademark vari-colored tapestries of character and sound. “We’ve worked on making it more intricate,” he says. “We’re learning more about what voices should come in where, and when.
“The new material is definitely crazier and wilder, but at the same time, it’s more polished. We’re taking our time and being picky about what we do, and we’re just having a blast in the studio.”
Good Morning Bedlam will play Preservation Pub Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 10 p.m.