Members: Jason Leppo, guitar; Deb Williams, vocals; Mike Williams, bass; and Roger Starliper, drums. David Gorozdos regularly joins the group on piano.
Who we talked to: Mike Williams
How did you guys meet/ How long have you been performing together? We met on an online band dating site. I'm not sure if people know these things exist. There's a website out there called bandmix.com, and you put on your profile and your picture, what kind of music you like and what kind of instruments you're interested in playing. It puts you in touch with like-minded musicians. Other than the lead singer (my wife) everyone else met through that site. December of 2012 was when the current configuration of band members first got together.
Forming a band can be like starting a relationship. How do you know when it's a good fit? (We looked for) musicians who were like-minded about the music we were going to play, like-minded about how often we would practice, like-minded about how often we should attempt to be playing out and ... people who appreciated each other and their input. Bands should be a family-friendly kind of event. Finding four people who have similar value structures was very important. Everyone in the band brings their A-game and practices outside of practice, so that when we get together, it's about honing songs and not just about learning them.
How did you come up with the name? We had almost an ad nauseam conversation about what we would call ourselves. We went through several iterations of names ... back and forth in emails. The list was endless. But we all finally agreed on The HepCats. It was the one name that ... continued to make everybody's list. It generates - for people (who) know the word - the feeling of the '50s, which is the style of music we're playing. (Hepcat) was a '50s slang term for cool dude. The only band we could find using the name was out of Budapest, Hungary.
Can you describe your sound for those who are unfamiliar with '50s music? We're trying to play roots music based out of the '50s. A lot of that is rockabilly. The way we describe rockabilly is when ... the folks who were playing country wanted to play rock 'n' roll as well. So, they brought all of their country influences (and) country instrumentation and guitar licks with them into that new genre. They were still using the stand-up bass (and) still slapping it and all the guitar leads and everything were from a country flavor. We also (play) straight '50s country of Patsy Cline ... and Connie Francis. Recently, we picked up an audience of swing dancers through the York (Swing) Dance Club and a group over in Lancaster. We're branching out into a little bit more jazz (and) swingier music.
Where you do you play out? We have played several swing dances. We've just had tremendous positive feedback on those. We're also playing some beats that you can rumba, mambo and cha-cha to. We have a couple of blues songs. It turns out the swing dancers love to dance to the blues. Who knew? They're a fun crowd to play for. They're very much engaging with the music. They're engaging with us. We've played at Mudhook (Brewing Co.) We've played at The Burning Bridge (Tavern) several times. We've played a lot in northern Maryland. We've done a lot of car shows this summer. Our first several gigs were car shows through VFWs and AmVets. We're playing music they grew up on and love.
Do some of the members live in Maryland? Our guitar player lives in Hanover. The rest of our members live in York. But we have a guest piano player. He actually plays with about 10 different bands. He really enjoys playing with us. He's committed in that way, but he's not committed on a day-by-day basis. He lives in Frederick, Md. Because I-83 is so convenient, shooting straight down ... into Baltimore (and) that whole area works out really well for us.
Do you guys throw originals into your sets? So far, we are paying homage to that nostalgic style. We are a cover band completely at this point, but we do have plans to work on originals. Since we've only been together since December, we've been working on getting a nice catalog of music together, so we can do three or four hours of music without boring people.
Does the style of music you play come with challenges? It does. I'm the (upright) bass player, so I can speak to that. I had to learn how to slap the bass because that's a whole different skill of playing the bass. It's not like playing the electric guitar. The closest analogy would be trying to dribble on time to the beat of the music. I have been an acoustic guitar player and a rhythm player since I was 9 years old. My grandfather taught me how to play guitar. He and my grandmother had a very successful band years (The Smiling Budies) in the Pittsburgh area for 50 years. After they passed away, I inherited my grandmother's upright bass. My intent was just to preserve the instrument ... but then I couldn't keep my hands off of it. They were more of a country band (but) they played many of the songs we're playing now.
- ERIN McCRACKEN,
If you go
Hear The HepCats 11 a.m. Saturday at The Maryland Wine Festival at the Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster, Md. The festival runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission for those 21 and older is $27 in advance and $30 at the door. Admission is $20 for designated drivers and for those 13 to 20. For details, visitwww.marylandwine.org.
The group will take the stage 8 p.m. Sept. 27 at The Burning Bridge Tavern, 108 Hellam St., Wrightsville. For details, visit facebook.com/burningbridgetavern.