East Ash St. Band and The HipNecks: drawn together

MOVE challenges East Ash St. Band and The HipNecks to a Pictionary tournament.

Although it takes them 20 minutes to locate The Blue Fugue's only nonalcoholic beer last Sunday, members of The HipNecks and East Ash Street Band give rapid-fire answers in MOVE's newest version of Pictionary: Names of Bands Who'll Appear at This Weekend's First Annual Bluebird Music & Arts Festival.

MOVE does the drawing, and East Ash St. Band wins two notable points for guessing MOVE's artistic renditions of East Ash St. Band (a street) and The HipNecks (a stick figure proudly displaying his anatomy).

The HipNecks were winning by four points until the final round, when EASB nabs the final question. Then EASB guitarist Todd Wait wins the overtime tiebreaker by shouting "Noah Sugarman!" even before the whiteboard "Earth" has flooded underneath Noah's dry-erase boat.

In spite of the curses dropped in good humor after "we-really-should've-got-that-answer"-type losses, the bands realize they have more in common than an inability to sniff out the nonalcoholic beer. They share the music.

"If we get to be old and don't have 7 cents, but we have five CDs out," HipNecks drummer Zack Harrison starts to say before, he is interrupted by EASB's new bassist, Dominic Lee.

"That's so true," Lee says. "I always want to be doing this."

They're lifers, even if that means working second and third jobs to support their passion.

How far will they go? What job won't they do? Here's a sample of some members' alter egos:

Mike Jones - EASB guitarist, carpet cleaner

Pat Kay - HipNecks multi-instrumentalist, employee at The Blue Note

Dominic Lee - EASB guitarist, KMIZ/Channel 17 employee

Todd Wait - EASB guitarist, painter, farm worker, Root Cellar employee

Wes Wingate - HipNecks multi-instrumentalist, piano teacher, magazine printer

Kay says seven days in a week isn't enough time at all, but he tries to make it work.

"Somehow you've just got to find a way to do it," he says.

EASB drummer Ty Ledbetter tries to put Kay's mind at ease.

"We've been talking to Obama about adding on an extra day to the week," Ledbetter says.

The only band member who couldn't make the Challenge, HipNecks bassist Ryan Renne, works in St. Louis on what fellow bandmate Scott Anderson (vocals, guitar) calls "fucking nuclear reactors." Renne has a masters degree from Washington University in St. Louis.

"He once drew frequency wave patterns of a bass wave and how he wanted it to come out of the speakers and onto the audience," Anderson says. "I looked at him and said, 'Man, this is amazing. I have no idea what you're talking about.'"

Jones thinks about what that must mean for Renne's musical abilities.

"He's probably a hell of a bass player," he says.

If the odd jobs will enable them to get there, members from both bands harbor lofty musical aspirations.

"Eventually I want to play music for everyone in the world," Wait says. "This is what I want to devote the rest of my life to."

Harrison points out an obstacle to Wait's plans.

"New people are born every day," he says.

But some of their aspirations are more achievable.

"I want to be the guy that pukes in the little trashcan on the side of the stage," EASB's newest member Adam says.

Wait rethinks his goals with a realistic foresight.

"That's true," Wait says. "I'll probably end up selling fish sandwiches."

Fish sandwiches or not, they all agree that music is in their future.

"Regardless of where the world takes us, we want to keep writing music, composing and getting better," Kay says, with everyone listening solemnly.

In the meantime, the bands share obstacles like getting their names written correctly at venues. (Anyone ever seen the East St. Ash Band play a gig?)

"You guys don't run into that problem, do you?" Adam says to the HipNecks. "Your name's pretty standard."

Kay stands up and objects.

"Our name's pretty standard?" Kay says. "It's not even a real word."

Regardless of how their names get printed, both bands are working to expand on the types of venues they play. EASB has played at a camp for Jewish teenagers, and The HipNecks have played gigs as far away as Colorado.

"We also played a livestock farm once," Harrison says.

They both played on the same dock (at different times), which posed a problem when they tried to play their instruments on the drifting platform.

"It's really cool to be completely removed from your comfort zone," Kay says.

The road to reaching a worldwide audience might not come today or this weekend (especially because EASB and The HipNecks will be playing downtown at the first Bluebird Festival this weekend), but for now they're happy cutting songs together in a changing technological environment.

"Most of our music is bought online," Anderson says.

The HipNecks are going to start new recording sessions soon. They plan to cut songs one at a time and put them for sale on iTunes as soon as they're done.

"Why wait four months?" Anderson says.

The HipNecks wonder if the new approach will take away from the creative, experimental process of working with a song for a long time or if it will be beneficial. 

Nobody has an answer, but by the end of the Pictionary meet, everyone is heatedly discussing the future of music. EASB doesn't even hold The HipNecks to their bet when they lose at Pictionary (13-12). Everyone agrees "East Ash Street Band" couldn't possibly be tattooed onto one's forehead. Although, apparently, "EASB" could.

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