The Wiyos: U.K.’s answer to Americana?

By Kael Janson Weis and Heather Longley For the CDTAugust 30, 2013 

British media hailed bluegrass-folk and eclectic folk band The Wiyos as “celebrities of the Americana scene” and “fabulously skilled and inspired kooks.” The band returns to the Centre Region to perform at the Elk Creek Cafe + Alehouse in Millheim.

PICASA — Photo provided

  • if you go

    What: The Wiyos

    When: 8 p.m. Aug. 31

    Where: Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks, 100 W. Main St., Millheim

    Info: www.elkcreekcafe.net, 349-8850

Hot on the heels of a U.K. tour, The Wiyos are honor bound to set the Elk Creek Cafe musically ablaze Aug. 31 with an evening of eclectic, “old-timey,” Americana-based song architecture. They have been busy buskers for many years with a six-album discography and plans to release a new EP in September, “One More for the Road.”

“Twist,” the band’s 2012 concept album inspired by L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” has gained the Wiyos global acclaim by winning the 12th annual Independent Music Award for best concept album. British music critic Simon Holland said of a live show, “In addition to their obvious, abundant musicianship, there was a level of showmanship and performance on display that made the evening extraordinary.” And The Los Angeles Times labeled the musicians — Michael Farkas, Teddy Weber and Seth Travins — “fabulously skilled and inspired kooks.”

Weekender spoke with Farkas about “Twist,” the British and angry relatives.

Weekender: Why did you guys choose to base “Twist” on “The Wizard of Oz?”

Farkas: We sort of fell into it. We were asked to collaborate with the dance company at Wichita State University. They were creating a new dance piece ... and wanted to take some of our music and somehow weave it into a loose interpretation of “The Wizard of Oz.” ... It was a multi-media extravaganza. ... that inspired us to take it even further...

W: Which version movie/book of “Oz” do you most relate it to?

F: I related to the movie. I saw it on the big screen when I was very young and it made quite an impression on me. ... The other guys were more interested in the book.

W: The British media seem to be taken with The Wiyos and its place in the Americana folk scene, with accolades from Americana UK, the BBC, Properganda Online and more. British newspaper The Guardian predicted, “They look set to become celebrities of the Americana scene.” Any comment on the Brits’ smittenness?

F: Perhaps it’s a combination of something that feels a bit familiar, given that a lot of (Americana) is a mixture of English and Scottish folk music mixed with the blues. They also love the old instruments and amps.

W: Have any tall tales from being on the road?

F: A bunch of years ago, we were playing at a pig roast in one of the most remote of the Georgia Sea Islands. ... We decided to take a walk around in the woods and we soon found ourselves surrounded and then chased by a bunch of wild pigs. Must have been some angry relatives.

Currently we travel with sauerkraut made by our bass player Seth. ... If we had it then, it could have come in handy.

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