Fishtank Ensemble to debut its upbeat gypsy jazz in Millheim

Ursula Knudson hopes those coming to Fishtank Ensemble’s show this weekend will bring their dancing shoes.

The California-based gypsy jazz ensemble will make its first appearance in the area May 19 at the Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks. Vocalist Knudson performed at the Elk Creek in January as a guest with Vagabond Opera.

For those who saw Vagabond Opera, Knudson said Fishtank Ensemble would be similar in some ways but completely different in others.

“We’re going after the idea, but we get there totally differently,” Knudson said. “We play a lot of really fast dancing music and do songs with a lot of the odd time signatures.”

Band members Knudson, Fabrice Martinez (violin), Douglas “Douje” Solmens (guitar) and Djordje Stijepovic (bass) came together in 2005 and started playing for fun. The band had one of its first gigs at The Fishtank in Oakland, Calif. A record label representative and DJ from a local radio station caught those early shows and things took off quickly from there, Knudson said.

Fishtank Ensemble’s members have traveled and lived all over the world, which Knudson said is represented in its music that draws from French, Turkish, Greek and Balkan influences.

In addition to being the group’s vocalist, Knudson also plays the saw — though she wishes she had a cooler story for how she came to play such a unique instrument.

“I told someone that I wanted to play a new instrument that was easy to carry around,” she said. “She was in a jug band so she suggested playing the saw, and it’s worked out well.”

The band will continue touring this summer and hopes to release a followup to 2010’s “Women in Sin” this fall.

“We try to give our fans the same things and new things at the same time,” Knudson said. “We want them to hear what we know they like and also things that are different from what we’ve done in the past.”