Back home again

Kempf, Boyle return as Old Believers

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2007


  Nelson Kempf and Keeley Boyle, formerly of the Tim Sturm Band, will be back on the central peninsula performing as The Old Believers. Photo courtesy Nelson Kempf

Nelson Kempf and Keeley Boyle, formerly of the Tim Sturm Band, will be back on the central peninsula performing as The Old Believers.

Photo courtesy Nelson Kempf

Many families will welcome home their loved ones in the coming weeks. This weekend, peninsula music afficianados will have the opportunity to catch up with two of their own: Keeley Boyle and Nelson Kempf once of the Tim Sturm Band, now The Old Believers will play two shows with Matt Hopper and Kate Earl.

For the last year, Boyle and Kempf have been out in the wide world building their lives in music. For young, Alaska-based musicians, this can be a daunting pursuit. Boyle and Kempf, however, seem to be on the right track.

"We have been playing lots and lots and lots of music, really enjoying ourselves. I finally got to quit my full time job about two and a half months ago. And we're just playing music that's all we're doing. I've been very happy," Boyle said.

It's a different bag now that Boyle and Kempf are out on their own.

"We kind of had to reformat all our songs, and now we do things, you're in a totally different ballgame, performing as two people, rather than four, without the drums and the bass. So it's definitely affected the way we perform. I suppose we've probably become a little more creative with our stage presence and the way we present the songs," Boyle said of some of the changes they've made.

"We've developed a lot as song writers, so I think the songs are a lot better. I'd say they still sound like our songs ... we did a lot of covers, we were a cover band, so I think we've really come into our own. As far as genre goes, I think we were kind of leaning toward a similar thing ... we had a whole band so we had the ability to make bigger sound," said Kempf.

Currently, The Old Believers have a folksy, Americana sound. Boyle cites Wilco and Billie Holiday among their influences. They don't like to limit themselves, however. Kempf said they listen to whole spectrum of genres and styles, and look forward to the possibilities the future will show them.

According to Kempf, the way they write music has developed. He describes Boyle as being a consistent songwriter, while his inspiration comes in bursts.

"In the Tim Sturm Band, it was basically my songs with the whole band accompanying, or her songs. We've really started to mesh. She'll start writing a song, and then I'll hear something and come in, write some on to that, or maybe I'll need help with a melody and ask her to sing something. I'll steal from her melody a little bit and take that my own direction," Kempf said.

The Old Believers are getting used to life on tour.

"Luckily we both really like to travel, and see new things ... We've traveled to Montana and Idaho, California, and Washington, and different places in Oregon. It's been pretty cool to kind of travel the West Coast a little bit, and I meet great, new people everywhere we go. I've been enjoying it," Boyle said.

As they grow into their career, Kempf and Boyle are building their associations with other musicians. The relationship they've developed with Matt Hopper has proved to be a good jumping-off point for The Old Believers.

"We met Matt, probably our senior year of high school. We found him on the Internet, and just fell in love with his songs. He's a great songwriter. So we Myspace-messaged him, and invited him to come play a show with us in Kenai. Nelson booked it at The Landing, and we had a great show, great turnout, Matt played great, and ever since then he's been kind of a I'd say a musical big brother," Boyle said. "He gives us advice whenever we need it. He took us on a little mini-tour of California with him kind of our first little tour. He's always just been there for us. We enjoy playing with him. We're planning to release a split EP with him, sometime next year."

The Old Believers played a sold-out show in Anchorage last weekend at the Alaska Wild Berry Theater with Hopper and Kate Earl, a musician who grew up with Hopper in the Mat-Su Valley. Hopper and Earl will tour the peninsula with The Old Believers, as well.

"Kate Earl is typically, on her album, she's got a nice big pop sound. The full band and all that. So she's going to have a more stripped down arrangement, she's just going to be on piano and guitar. She's got an amazing voice. She's really enjoyable to listen to," Kempf said.

The Old Believers will only be back on the peninsula for a short time. They look forward to a full schedule of touring both on their own and with other artists when they return to the Portland area. They'll be releasing a CD called "Eight Golden Greats" Kempf describes as a "classic country album anchored in modern times," with a hint of Patsy Cline meets Beach Boys meets electronic sound.

As their music careers build, Boyle and Kempf will look to friends both old and new, to continue their momentum.

"A lot of what separates us from the bigger artists is the networks that they've worked to build. That's what we're just starting. Everywhere you go, you meet new people, and a lot of them are willing to help you. That's really the start of what becomes a major career," Kempf said.

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