Ryan Cavanaugh’s outspoken views of how and what is played on the 5-string banjo, and his aversion to compromise his instrument to play new genres, is occupied by few banjo players and musicians alike. Having honed his uber-untraditional chops under the wings of jazz legends Bill Evans and John McLaughlin, Cavanaugh takes his swamp-meets-Hendrix-meets-otherworldly concept to Leah Latella’s everything-inspired vocal layering.
The pair achieve a cohesive sound with the help of Latella’s curiosity in touch screen synthesizers, guitar stomp boxes, and forward focused vocal harmony stacking. Much of the pair’s musical concept is inspired by a mutual love of musical past, present, and future possibilities; focusing on classic aspects, including technology, rock music, and American roots music.
Leah Latella and her concept of self-vocal layering is an ever-evolving process enhanced by loopers and guitar effects. Leah started singing at 5 years of age and it all began with her soulful vocal chorales at southern churches, leading to her tenure with the award-winning Loreleis a cappella ensemble, to her current residency in New York’s progressive folk scene where she founded folk-pop band, PartyFolk.
Cult Classic’s musical mission statement focuses around just that. As Cavanaugh explains: “The banjo itself is a ‘cult classic,’ as well as the human voice… rock n’ roll and American blues and jazz music are ‘cult classics’ on a worldwide basis; also we are using an early interactive synthesizer that happens to be a ‘cult classic’ in the electronic music world! Electronic music has also become a ‘cult classic’ these days, so our musical concept is very inspired.”
At first listen their music is a culmination of a futuristic Joan Jett meets a robot Jimi Hendrix, however Cult Classic’s repertoire goes much deeper into beat-world with the ever funky “Free World” and “Two Way Street,” where the pair’s American music roots shine through in an ever so slight twist of the ear. In a live setting, one may hear Cult Classic’s ever so versatile ability to integrate a live bass player or drum-kit in to their mix.