The Lincoln band Tupelo Springfield finds its muses across space and time. They call their music “Rocking Americana” and say the influence of Bob Dylan and other original American rock and rollers can be felt in what they do.
But they have to give the credit to the British Invasion as well – the Beatles and the Stones, yes, but also the Bard himself.
That’s because Tupelo Springfield is made up of three UNL English professors who write their own music, often borrowing lyrics from their literary heroes.
“We’ve joked with the audience before that we’ll be playing something by Billy Shakespeare,” said Kelly Stage, Tupelo’s drummer and UNL assistant professor of English.
The band will showcase a set of original music on Feb. 7 at the Zoo Bar, 136 N. 14th St., as one of the bands selected for the Lincoln Exposed 2015 music festival. They take the stage at 6 p.m. Information on Lincoln Exposed can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/904564312896270/.
The progression into writing music incorporating famous poetry and literature was a happy accident for members Stephen Buhler, Aaron Douglas Professor of English, and Jack Vespa, associate professor of practice.
“When we started writing original music together, we realized we could integrate our literary interests with our love for this kind of music, so Jack and I have both crafted a range of settings for some pretty canonical poets,” Buhler said.
And much like their songwriting styles, forming the band happened organically.
“When I rolled in in 2004, I learned that Steve played guitar, so we’d spend some time strumming together in his office,” Vespa said. “Eventually, we played at a get-together for the English Department (in 2009) and it expanded from there.”
Later, graduate teaching assistant John Schulze joined the band playing guitar and keyboards, bringing along his own songs and vocals as well, and the three later recruited Stage once Vespa learned that she played drums and percussion. Schulze has since earned his doctorate and has moved on.
The band has played at several Lincoln venues, including Iron Tail Art Gallery and Mo Java Café most recently. They play about eight or 10 gigs a year. They’ve also played on campus several times, including some new student events. That always brings some fun reactions from students, who find the thought of professors heading up a band a bit unique.
“We don’t advertise that fact unless we feel it’s advantageous for us,” Vespa said.
“With students, it gives us a chance to do a little bit of outreach and maybe makes them think a little bit more about English and the department,” Stage said
Saturday’s performance will be the first time the group has been a part of Lincoln Exposed.
“Most are going to be genuinely impressed – in my humble opinion,” Vespa said. “We have a different sound, but we hark back to familiar genres.”
Most of all, though, the band members just want to have fun.
“I don’t think I’d be very happy if I didn’t have this opportunity to make music with Kelly and Steve,” Vespa said.
Buhler brings it all back to English.
“One of the most influential literary scholars of our time is Harold Bloom, and Bloom wrote a very important book, ‘The Anxiety of Influence,’ that talks about post-Renaissance poets being so intimidated by their predecessors, that they came up with a range of moves to get around them, because just the mere presence of their forbearers made them anxious.
“But the phrase that occurs to me is the ecstasy of influence. In Schubert’s last complete symphony, his 9th, the final movement shamelessly quotes from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. He’s really having fun with the massive, imposing presence of Ludwig Van. There is an ecstatic dance in that last movement.
“That’s what we seek after and that’s what we share, in our small way.”