Musicians such as Frank Turner and Ben Folds influenced Deidra Knauth and Jim Desario of local duo The Midnight Society to write songs from their own experiences.
“Like, for example, Frank Turner is someone who writes a lot about life philosophy, about sort of not taking things too seriously and enjoying what you have,” Knauth said. “A lot of it is writing about what you know, what you experience, what you have fun with, and that’s probably how they most influence us.”
In Desario and Knauth’s case, that approach leaves them with a lot of songs about chemistry, Dungeons and Dragons and video games.
The Midnight Society
with Normanskill Saxons
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Hudson River Coffee House, 227 Quail St., Albany
How Much: Free
More Info: 596-0959, www.hudsonrivercoffee.com
“Yeah, we’re giant nerds,” Knauth said. “I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons with my whole family — that was a Saturday afternoon for us. And we both really love old video games like Mario and Zelda.”
“And just our traits, too — we both work in nerdy industries, so it naturally makes its way into our music,” Desario added. “I work in the IT field, and Deidra’s a nurse.”
The duo have their share of the introspective material that’s more common with acoustic guitar-and-keyboard setups such as theirs. Even still, they always seem to find themselves gravitating back to lighter subject matter when it comes to lyrics.
“We don’t take ourselves very seriously as songwriters — we kind of just have fun with it, really,” Desario said. “We have serious songs I guess, like any other band does, about life and love, but we have to mix it up.”
Open mic regulars
Ever since meeting two years ago at the Monday night open mic at Muddy Cup in Albany (now Tierra Coffee Roasters), the unassuming duo have been haunting open mic nights throughout the Capital Region. They’re regulars at The Moon & River Café in Schenectady on Sundays and The Hudson River Coffee House in Albany on Thursdays, among others.
Through open mics, the two have honed their live performances, which include unusual instruments such as kazoo, xylophone and melodica. Their appearances have also led to shows with these venues — they play at Hudson River Coffee House regularly and will be hosting an early New Year’s Eve show Friday night.
“It’ll be a lot of fun; we’ll do some silly music,” Knauth said. “It will sort of be like a New Year’s party for me, because I have to work New Year’s. But the biggest thing is to try to have a good time and make sure everybody else is having a great time. We may even hand out free cookies.”
Open mics have led to even bigger shows. The duo played the Capital Region Indie Fest in The Egg’s Swyer Theatre in 2010 as one of their first shows. It was undoubtedly their biggest show yet. “I think that’s the only show we actually practiced for,” Knauth said.
“We had a ‘Spinal Tap’ moment,” Desario said.
“Yeah, The Egg has all concrete staircases, and we didn’t know that the doors locked from the inside,” Knauth continued. “We tried to go outside through the staircase and got trapped in the staircase.”
No early plans
Back when the two met, neither had musical plans that went much further than open mic night. Both grew up in the Albany area, but had just returned and were looking to perform more shows solo.
“I wrote songs on my own for a long time,” Knauth said. “I had just gotten out of school and had never played out at all, so it was kind of a surprise for me. I was just trying to meet new people; I had no plans to play with anyone.”
“It was the same thing for me, too,” Desario said. “I was familiar with the Albany open mic scene and had a lot of friends here, so I started coming back to those. After I met Deidra, I figured we would write a few songs together. She kind of helped me learn to sing along the way.”