Conversation with Sugar Glider - Folk Rock, Seltzer, and the Rochester DIY Scene

The heart of the DIY music scene in Rochester can be characterized by bands like Sugar Glider. Formerly a duo based in Irondequoit, New York, the founding members Roxy Elahi (guitar, vocals) and Alison Lindsey (banjo, vocals, melodica) first met in high school, and connected on musical interests before graduating and moving apart for a couple years. It was in college where the two began to create music together, starting off by playing cover songs at open mics at Boulder Coffee Co. in Rochester. They had fun with it and worked on gauging their musical style in the live setting as well as coming up with a plethora of different band names to use every week. After writing a collection of originals, the two eventually branched out to venues like the Spirit Room and the Bug Jar. It was there that Zach Kochan (guitar and professional stage banterer) and Ryan Yarmel (bass guitar) noticed the duo’s personal lyricism and atmospheric instrumentation. The duo gained two members, settled on a name, and now Sugar Glider are a full quartet that are making noise locally.

The band has a folk-rock sound, reminiscent of Mountain Man with throwback blues nuances similar to Leadbelly. Their lyrics reflect mainly on lived experience, keeping their focal points relatable but personal. Before experimenting with original material, every Wednesday night, the duo of Roxy and Allison would practice playing live, covering a handful of songs to get their own material prepped to play live. According to the band, the Rochester scene was very welcoming, making the idea of performing much less daunting. The duo tells us that one of the first original songs the two played live was about Alison’s experience with her grandmother’s sudden death in a car accident. After learning that her passing was caused by the actions of a drunk driver, Alison knew that she wanted to do something to bring awareness to the dangers of drunk driving in her grandmother’s memoriam. Her songwriting gave her this vehicle and performing with friends gave her a platform. Alison and Roxy tell us that opening up to so many people can be scary, and stage fright of “epic proportions” is a major hurdle for a lot of performers. Luckily, the Rochester scene is receptive and welcoming.

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