Goes a long way

Six Mile Station

Nate Carter, Alán Burton, Spike McGuire and Tyson Schroeder of Six Mile Station  perform at The Alley.

Nate Carter, Alán Burton, Spike McGuire and Tyson Schroeder of Six Mile Station perform at The Alley.

Photo By brad Bynum

Six Mile Station performs at Chapel Tavern, 1099 S. Virginia St., on Jan. 19 with Keyser Soze and Drinking with Clowns. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/sixmilestation

The members of the band Six Mile Station describe the group as “prog folk,” but this isn’t wholly accurate. “Prog” implies that the musicians are trying to show off their technical skills, but these guys play in service of the songs. That’s not to say that they aren’t all technically proficient—or even better—players, just that the music isn’t needlessly complex. It’s authentic American folk music, not just some other genre masquerading as folk just because the musicians play acoustic instruments.

An appealing thing about Six Mile Station is that like the Beatles or Sonic Youth or, uh, the Backstreet Boys, each member represents a different personality within the group.

Bassist Tyson Schroeder is the cool one. He exudes the aloof, detached hipness of a jazz musician. He’s also a photographer, and, it should be said, actually a multi-instrumentalist: He doubles on train whistle.

Multi-instrumentalist Nate Carter is the brainy one. He wears glasses and a bowtie onstage, and seems like the best kind of poindexter, a classically trained musician who’s also going to med school—or, more precisely, as he puts it: “I’m in the mezzanine between graduating and going to med school.” He also has an electronic music solo project called N8-bit. In Six Mile Station, his primary instrument is violin, but he also plays mandolin, banjo, accordion and “who knows what else.”

Multi-instrumentalist Alán Burton is the mystical one. He plays guitar, mandolin, banjo and percussion. With his long hair and beard, and quick-fingered chops, he has the air of mid-’70s rock star—like a member of Deep Purple or something. He’s also a member of the rock band Merkin.

And singer-songwriter-guitarist Spike McGuire is the jolly one. He’s a charming, easygoing everyman, singing big-hearted songs in a big voice—the type of guy everybody wants to have a beer with. He has the deep, warm voice of a radio DJ—he does weekend afternoons on Rock 104.5. He also hosts the monthly Loud as Folk songwriter showcase shows at The Alley—the next one is on Jan. 10—and he performs juggling shows. He has the relaxed stage presence of a veteran vaudeville performer. His stage banter is natural and funny: “This song is called ‘The Devil’—it’s autobiographical,” he says with perfect timing before one song.

The band formed last spring, and though the current lineup only been in place a month, the band members agree that this version is definitive.

The focus is on McGuire’s songs, which range from upbeat tunes like “Run Me Back Over” to ballads like “Gasoline.” The chorus of the latter tune is “If you’ve seen what I have seen/You’ll know exactly what I mean/I cover my past in gasoline/The embers glow, they smoke and crack/There is no way I’m turning back/I cover my past in gasoline.”

“It’s about being open-minded, living for the day and not being buried in the past,” says McGuire of the song.

His songwriting has the diversity—in terms of tempos, moods and arrangement—of someone who approaches songwriting from many different angles.

“I don’t have a real specific process for songwriting,” he says. “Sometimes I just jam on some chords. Sometimes I start with the words.”

McGuire brings the songs to the other band members, who flesh them out. Schroeder adds low-end momentum to the upbeat tunes and lovely arco bass to the ballads. Carter adds technical virtuosity to his melodic fiddlin’ leads. And Burton’s guitar arpeggios fill in the lines with surprising colors. The overall effect is entertaining and eclectic, with multi-faceted personality.