8 Questions with Uncle Bengine & The Restraining Orders

8 Questions with Uncle Bengine & The Restraining Orders
By Spencer Joyce

Uncle Bengine & The Restraining Orders is a Harrisonburg, Virginia-based Bluegrass outfit led by Ben Schlabach. They recently released a new cassette “Demos Vol. 1” on Funny/Not Funny Records. I sat down with Schlabach to talk about the new cassette, the bands origins, and bluegrass music in general.

Photo Courtesy of Larkin Arts

Photo Courtesy of Larkin Arts

1. Who are Uncle Bengine & The Restraining Orders?

Uncle Bengine began as a solo project of Ben Schlabach, since then it has grown to involve a number of other folks.  Currently the line up is Ben Schlabach (guitar), Jason Summer (pedal steel), Megan Tiller (upright bass), Melanie Schlabach (violin).

2. What inspired the name “Uncle Bengine & The Restraining Orders”?

Bengine was a nickname I’ve had for a long time, as I grew older Uncle was added.  When we added drums to the band for the first time we tacked on The Restraining Orders because we felt most Uncles have at least one.

Photo Courtesy of Cassandra Ladino

Photo Courtesy of Cassandra Ladino

3. Which artists influence the sound of Uncle Bengine & The Restraining Orders?

I think each member of the band has a different influence that they bring to the table.  Jason is big into classic country but came to age on classic rock.  Megan is a Suzuki Violin teacher but grew up around traditional mountain music all her life.  Melanie started off classically trained on violin and sung in choirs, but is now drawn towards weird music with a hook.  I grew up listening to punk bands and going to basement shows, and it wasn’t until college that I took an interest in folk music and most recently country music.

4. Talk about the release of your latest Cassette, “Demos Vol. 1” on Funny/Not Funny Records?

I have always been a fan of demos as they are a nice snapshot of the songwriting process.  I enjoy the production quality of demos because they will often have a unique raw edge.  Uncle Bengine has done a number of demos over the years, ranging from rough acoustic guitar and vocals to fairly polished tracks that just haven’t seen the light of day.  Demos Vol. 1 is a good behind the scenes look at the past 5 years of Uncle Bengine and the Restraining Orders.  It includes multiple line up changes and multiple version of some of the songs.  We are in the process of recording a new record, our first since 2012, and you can hear the early beginnings of those new tracks for the first time on Demos Vol. 1, available digitally on our bandcamp and limited edition cassette tape from Funny / Not Funny Records.

5. How would you describe the music scene of your native Harrisonburg, Virginia?

Harrisonburg is a great underground music town.  It has survived in basements and non-traditional venues for decades.  During the past 10 years venues have started to become a regular fixture in downtown Harrisonburg and its grown into a very accepting art town.  There is also a nice variety in local bands, acoustic to metal, polished pop to fantastically strange.  There truly is a diverse and amazing group of people that call this scene home!

Photo Courtesy of Nora Jane

Photo Courtesy of Nora Jane

6. What would you say are some common misconceptions of Bluegrass music? And how would you respond to them?

I think the biggest misconception of Bluegrass is that any band with an acoustic guitar or banjo is a Bluegrass band.  Bluegrass is a very specific genre and none of the popular acts that get classified as bluegrass truly fit the description.  I am not sure what a better genre tag would be, I waiver between Americana, Folk, and Alt-Country.  Unfortunately all of those genres are a lot less specific and tend to harbor a lot of mediocre music.

7. Where can we see Uncle Bengine perform live next?

We are playing Saturday April 25th at the Golden Pony in Harrisonburg for their Rocktown Beer Fest after-party.  We also have a few more local shows coming up in May, more info can be found at your website or on Facebook.

We apologize that this article was not published in time to promote this particular show and encourage you to check out Uncle Bengine’s website and social media pages for current show listings and information – Alchemical Records Magazine.

8. Where are the best places to connect with Uncle Bengine online?

www.unclebengine.com From there you can check out our bandcamp page to hear music and our facebook page to find out what food we had for dinner and where we will play next!

flannel_headphones_electricAbout the Author:
Spencer Joyce is an Indie Rock Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist who records & performs both solo and with his backing group, The Record Machine, under the Alchemical Records banner. You can check him out at www.spencerjoycemusic.com