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Kelly Cheats

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Kelly Cheats by Trevor Mercer.jpg
Photo credit: Trevor Mercer

Kelly cheats, or so I'm told.

Seriously, the Kelly Cheats band got their name from an incident at a poker game. I'm sure it serves them well as it's both intriguing and easy for the audience to remember. So they can be sure to come back to see the band the next time they're in town.

There's no cheating when it comes to their sound. A well seasoned group of musicians that like to have fun. Currently finishing up the final touches of their second, soon to be released, album Out of the Patch. 

Always ready to tour the southeast they will be appearing this weekend at Ri Ra Irish Pub in Charlotte, North Carolina (Friday, October 23rd) with their blend of rock, reggae, pop, and blues.

Here's the lineup:

Trent Dipner and Chelsea Warbington are on lead vocals with Trent also playing guitar and harmonica. Vidal Tapia on drums and Robert Wessinger on bass lay down the foundation that Bill Hillman on guitar and Munson Summer on keyboards accentuate. The latest addition to the band is their manager, Eric Dipner, who handles the business end of things as well as networking, promotions, and merchandising. Just what you need so the band can concentrate on the music.

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"In the little time I have been working with Kelly Cheats, I can with confidence tell you that they're a band to watch out for. Their passion and dedication to musical storytelling, and commitment to the music industry is unmatched. I truly believe they will be celebrating their success at the top of the charts" - Crystal Tyler, Mill Hill Productions and Jade Castle Studios.

Trent writes most of the songs but often gets input from his band mates with lines that he uses. Chelsea has written some songs as well. When they are ready to record it's off to  Plaugh's Home Recording Studio where they've done their first two albums. 

Cory Plaugh had this to say about working with the band:

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Cory Plaugh - Photo credit: Trevor Mercer
"This is my second album recording with Kelly Cheats. Although we finished the first project several years ago, when I listen back to it now, those songs still sound really fresh to me. 
I enjoy being able to work with a band for more than one record.  There is a trust and a comfort-level that everyone has that is really conducive to capturing great takes in the studio. 
My current favorite song is one called Keep On Smiling.  It's a tune that I can't really get out of my head, and I got to play some Hendrix styled guitar on it that was a blast to do. I also like this little tune Chelsea came up with about a zombie apocalyptic love affair. 
We are working on this new project at a casual pace. We are working together one day a week. Kelly Cheats is what my Monday sounds like.  Most people hate Mondays but I love mine!  Working with them is super relaxed and fun. Everyone is real easy. Sometimes after sessions we will even walk down to the creek at the back of the property of the studio and scout for Indian arrowheads, and Trent will tell me about the history of Indians in our area. 
The last session we hung out on the deck and worked words for a new song that is super funky. Sometimes we catch a family of deer grazing out back when we are eating lunch. It's a sweet spot to record and seems to be right in line with the vibe of Kelly Cheats.  Their music feels very real and organic to me. Plus, Trent and Chelsea's voices are awesome!"

Sounds like a good fit to me.

Recently I spoke with the band. Read the interview below to learn more about what makes them tick.

Eric when did you become involved with the band?

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Eric  I've been involved with the band for 5 years or so in some shape or form, whether it be critiquing the music, working sound at shows, or getting involved in promotions and assisting with bookings. As of July 2015, I accepted the official role of band manager, handling the business aspects of the music industry for the band. As manager, my duties include advising the band on creative business and personal decisions, serving as a liaison between the band and others in the music business, networking, promotions, and merchandising.

Trent  Having a manager is allowing me more time to focus on the musical side of things. Before, I was doing everything and it just wasn't as efficient as it is now. Having different opinions on things also makes for a better end result which we have seen in the short time that Eric has been with us full time.

Who are the songwriters in the group?

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Trent  I've written all the songs so far, but Chelsea has some songs that she has written that we were thinking about including on this upcoming album. Eric is very active and offers tons of lyrics almost everyday that sometimes I get ideas from. Robert has written some lyrics also, a couple lines that I have used in one of the new songs.

Describe your music and influences.

Trent  So many bands influence us. Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, Blind Melon, Bob Marley, 311, Maroon 5, Sublime, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Black Crowes, to name a few. We hit on all of these genres when writing, rock, pop, blues, reggae, southern, sometimes jazzy. I guess the best way to describe the overall sound is a fusion of all of these genres we love.

How did the members of the band come together.

Trent  I met Vidal Tapia through a couple of other musicians that I was jamming with. the first time Vidal and I got together was at my dads house. He was using the drum kit on my keyboard and was making it sound pretty good. 

I met another guitarist through the same musicians that I met Vidal through, that ended up being my roommate for a while, and being in the original Kelly Cheats. Me and him would switch back and forth on guitar and bass guitar. 

We've had a couple of drummers until Vidal took over full time, sometime shortly after our first album release. I also met Chelsea through the same musicians that I met Vidal and our first guitarist through. Now the guys introduced us all, and our first guitarist has a band that is also doing very well for themselves. Their name is The Change. 

I knew Robert since middle school and asked him if he wanted to try and pick up the bass. The rest if history. In the last 2 years we have picked up Munson Summer, keys, who runs a music store here in Newberry, and everyone knows, and Bill Hillman on electric guitar. 

We also have another female vocalist that sings and can play keys, trumpet, Kelly Caminer, and A bassist/ keys player Derrick Davis that fill in sometimes, more often than not since everyone's schedules are getting busier and busier.

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Munson Summer on keyboards - Photo credit: Kristin Hillman.

Where can you be found playing?

Trent  We play a lot in Atlanta, Charlotte, Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, and recently just played in Cincinnati.

So you are available in the east. Do you use a booking agent?

Trent  We have a few people that have a booking service that book for some of the venues that we play, but we don't have a booking agent that books exclusively for us.

To book you, a venue would need to contact Eric? Eric, do you actively pursue bookings or do they come to you?

Eric  Yes Dan, we have really been pushing the pencil lately on the booking end. We catalog all of our shows contacts/show notes/venue logos etc. to compile and easy acess database for us to use. We really have been working on the continuous climb of landing more Big City gigs. Mainly by networking and old fashion picking up the phone and calling around.

Do you have a merchandise table at your shows?

Eric  Yes we have been doing really well w moving merchandise the last month at shows. We are finishing off in the next few shows with our current merchandise, and our new lines will be arriving by the end of the month. Really excited about the new stuff.

What happens when the performance is above par and the audience is into it? What is that night like?

Trent  You don't want the night to end when its like that. It's almost depressing when it is last call and we've been hitting on all cylinders.

Do you encourage crowd participation?

Trent  Yeah. we do. sometimes we will have musicians from the audience come up on drums, sing, etc. and sometime Vidal will go out in the audience with like a cowbell or something and get people involved. Bill has also gone around with a wireless plug and walked around the venues while we're playing.

Have you found the Internet and social sites effective for drawing people into your music sites and performances?

Trent  Most definitely. Facebook is a great way for us to promote our shows, interviews, reviews, etc. Lately we've been building up our Twitter followers and sending everyone to our website and reverbnation pages.

Eric  Yes. It has been a huge platform for us. We currently set up our fan club sign-in tablet at our merchandise table. Use Monday's to reconnect with our fans and ask them for feedback. The usage of FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram has Been a big help.

Any intersting stories from the road?

Eric  The Cincinnati road trip was one to remember. Arrived into what seemed like a hurricane of rain. Sun pops out soon as our feet hit the pavement. Great show with a packed audience, unspeakable casino adventure, got hooked up with free tickets to the Reds game, and wrote a song about the entire thing on the way home. Cincinnati !!!

Trent  The next weekend after Cincinnati we had an interesting gig in Atlanta. We got there and set up when we realized that we had left the power supply for the keyboard. Eric rushed out and ended up buying another keyboard. We still had plenty of time to start when we were supposed to, but wait. We had another band come in to eat where we were playing. 

They came in with all of their instruments. I was starting to wonder if we had gotten double booked. The mother of one of this group of musicians comes up asking if they could play for the crowd while we were waiting to start. The manager saw her doing this and specifically said no way that they could play, so we told the mother this. She would not stop, kept ranting on and on, trying her best to convince us to let them play. We told her that she would have to speak to the manager. So she did. Few minutes later the manager comes up to us asking us to wait and start after the people insisting on playing left. It made for an interesting night to say the least.

Eric  Bought a $79.00 key board that night at Target. The only 2 options were a kids Casio keys(which I bought) or a HOT pink $49.00 guitar style synthesizer. Which would have been a kick ass look for the show as well. Rocked it out!

Trent  There's been shows where I ran out of the correct gauge strings and had to tune down a good bit to make it work. One show Vidal's snare stand broke and we had to make something to hold it up. Roberts amp has malfunctioned and we had to send him straight through the board, same for me with my guitar processor. Bill spilt water on his amp once and it completely ruined it. There was a show that I forgot my guitar and played keys for the whole first set until my girlfriend could get my guitar to me.

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Bill   One night before our show, Trent ripped his pants and did not have another pair with him. As always, as everybody says, the show must go, he had to play all night with his pants repaired with silver duct tape tape in a very obvious place. Great fashion statement.

Where do you record?

Chelsea Warbington - Kelly Cheats.jpg
Chelsea  Cory Plaugh has done all the recording for our albums at his home studio (Plaugh's Home Recording Studio) in Columbia. It's an awesome location because it's away from traffic and other noise. Recording with him is always fun because he's able to fill in the blanks when we need some input on how to fill the sound out and he always manages to pinpoint right when I do something weird and has it on loop before I even get out of the booth.
Recently I spoke with the band and Crystal Tyler who is doing some video and photography of the band. Read the interview below to learn more about what makes them tick.

Eric  Generally we create what we call a "scratch track" in the studio. This is where the song writing / lyric writing and all the creating is done. Then to Plaugh's to get it recorded, arranged, produced, and mixed down professionally. Chelsea is right. He is awesome at his profession. Get him on your team while you can. Huge asset.

What does being in the Kelly Cheats Band mean to you?

Robert Wessinger - Kelly Cheats.jpg
Robert  Being in the band means a lot to me. It's an escape from reality and at the same time it is reality... and it's great. I love playing music up on the stage, which surprises me because I would normally not want to be the center if attention. I don't think that it would be the same case if I didn't enjoy what we're doing on stage so much. Playing, singing, dancing, inside jokes, crazy people, road trips... it's all great. Aside from the music, there are the friendships between all of us that you just don't get without spending that much time with a group of people and, in doing so, sharing in so many life experiences.

Bill  I really enjoy being with all of them. The music has allowed me to expand on my thinking and playing in a different way. Even though I have been playing a number of years, this genre has forced me to expand and except something besides classic rock and blues. It really stretches your concept of where things should be and how to play them. It's truly a major adjustment and challenge for me...but, a good one. Anytime you can expand on styles, it helps all the styles that you play. Good times and good music. Nowhere is there any better combo!

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Vidal  Being in Kelly Cheats has been an awesome experience. The first time i performed with Kelly Cheats I was on drum set but another drummer came in and O ended up playing bongos for a couple of years. I took over full time once the other guy left but it was not easy. 

It took me a couple of years to shape what i thought would be best for Kelly Cheats. i also find myself experimenting with my sound due to the fact that I never play the same thing twice and wish to improve in my craft. There is always room for improvement. Its awesome that we have been a band for about a decade for God knows I would probably be in a mariachi group doing the San Jose Mexican restaurant circuit.

How did you arrive at the name of the band? Who's Kelly?

Trent  We have a friend that we used to hang out with a good bit. We were playing cards one night, spades to be exact and I noticed a discrepancy in the score keeping. I do everything super competively so I was on top of the miscalculated score. I cried out "Kelly Cheats" and the rest is history.

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Kelly Cheats - Photo credit: Trevor Mercer

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Hey guys that was an awesome interview. You guys are not only the best there is as a band, you are also great comedians. (I laughed my way through this interview). Love the band and love you guys too. Faye

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