Over the Rhine, through the woods to Kent this band goes

Beth Rankin

Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler comprise Over The Rhine, a band who used to

frequent many old Kent hotspots. Catch their Kent Stage debut this Saturday.

Credit: Beth Rankin

While Cincinnati-based band Over the Rhine is internationally renowned for its swooning-ly romantic and tender art-rock, some of its strongest roots are right here in Kent.

There was once a time — when the building you now know as Starbucks was Brady’s Cafe — that you could walk into any number of now-defunct bars and clubs around Kent and find marrieds Karin Bergquist (vocals) and Linford Detweiler (music) enchanting the crowd.

After meeting at nearby Malone College, Karin and Linford played some of their “earliest shows” in Kent, according to Detweiler. Over the Rhine’s Kent connections run much deeper than just concert venues, though. Karin and Linford were devastated to learn of the car accident that claimed the lives of three Kent State students earlier this year, particularly Brandon Butler.

“Brandon was the son of Karin’s best friend,” Detweiler said. “Karin was the maid of honor at her wedding, and she was the maid of honor at our wedding. We spent three pretty hard days with her after it happened, and we were just very impressed with all the students who drove down for the funeral. So it’s very bittersweet to be playing this show while processing the loss. But that’s one of the roles of music, to hopefully sustain people through all kinds of stuff that’s bigger than us.”

Bergquist plans on donating a portion of the proceeds from their Kent Stage performance to a scholarship fund in Butler’s memory.

Over the Rhine recently released an album called Drunkard’s Prayer (Back Porch), which Berquist and Detweiler decided to record in the living room of their home. The album details a very difficult period in Bergquist and Detweiler’s marriage that fell between the recording of their last album, Ohio, and this one. Below, Detweiler chats with the Daily Kent Stater about music, politics and privacy.

Daily Kent Stater: Why did you decide to record Drunkard’s Prayer in your living room?

Linford Detweiler: Well, we were sick of traveling. (Laughs) We had done some recording on and off at home in the past, and there’s something that feels different about making music in the space that you live in. It feels more intimate, more real … Obviously you can’t get too carried away at home. It’s a pretty simple record. We were at a time in our lives when we felt like it was the right choice.

Do you and Karin make a decision about how much to put out there for your listeners and how much to keep private?

Some bands are very reticent about their personal lives, and we do try to maintain boundaries about keeping parts of our lives private. On the other hand, in a lot of ways our music documents our desire to grow and just to become better human beings. We’re sort of using music as a way of examining ourselves and learning and asking big questions, so on some level we will always be kinda vulnerable in our music, and we’re okay with that. We’re okay with being open about our lives; it feels natural to us.

You and Karin seem to be connoisseurs of Ohio. What were you thinking when the Election Day spotlight was on us?

Oh boy. That’s the day we started recording Drunkard’s Prayer, watching the results come in. It was just so disappointing … I think sometimes I feel like, I hope my music can influence people and subtly encourage them to live their lives a certain way with a certain openness, but I think being really politically active can be a substitute for other equally legit ways to affect people’s thinking.

When we were recording Ohio (2003) around the war build-up, I felt like one of the best things I could do was just record my music and put it out there and maybe shift people’s thinking.

It felt really good to be working in that time. I still believe in a world where ideas are more powerful than smartbombs.

Relevant Magazine recently identified Over the Rhine as being one of the great perennially under-the-radar bands. Was there ever a time when you aspired to be on the radar, whatever that is?

(Laughs) We’re sick of all these tracking devices! Well, we feel pretty good about the level of success we’ve enjoyed.

We feel privileged to have a small but extremely enthusiastic following around the world. If the right movie or soundtrack came along or if a song shot up to the horizon, that’d be great.

We certainly want our music to get spread around. But it’s very nice that we’ve been able to make the records we want to make.

Our lives have been our own, and we enjoy that independence and freedom to do what we want to do. It’s great to make a living at it.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Jason C. LeRoy at [email protected].