It took a bonfire, booze, a second divorce, and the perfect harmony partner to pull Richard Newman from his long hiatus, a fifteen-year musical funk. The poet, playwright, and editor of River Styx magazine had barely picked up his guitar in the years since his bands Junkbox and The Neverminds were staples of the St. Louis music scene. But one night while drinking by a firepit, he and his pal Shanie Latham started singing George Jones, Beatles, and Jimmy Dale Gilmore songs. Their sound triggered an avalanche of dormant songwriting.
A few months later, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Nick Nihira joined them on bass, banjo, and vocals, creating a harmony-based Appalachian bluegrass folk-pop. Initially the trio christened themselves The Jarflies, but the night before their first show, Nick’s house burned to the ground, all his instruments, artwork, and worldly possessions gone to ash and smoke. Thereafter they became The CharFlies. Richard phoned his former Junkbox bandmate Dave Melson, of Melody Den and numerous other bands throughout the years, and Dave joined them on upright bass. The foursome released an EP, Blowfish Rodeo, in July 2013. Percussionist Steve Meyers, formerly of Psychedelic Barnyard with Nick, joined the band in 2014 during production of their first full-length CD and newest release, Linoleum Angel.
Divorces, fires, breakups, surgeries, and highway accidents haven’t deterred this unlikely band of musicians. They use their humor and misfortunes to cobble together what they call junk-folk—their own brand of Americana that draws on bluegrass, gospel, psychedelic pop, avant garde, country, and blues and keeps evolving. Any given song from Linoleum Angel or their live set could include mandolin, accordion, banjo, slide guitar, washboard, kick-drum, melodica, toy piano, harmonica, fiddle, campfire pots, and three-, four-, and five-part harmony. Psychedelic bluegrass? Hobopop? Junk-folk? Whatever you call it, three years, fifty songs, and a new album after that fateful night by the firepit, The CharFlies keep evolving and growing and singing the joys and sorrows of the world.