Local "gutter-folk" quartet The Buttonflies founded on a fib

The Buttonflies got their start when Andrea Anderson lied to Dave Frazier (top) about her banjo skills during an open mic in Huntington. That was two years ago, and the band, now a four-piece, is going strong.

Reposted from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Buttonflies, a local folk group and thrice-monthly staple of The Empty Glass, got their start by way of a little deception.

It’s not rare for someone to lie about themselves to impress someone, and that’s exactly what Andrea Anderson did upon meeting Dave Frazier at The Java Joint's open mic night in Huntington a few years ago.

“I tried to impress him by saying I had a banjo - but I couldn’t play it at all,” Anderson said. “I started learning how to play banjo behind his back because I felt left out when he would play music.”

“She lied to me, and told me she could play the banjo,” Frazier said. “We became really good friends, and the next thing I know, she’s amazing at the banjo.”

Now, The Buttonflies, together for just over two years, are a four-piece with their own version of irreverent “gutter folk.” They’ve become a staple of Charleston and Huntington’s music scenes, including hosting The Empty Glass acoustic open mic nights the first three Mondays of each month.

This week, they have another gig at the Glass, where Anderson helps run sound part-time, today and play at Shamrock’s Irish Pub in Huntington Friday.

“The Glass is like our home,” Anderson said. “We have a lot of support there, and we feel very comfortable on that stage.”

It was at the Glass where Anderson and Frazier, as a duo, cut their musical teeth after The Buttonflies went through some initial lineup changes.

“We played as a duo for a while, and started hosting open mic at The Empty Glass, which in some ways solidified our vibe as songwriters,” Anderson said. “I got over my stage fright, and we learned how to behave like professionals, mostly.”

The Buttonflies also include Max Venoy on trumpet and Mike Knight on bass. They were originally a six-piece band. Downsizing to four forced Anderson and Knight to split drum parts. Now she plays kick snare and he kicks on suitcases in lieu of a bass drum.

“Mike and I fell pretty naturally into the alternating foot drum thing,” Anderson said, “but it’s not always easy to wrap our heads around it. If you stop to think about the fact that you’re playing two instruments at the same time and singing, you might miss a beat.”

After settling on their lineup, The Buttonflies continued playing, either at area bars or some of their favorite coffeehouses.

“We try not to swear as much at coffeehouses,” Anderson admitted. “We actually stopped writing swear words into songs because of a coffeehouse gig.”

Frazier says sometimes stuff happens, though.

“Sometimes, I can have a really foul mouth. If I’ve been drinking, there’s no doubt that I am going to drop an f-bomb or tell a dirty joke or heckle the crowd,” he said. “I don’t really do that in coffee shops, just out of respect, but in a bar, I know everyone there is old enough to handle it, so I let it all fly out.”

“The bar crowds seem to like being sworn at,” Anderson added.

Frazier says he's glad Anderson lied to him about her banjo skills a few years back because, if not for her initial ruse, The Buttonflies wouldn’t exist.

“It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I don’t care what anyone thinks because this band is for us. We all need this in our lives.

“If people like it, that’s spectacular. If not, I’m sorry but we’re still going to be doing it until we aren’t happy doing it anymore.”

The Buttonflies
With Smokestack and the Foothill Fury
WHERE: The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St.
WHEN: 9 p.m. Thursday
COST: $5
INFO: www.myspace.com/thebuttonflies or 304-345-3914

--- photo: Chris Lusher

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