There aren’t a lot of Buffalo bands that can own the corner of Pausa Art House as well as they thrill from the Pabst-soaked stage of Mohawk Place.
This versatility is rare, but it can be claimed by an act boasting the right blend of instrumental variety and vocal beauty. Sharon Mok’s Tiny Rhymes has consistently exhibited both. Since appearing on the local scene in 2014, the quintet has introduced various eclectic environs to swaying tracks carried by intertwined guitar, cello and the occasional xylophone. But when joined by the pacifying vocals of Kitchener, Ont. native Mok, these tracks can double as an audible embrace, as likely to calm art house inhabitants as to comfort leather-clad rock club occupants.
On March 3, Tiny Rhymes will join Washington, D.C.-based headliner Marian McLaughlin for an 8 p.m. show in the 9th Ward at Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.). In the lead-up to her now growing band’s opening slot, Mok took some time to discuss its evolving genre, the inspirations behind her style of storytelling, and what one word describes Buffalo’s music scene.
Question: When the unfamiliar ask you to describe your stated genre of "chamber folk," how do you explain it?
Answer: We're actually getting farther from that description with every practice. Our violinist (Kathryn Koch) moved to Atlanta. We added percussion, bass and another vocalist. Though I still sing, play guitar, and Katie (Weissman) plays cello, we're leaning more toward folk rock nowadays. Of course, we have yet to record the next album, and Kathryn will definitely be part of that.
Q: Last year's EP "A Kinder History" features beautifully narrative storytelling across its tracks, including the swirling "Oh, Amaranta!" What authors or songwriters inspired such a style, and what aspects of their past work was of particular influence?
A: Two current artists come to mind — Anais Mitchell and Joanna Newsom. Both are great storytellers, and spend time weaving different aspects of a story into a bigger picture. Anais's songs often carry emotional narratives that seem personal even if they're not. Joanna Newsom sews three or four parts into one big song. I aspire to use both techniques in my own music, and I hope that the practice pays off.
Q: Though different musicians have floated in and out of the band, you and cellist/vocalist Katie Weissman have always been its sturdy core. Why does your partnership work so well?
A: First of all, Katie is one of my closest friends, so that helps a bit. The other thing that I think is really important is that we both want to create something we feel proud of, even if it takes more time to do so.
Q: Your 9th Ward headliner Marian McLaughlin is very active across the D.C. and Baltimore music scene. If you were to describe Buffalo's music scene to her in three words, what would they be and why?
A: I think I only have one word that matters to a traveling artist: supportive. There's crazy talent, diversity and originality in our small artist community, but what we rival in similar cities — like Pittsburgh or perhaps Cleveland — is the ability to throw a good show for a relatively unknown band (local or otherwise) based on a tight-knit, enthusiastic scene. Bands we know, of any genre, are frequently surprised by what we can do for them when they tour our city, and the audience we cultivate for local shows.
Who: Marian McLaughlin, with Tiny Rhymes
When: 8 p.m. March 3
Where: The 9th Ward at Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.)