Skip to content

ill Fated Natives: Doing It For The Tribe.

July 15, 2015

IllFatedNatives01Text by Dave Miniaci. Images by Grace Dickinson.

Some bands are very systematic in how they play shows and write music. ill Fated Natives is not one of those bands. Case in point: The band played an entire show without having a setlist.

“I just said to the crowd, ‘We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re just gonna see what happens,’” says bassist Bets Charmelus with a laugh.

This is the nature of the young band, which formed in 2013. Its members, all in their early to mid 20s, are constantly improvising. They feed off an environment based on feeling and emotion, and the support of their “Love Tribe,” a group of fellow musicians and artists.

The members of the rock/blues band have been playing music most of their lives.

Charmelus and singer O. Thompson attended Central High School together, though they weren’t close. Charmelus admits – apologetically – that he hated Thompson in high school, a fact that still surprises the soft-spoken singer.

“Yeah, why? I was just so quiet,” says Thompson, who hails from Mt. Airy.

Charmelus says he didn’t like Thompson because he was on the football team and Charmelus thought of him as a jock. But one day, Thompson approached Charmelus about getting together to jam.

“I heard this guy turn on his amp and play Jimi (Hendrix)’s version of ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ and was like, ‘Man, I can’t hate this guy,’” Charmelus says.

Drummer Joseph “Joey Stix” Pointer later joined the band, forming a power trio.

The members of the band take pride in playing raw, emotional music and also in playing off each other, both in practice and in concert.

“It’s really easy to sit down in front of a keyboard and pull up a program with thousands of instruments at your disposal,” says Charmelus. “You don’t really have three people with different energy getting together and writing and rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. That’s kinda gone the way of the dinosaur. So it’s ill-fated. And at the same time, music comes from live performance. So it’s native.”

The band released its EP, Savages, in March. The album hits hard with dirty blues riffs and flourishes of jazz. It’s easy to see how their music could play well live. And it does, as shown by intense, well-attended performances this year, notably during a residency, dubbed “Electric Church,” at The Fire.

Derek Dorsey, who has been booking and promoting bands at The Fire for a decade, was hooked on the band after seeing them play for the first time.After a few more performances, Dorsey knew he had to get them in regularly.

“I got to see them when they were still a young band and saw them blossom,” he says. “It was like when John Legend was at The Fire, just him on stage with an acoustic guitar. They’ve really grown.”

Dorsey says the band sold out their first show less than a year after playing their first set at The Fire, a feat he can’t recall happening quicker for a local band. They bring a certain kind of energy, he adds. The band members didn’t wear shirts one night and on another, they played without a setlist. The ill Fated Natives fans in the Love Tribe sang along at every show.

“It’s a bunch of people who are artistic and putting themselves out there,” Charmelus says of the Tribe. “We all go to each other’s shows and support one another. It’s like coming out and playing a show and being plugged into a battery. They know all the words and get the rest of the crowd pumped up. That’s family.”

The band also spent time at this year’s SXSW, where they were part of a special Philly-centric showcase.

“It was life changing, an experience,” Thompson says. “It was a perfect five days for us – to have us all together because we had never done a big road trip like this before.”

The band is ready to take off, with more shows and hopes for a full-length album in its near future. And though they are hoping to make an even bigger name for themselves, the band members are still thrilled to play the music they love for the people who love to hear it. That includes themselves.

“I feel like 70 percent of what I’m doing is strictly coming from what they’re doing,” Pointer says of his bandmates. “But the other 30 is the people there. I’m good once I touch my instrument and I can feel the energy from everyone. It’s those connections that make it. If Bets is feeling a little weird that day, I gotta give him the energy to keep going. If we just got this crazy triangle of energy going on, nothing else matters. We feed off each other so much.”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: