Common Center
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Common Center

Covington, Kentucky, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

Covington, Kentucky, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Alternative Folk




"Common Center Showcases Unique Indie Folk/Classical/Prog/World Fusion on New EP"

In the first half of 2018, Covington’s Common Center released To Swallow Something Half Your Size, an exceptional EP that deftly encapsulated the seven-piece band’s unique and eclectic (and uniquely eclectic) musical approach.

At the time of its release in April, Common Center promised there would be a second EP out before the end of the year. As promised, the ensemble’s five-track Invisible Ropes is scheduled to drop Dec. 8. The EP will be available on all major digital/streaming platforms, including the group’s Bandcamp page:

Invisible Ropes is another great representation of Common Center’s rich, distinct and hard-to-classify sound. Some of the group’s ear-grabbing sonic personality is the result of its instrumental arsenal, which has an acoustic-guitar/bass/keys/drums core but also features violin and saxophone in prominent roles.

The septet’s music has elements of Indie Folk and Progressive Rock, but it also has the mark of Classical music’s influence and there are often sounds, rhythms and feels that evoke traditional music from other parts of the world. On the Ropes track “Trace,” for example, the rhythm section of Adam Gockenbach (drums), Ian Smith (percussion) and Dennis DeZarn (bass), as well as Jessica Graff’s evocative violin work, help to give Common Center its shades of Eastern European Gypsy music.

Interesting instrumentation and varied influences, of course, can only take a band so far. Along with a clear chemistry between the talented players, Common Center’s magic comes from the often-transcendent nature of the songwriting. The group’s compositions seem thoughtfully considered, at times sounding as if they could have been written out and annotated as sheet music. But the songs manage to also come across as very fluid and impetuous, like they were crafted in a trance during extended jams at band practice.

It’s a dichotomy that makes perfect sense when you hear how the music also floats between an old-world vibe and a more contemporary, Pop-era sensibility. Ultimately, the musicians’ multifarious fusion achieves a sense of timelessness.

The mesmerizing, atmospheric Chamber Folk song “Frost At Midnight” opens the EP with slow-burning, slow-building drama. The track sprouts from Lewis Connell’s warm, chiming keys (akin to the warm pads of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter”), which are gradually and creatively augmented by the other musicians — Sasha Suskind shades the track with scurrying, echoing sax and flute trills and miscellaneous string sounds sweep through elegantly. The vocals (including Graff’s crucial harmonies, which help make the choruses soar) are mood-setting and spellbinding, beginning with a trippy, low-key croon that steadily opens up to show the impressive range of singer/guitarist Liam Hall’s voice.

After the airy, spacious opener, the swooning “Charm” floats in on a Latin-like rhythmic sway, as the piano, violin and sax dance around each other and the memorable melodies. Elsewhere, “Shaker’s Waltz” is a gorgeous instrumental — despite its lack of vocals, the repeated melodic musical themes are as catchy as anything on Invisible Ropes. The EP closes on an endearingly offbeat note with “No Questions,” which shape-shifts rhythmically and tonally at a furious pace in just two minutes and 46 seconds, like some sort of lost Mr. Bungle track. Though Common Center is thrillingly atypical in everything it does musically, the blunt weirdness of “No Questions” shows that the band’s uniqueness can also manifest itself in more quirky and avant-garde ways. - CityBeat

"A Hidden Gem For How Long?"

What is, to you, the hallmark of good music? Is it something that is ephemeral? Or, need it stand the test of time?

One of the hallmarks, as there are many, that dictates what good music is to me is whether it can to transport the listener aurally to another time and place.

On Friday evening, we may have been sitting within the confines of Woodland’s Tavern in Columbus, but we were transported to a medieval frame of mind. While I am very hesitant to place a single label on the music that was heard, as you all know that I abhor that practice, what was heard was wonderfully original, and spanned many styles.

Common Center treated the audience to an inspiring set of songs that captured elements of rock, folk, and so much more. Describing their sound almost defies definition, but here goes… Spectral Gypsy Folk Rock with a hint of Morphine-infused Jefferson Airplane.

The seven-piece band hailing from Covington, KY, is comprised of Liam Hall (vocals/guitar), Lewis Connell (keyboards/vocals), Sasha Suskind (saxophone), Jessica Graff (vocals/violin), Dennis DeZarn (bass), Ian Smith (vocals/percussion) and Adam Gockenbach (drums).

Their 15-song set was a blend of the past and present, with six new songs played for an appreciative crowd of locals, plus family and friends of the band that made the trek north to Columbus.

Opening with Inner Earth from their 2015 “Gypsy River” album, the ethereal vocals and Euro-gypsy tone perfectly embodied the slower tempo of the song. The wonderful harmonies of Hall and Graff were a sign of things to come.

The bass-driven beginning of People of the Rain was juxtaposed nicely with Graff’s understated violin play, showing a beautiful amount of emotion as the rest of the band joined in.

They captured a full-on gypsy effect with the opening strains of To the Underground, a superlative mesh of percussion, drums, sax and violin. Hall’s vocal work placed the listener squarely in a trance-like state. Suskind channeled his inner Mark Sandman with sublime stabs of the saxophone.

Launching into the new track, No Questions, the band started with a midtempo pace that quickly escalated. Hall’s vocals had an almost hip-hop rhythm on the Euro-rock romper.

Suskind got down and dirty with a sax interlude that featured Connell’s keyboards flourishing brightly.

With a quiet start, the new track Embers had a darkness to it that set the tone for many of the new tracks heard this evening. Graff’s emotional vocals elicited a “Holy Shit!” exclamation from this writer, playing well with the dark groove behind her.

We were transported to a summer breeze washing gently against us as the band played Fields, with an almost end-of-night feeling brought on by the sax fills. Smith’s vocals were perfect and emotional, as you felt the pain in his voice flow through you. This was the standout track at the midpoint of their set.

The very upbeat Brothers carried a full-on Appalachian sound that had some in the crowd dancing around the room. With phazer-like stabs from the keyboards and a dirty sax sound, this was obviously an audience favorite.

Beginning with violin and keyboard interplay, Alligator Road had a faster tempo that carried an almost Dave Matthews Band feel. That said, their sound is truly their own, once again transporting the listener across the ocean to a far-away land.

All My Wishes, another new track, had a dark groove courtesy of excellent violin, sax, bass work. “Deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper…” carried special poignancy within the midtempo number, showing they can play darker music that is aurally pleasing.

Going even darker on the new track Need or Want, the wonderful harmonies were accompanied by yet more dirty saxophone from Suskind. The staccato percussion stabs gave the song a Whovian feel, showcasing their musical range without losing touch of the band’s core sound.

Another short interlude followed, this time provided by Graff’s stellar violin playing back-and-forth with Connell’s keyboard work.

While each member of the and had been showcased throughout the evening, on the new All on Your Own, each member was thrust into the spotlight at various points of the song. Although the vocals were saying “go away, yeah… yeah…”, we stayed, knowing there was more to come.

Playing is only his second live performance with the band, drummer Gockenbach had a hand in writing the new track Sewn in History. The song featured some finger-picking on the violin by Graff, in-line with a tight bass groove. When the band kicked-in, the tune took a darker turn that was highlighted by seriously wonderful harmonies.

As the band began tearing down their equipment, the crowd was not to be placated, chanting “One more song…” So, Hall grabbed his 12-string guitar and a barstool, launching into Close Your Eyes. As the song progressed, each member of the band joined him on stage, providing acapella backup vocals, making the tune an exclamation point on the evening.

And with that, their set was complete. What had I just witnessed? I was unsure how to describe the feeling of euphoria that was coursing through my veins, with my cerebral capacity to process the wonderment that befell my ears on this evening.

Common Center is not following any sort of trend in music, relying instead on the ability to play what is true within their collective mindset. To say that this writer was blown away would be the understatement of the year.

This is a band that we hope will make more forays into Columbus, and I urge everyone to make it a point to experience what this band has on offer. I really do not believe they will stay the local/regional gem that they are for much longer.

You will want to be able to say you saw them when they were still relatively unknown.


Inner Earth
People of the Rain
To the Underground
No Questions *
Sax Interlude
Embers *
Alligator Road
All My Wishes *
Need or Want *
Violin Interlude
All on Your Own *
Sewn in History *
Close Your Eyes
* denotes new song - Music In Motion - Columbus

"Common Law"

Over the past five years, through several iterations, Common Center has plied its Psych/Groove/Prog wares around Greater Cincinnati, amassing a loyal fan base while tweaking its Indie Jam sound. Until late last year, Common Center’s development had been undocumented in the studio; that changed just before Thanksgiving when the Northern Kentucky septet released its excellent debut album, Gypsy River.
Oddly enough, Common Center formed in the same way Jim Phelps assembled a Mission: Impossible strike force in the ’70s — one gifted team member at a time. The process began with guitarist/lead vocalist Liam Hall’s relocation from Dayton, Ohio to Covington, Ky., which led to a chance meeting with drummer Austin Garrison. After some cajoling, Hall convinced Garrison to retrieve his kit from his basement for a jam.
“We were both like, ‘Yeah, we need to do something with this,’ ” Garrison says. “It was almost instantaneous.”
After a year of duo work, Hall ran into Sasha Suskind (son of noted local Jazz flutist/saxophonist Sandy Suskind) playing guitar on a Clifton street and asked him to sit in with his twosome. Suskind responded that he also played saxophone, but didn’t immediately accept Hall’s invitation.
“I started in band in fourth grade, and this was where I started subconsciously trying to resolve my daddy issues the wrong way, so when they asked what I wanted to play, I said the saxophone… like dad,” Suskind says. “Liam kept texting me, and I was a depressed fucking teenager, I dropped out of high school, and finally I got this weird hair up my ass, and I was like, ‘I don’t have anything to do anymore, I’ll go play saxophone with this guy.’ ”
“I hounded him for a really long time,” Hall says. “Then it was a three-piece for awhile and we did recordings in the living room.”
Common Center went dark for a year, but Hall eventually rekindled the duo with Garrison. In impossibly short order, the band expanded. First came keyboardist/vocalist Lewis Connell, who offered his services after seeing the band live.
“I was a fan before I was a member,” Connell says. “For about two hours.”
Hall then met violinist Jessica Graff at a late-night party. Graff supports Hall’s claim that she recruited him as her spiritual advisor.
“He gave me spiritual homework and then brainwashed me into joining the band,” she says.
“It was loud and we were all drunk, but there was this really drunk guy who was like, ‘You should play in my band,’” Hall says.
“And I leaned over and said (whispering), ‘You should play in my band.’”

Graff had little interest in anyone’s band, but eventually she relented to Hall’s persistence and sat in on some gigs. She was hooked.
“I wasn’t really feeling the music anymore,” Graff says. “But he gave me some space and kept reaching out, and I finally gave it a shot. I told them, ‘This is what I’ve been looking for.’ ”
Next came percussionist/vocalist Ian Smith, a fan who became a member by virtue of constantly attending shows and jamming with the band. Although Common Center employed a bassist, Dennis DeZarn had topped Hall’s original list; when DeZarn’s then-band, Dept. Store Alligators, packed it in, he was offered Common Center’s bass role. The final puzzle piece clicked when Suskind saw the band in its newly expanded form and rejoined the fold.
“We basically went from a two-piece to a seven-piece in six to eight months,” Hall says.
One of the natural pitfalls of large bands — particularly ones that draw on influences as wide ranging as Classic Rock (“My mom took me to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when I was 3, and lost me, then found me on a listening station listening to The Who’s greatest hits,” Suskind says), Prog, Psychedelia, World, Ska/Reggae, Folk, Tango, Pop, Jazz, Hip Hop, Classical, R&B, Punk, Metal and carnival music — is the tendency of members to run into and over each other. Common Center isn’t afflicted with that problem; the musicians play with an almost supernatural synchronicity.
“All seven of us were the singer in different bands previously,” Smith says. “The fact that we get along musically is weird because we all come from being the star. We’ve already had that, so we’re totally OK with not being that.”
“It’s our listening,” Hall says. “We listen.”
“I think we all want to write good songs,” DeZarn adds. “We want what’s best for the song, not what’s going to make us shine (individually).”
Common Center’s ongoing sonic evolution has been fascinating. With the septet established and hitting on all cylinders, the sound — self-described as Psychedelic Gypsy Rock — exists somewhere at the intersection of Rusted Root, Destroyer and the dramatic Prog Pop of ’70s cultists Pavlov’s Dog.
“The sound has definitely evolved,” Hall says. “The reason I love playing with other people is they inspire me to write. When we write together, just out of jams, you start imagining what everyone can do. So the album is half songs that I’d written a long time ago that we’ve played and kept alive, and the other half is new stuff that we’ve all composed together. On the way here, (I heard) a radio interview with a composer and he was like, ‘I write quiet music and loud music.’ I’d like to think I write pretty music and dark music.”
“Like (the Common Center song) ‘Inner Earth,’ it’s pretty and then it goes ‘Yaaaarrh,’ ” Smith notes.
“I love to mash up major and minor,” Connell says.
“ ‘Inner Earth’ is a good example, it kind of covers a lot of stuff,” DeZarn adds. “Bi-polar.”
However the band’s sound is ultimately identified, Common Center will be creating a lot of it in 2016. The group has already written a wealth of soon-to-be-recorded new material since completing Gypsy River, which itself evolved from stage to studio.
“We were all rewriting parts,” Graff says. “It was an all-day process of ‘Let’s try this or that.’ Liam let us be very free with it.”
“I don’t know why I use math to describe this, but I think every song grew into twice what it was before, once we put it under that microscope,” Suskind says. “At least twice.”
And there’s the new tagline — Common Center, masters of Exponential Rock. - CityBeat

"Truth in Advertising?"

When it comes to musical acts, sometimes a name is a telling indicator or representation of what a band is all about. But there are other times when a name is so misleading that it truly shrouds what a musical group brings to the table. Take for instance Covington, Kentucky, sextet Common Center: the word “commonly” refers to something that is done by many people or something that is not rare, and the word “center” conjures up inferences of something that is middle of the road. However, when one listens to Common Center’s 2015 debut album, Gypsy River, it’s clear that there is little to nothing common or middle of the road about the band’s music. On the surface, the band tends to be centered (see what I did there?) around an earthy, folksy sound, but from song to song they have no problem throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you sonically and stylistically—gypsy fiddle, light funk, psychedelia, world music, organ jazz, and even some Frank Zappa-esque weirdness—it’s a brew that’s both overwhelming and intoxicating. But this shouldn’t be surprising given the diverse makeup of the musicians in Common Center and their musical backgrounds. So, just who is this mysterious group and what are they all about? Dayton City Paper chatted with Common Center founding member Liam Hall (who clearly likes to talk about himself in the third person) to get centered on all that and more.

Who all is in Common Center, what do they do and what’s their musical background like?

Liam Hall: Twelve-string acoustic guitar, vocals, lead songwriter (self-taught, world music influenced)

Jessica Graff: Violin, vocals (classical training in violin and soprano, strong pop music knowledge and appreciation)

Lewis Connell: Keyboards/piano/synth, band manager (jazz and classically-oriented family upbringing, digs improv and hip hop)

Austin Garrison: Drums (self-taught, fan of lyrically driven, progressive rock)

Dennis DeZarn: Bass (Songwriter and former band leader, digs deep into multiple genres)

Sasha Suskind: Saxophone (jazz upbringing, punk guru)

Ian Smith: Auxiliary percussion, vocals, hype-man (pure life energy)

Without mentioning anything musical, how would you describe the sound and music of Common Center?

LH: Dark and driving, organic earthy instrumentation, poetic visuals, oceanic, cosmic perception. Seven sunflowers trying to levitate a snowflake meditating a star.

Common Center defies easy categorization musically. Was this a conscious decision?

LH: Mostly conscious. We might ask ourselves, “It feels like we want to get loud here, what if we tried the opposite?” Also, we create a lot of room for us to each give our creative ideas and experiment with them. A little bit of everyone goes into each song, giving it a flow between up to seven different consciousnesses. We are striving to play like a collective consciousness. Of course, there’s an unconscious aspect to it as well. Carl Jung spoke of the notion of a creative unconscious. Maybe we’re all connected to that in some way—coax something out from within—isn’t that one reason we love art?

What artists might you cite as reference points for the music of Common Center?

LH: Morphine, Modest Mouse, The Doors, Primus, Radiohead, Astor Piazzolla.

What made you want to incorporate such a wide range of instrumentation and sonics into the band’s music?

LH: We’re pushing for a broadly dynamic sound, each of us playing our role in the sonic moment, our cosmic dance where our body, mind, and spirit is fully awake. We all are attracted to the big sound and the ability to expand it, or dial it back into smaller components of that large sound. We enjoy the challenge.

What are Common Center’s lyrics all about?

LH: There is definitely play with poetic images and syntactical flow. Thematically, he’s exploring multidimensional consciousness, shamanic healing, lucid dreaming, or perhaps just that day’s emotions. Songs are written in an embedded manner, leaving room for the listener to wander in the landscape. Metaphors are a gesture of faith in the listener, and ultimately, the presentation is sound-first.

What can attendees expect from your live show?

LH: We hope that nobody expects anything, especially first timers! What we can promise you is energy—raw and powerful. Anything can happen on stage. Anyone is welcome—the still listener, the wild dancers, the musicians, and we’re all participating collectively. There are plenty of things we will do differently…you’ll have to wait and see!

What does the future hold for Common Center, both in the immediate future and beyond? Do you have any particular aspirations for the band?

LH: All we want to do is create. 2017 is aiming to be our most traveled year yet, both in consistency and distance, so hopefully that will get us some new ears that want to spread the word. We are all on the same wave of understanding and passion, so if that takes us to a place where the music pays the bills and lets us concentrate solely upon it, we won’t argue. This thing is always evolving, so any stop along the way you might want to hop on, we’d love to have you on board.

Common Center performs Saturday, Dec. 3 at Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. in Dayton. Admission is $5 at the door. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. For more information, please visit - Dayton City Paper

"Common Center releases To Swallow Something Half Your Size EP"

Memorial Day weekend has passed, and that means it is officially summertime. What do I think of when I think of summertime music? Festivals. And jam bands. As far back as I can remember, there were always a few bands that didn’t seem to sound right unless the music was echoing off of trees. Bands like the Allman Brothers, Phish, the Greatful Dead, or Bob Marley needed to be heard with that shimmery delay that comes from wafting through the outdoors. For similar reasons, there are bands that have the kind of energy that means they sound best at night time. I think Common Center is one of those bands, and the sweetest sweet spot you could find to hear their music is at night, outdoors, at a festival. I’ve seen them that way a few times, and if they don’t completely engulf your attention then you are at the wrong show.

A few years ago I met Liam Hall at an open mic night. He played a 12 string guitar, which isn’t anything unusual. Watch the way he plays it and you’ll see what’s unusual about his style. It takes extraordinary strength and dexterity to be as active as he is on an instrument like that. There is a commanding knowledge of music and creativity of expression in the way Liam plays his instrument, and he has surrounded himself with musicians who have that same avante-garde approach to music. The band that has resulted is called Common Center, and the phrase “original music” doesn’t do enough justice to describing their sound. Covington, KY-based Common Center is Liam Hall on guitar and vocals, Lewis Connell on keys, Dennis DeZarn on bass, Adam Gockenbach on drums, Jessica Graff on violin, Ian Smith on percussion, and Sasha Suskind on tenor saxophone.

Common Center recently released an EP called, To Swallow Something Half Your Size. Now normally, this is where I’d give you a breakdown of each song and let you know what images were conjured in my head as I listened to the lyrics. These songs aren’t those kinds of songs. Lyrics and vocals are not to communicate the songs’ messages the way a singer/songwriter would write them. For Common Center, the vocals are layered through the songs as accents and interludes, provoking thoughts and emotions that fit the flavor of the music they accompany. Their sound has so many layers to it there is no way to take it all in at once. They’re one of those bands that is so stacked with skilled players that you can get drawn in to any one instrument throughout a song. That is a luxury only afforded to bands that know their roles and need to play that tight to leave room for everyone. This kind of music isn’t listened to – it is washed over you and soaked up by the experience of so much happening.

I have played “To Swallow Something Half Your Size” at my desk at work for a week now. To be honest, I still couldn’t name the songs or sing along to them. However they are in my head. They’re making me want to kick down my cubicle walls and put up a hammock. I want to be at the front of a stage watching Common Center weave their tapestry of sound for my dirty, bare-footed summer night. I am going to their website to find out where the band will be playing this summer, and I am buying a ticket. I would very much recommend you do the same, but don’t forget to get a copy of the EP to tease your soul while you wait for the sun to go down. - CincyMusic

"Common Center Evolve as Dynamic Live Show"

Over the last two years, Covington, Kentucky and the surrounding region have witnessed the development of the dynamic septet Common Center up close. The psych rock’s band’s evolution has taken time, both in line-up and live show, but they’re now at the point where they’re ready to cement their sound with a studio recording. Join their new PledgeMusic campaign for ‘Gypsy River’ and read on for more details of how they continue to grow.

That intro video is hilarious. Was that as fun to make as it is to watch?

Yes! …and no. It was a very sudden idea that all happened in less than 24 hours. Our very good friend and supporter Nate owns the place that we filmed in -- Wunderbar in Covington, KY. They were closed on Monday, and we thought of the idea Sunday night. The entire day was filled with writing a story board and getting things together, and that night we all brought our ideas and wung it, and what you see is the result! The process was definitely aggravating at times, but there was beer, so the tensions never got too high. As you can tell, we’re far from professional actors, but that’s what makes it good, and honestly we could only take it so seriously. When you have grown men in dresses and platinum wigs running around, there is only so much of a threshold for seriousness.

You guys already have a live release from last year and some great tour experiences. Is it safe to assume that’s your favorite aspect of being in a band is the live show?

Definitely. We write our music with the performance in mind, and the stage is where we evolve. As musicians, we become tighter, more comfortable, and learn things we could never teach ourselves at practice. As performers, we love connecting with our audience, and we are definitely an example of group that gives back the energies that we receive, and our fans are well aware of that. We are always working on a better crafted performance, so sometimes we will see video of a show from six months ago and will barely recognize it, so people can trust that we will keep it fresh. More recently we have been bringing guests up on stage to sit in with us, and that is taking us into yet another realm of what we can do live.

We’d love to hear a bit about how all of you came together in the first place?

As surprising as it might be, seven people didn’t pop out of the ground and form a band all at once. Our songwriter Liam moved to the area and began playing music with our drummer, Austin. This was a pretty powerful two-piece, and eventually they met Sasha (saxophone), then that trio became a quartet with Lewis (keyboards) and that combo toyed around a bit until we met Jess (violin) and finally Dennis (bass) and Ian (hand drums/vocals) came along! It took about two years for all of us to find each other, and ever since then we have a happy septet. With each line-up reincarnation, people told us that we were good the way we were and that we did not need more. We just said, ‘Trust us.’

Where does the name “Common Center” come from?

The universe, man! No really, there is a book called ‘The Universe.’ A random page flip and where Austin’s finger landed determined it all. Since then, it has taken on true meaning with who we are and who our community is that all make Common Center, even if they aren’t on stage with us.

Do you guys have details yet on the album. Title? Number of tracks? Release date?

The title is ‘Gypsy River,’ which comes from the song “Gypsy River Wade,” but also sort of speaks as a metaphor for the flow of our music: it can be a gentle stream heading straight into rapids that take you to a waterfall, but eventually you will be in the calm again. As for the gypsy part, we use a lot of gypsy-type scales and we all have gypsy souls, so we like it. It is a 12-track album with a hidden track at the end. The hidden track is a song that we played live for a couple months but has not surfaced in well over a year, so we hope to get a good response to its recording and its reappearance at our release show on November 21st.

We are still in the planning stages for the party, but it is going to be as locally focused as possible with local food, brew, supporting bands, and more. As far as other album-related business goes, we have some really cool designs for a ton of new merch, and we are booking a good deal of out of town shows in areas that we have and haven’t played. Thank you so much for your time! - Pledge Music

"With Unique Sound, Covington Band Common Center is Set to Release New Album"

When watching the band Common Center jam out at Covington's Wunderbar last weekend, a famous western film came to mind.
Seven uniquely skilled musicians were assembled from various corners of the region in order to pull off their mission of composing a smash debut album. They are their own Magnificent Seven here in Covington with each member putting forth his or her own sound, seamlessly blending into a style of rock that is hard to pinpoint.
For the most part, musicians shy away from describing their own sound. No one wants to be placed in a generic corner of the music world that can be easily dismissed. Sometimes, a band is clearly in a genre, but that is not the case with Common Center. Because they have seven pieces in the band, their sound is full and thoroughly layered.
When pressed, band manager and keyboardist Lewis Connell uses words like psychedelic and gypsy and rock to describe the band’s sound, but after hearing their music, it’s easy to see why it’s hard for anyone to label.
Common Center's debut LP, Gypsy River, is scheduled to be released on November 21.
The band gave itself plenty of time for the release so that nothing felt rushed or thrown together. Their songs are all original with well-thought out lyrical content written by singer and guitarist Liam Hall. He and drummer Austin Garrison founded the band. Hall and Connell found themselves talking music one night before they were bandmates and ended their conversation silently nodding to each other in agreement that a fuller band must be formed. Soon came Northside native Sasha Suskind on saxophone and other wind instruments, Jessica Graff with her violin and almost operatic singing ability, Ian Smith as a percussionist and spirited backup vocalist, and Dennis DeZarn with a bass background that transcends many genres.
Once formed and fully operational, the local powerhouse band put their talents to work by combining on an EP called Live at the Warehouse, composed in the summer of 2014. The upcoming album will feature new takes on four of the five tracks featured on the EP.
“We have songs from our regular live roster as well as brand new creations that just recently started getting stage time,” Connell said. “We are not holding back on studio hours or cutting any corners on quality. What we are releasing will truly be something we are proud of.”
The music is at times laid back and melodic and other times powerful and straight forward, but refuses to be too much of one or the other. Even songs with a more driving, heavier sound have bright touches of strings and softer vocals. It’s not a coincidence that the band members all feel at ease about the album they have collectively recorded. It can be a challenge getting seven adults together on a regular basis for recording sessions and live performances, but when talking with them, it’s easy to see how confident and driven the group is as a whole.
“We are always working on creating new, ever-evolving material as well as building a loyal, loving family,” Connell said.
While Gypsy River does not come out until closer to Thanksgiving, fans and, perhaps, curious music lovers can benefit greatly by ordering the album in advance. Common Center is using a website called as their way to distribute sales before the release of the album. There, customers can choose among various tiers of price points, each with unique perks along with the album once it’s ready.
Fans can get extras like access to behind-the-scenes pictures and videos, a signed copy of the album or poster, band t-shirts, handwritten lyric sheets and even a thank you call from the band members. Prices for the early purchases range from $10 to $100 based on the extras that are offered for buying the album ahead of time.
The pre-order campaign ends October 4, and 10 percent of all the proceeds go to Melodic Connections, a non-profit organization that provides music therapy to children around the Greater Cincinnati area.
Common Center is a Covington band that is truly unique in a lot of ways. For those interested in hearing the seven-piece creation before the album drops can see them October 9 at the Adjust Your Eyes Festival in Cincinnati, at Wunderbar in Covington on October 17, or at Next Chapter in Cincinnati on November 5. To pre-order Gypsy River, fans can find the various release options at or find more details on the band’s Facebook page. - River City News

"Soulclad Boogie Funk"

At the core of Common Center is a dynamic balance of sound. And the dynamics are such that, musically, the band’s strength lies in their non-traditional configuration, and incorporation of each player’s sound—ranging from a 12-string acoustic guitar to saxophone to keys to violin and hand drums. Add bass and a kit, and Common Center’s live show is where it’s at.
“While we have seven people, and we all kinda make a lot of noise, we end up keeping the frequencies balanced, which, dynamically, allows everyone to be heard,” keyboardist Lewis Connell says. He then commented on the dreadful ‘wall of sound’ that can separate an audience from the existential connection, which makes live shows so unique and personal. Because when a band plays too loud, or too crowded-like, the listeners don’t have much room to interpret or participate in the experience.
“We balance our three leads, harmonically, very purposefully, avoiding that disastrous wall-of-sound type of deal,” Connell says.
The lead instruments, aside from vocals, are keys, violin and sax. The band boasts two drummers working rhythmically with guitar and bass. The band makes conscious choices when it comes to arrangements, where specific pieces will drop down or out to open up for another. And although there is a lot going on, it’s not a total free-for-all. More like a methodical chaos that translates well for superior dance and grove-ability.
The Covington-based seven-piece is on tour with their first full-length debut, Gypsy River. The album originated years ago by Common Center’s lead singer Liam Hall, who happens to be a Dayton native. Their upcoming show at The Trolley Stop will be somewhat of a homecoming. The album’s material spans an extended timeframe, incorporating sounds and ideas from day one of the band’s formation through current.
“When you listen to the album, you can hear these differences between the older and newer material,” Connell says. “And it’s an evolution, where it becomes more progressive, and even a little darker.”
The band attempted to create a flow for the compilation in light of this ranging aspect, and, collectively, the songs work well together. The title track, “Gypsy River Wade” has an underlying blues feel, and is sonically reminiscent of early Modest Mouse.
The specific genre-labeling for Common Center is not exact. And very well so. The realm in which their music lives is, perhaps, best described as progressive. Though on stage (and maybe even off) the collective might appear as a jam band, but they tend towards more of the indie side of things.
“The genre talk can be hard,” Connell says. “Really, we’re based around structure.”
Pulling jazz and rock with a hint of folk, the band is loose in using the long-winded description “psychedelic gypsy rock soulclad boogie funk” to summarize their work. “We do have a lot of powerful components, but those elements will break down within any given song into something more tranquil, where you could possibly close your eyes and vibe out, before returning to more sound,” Connell adds.
The idea of space and rest set alongside intricacies and motion is the basis for any good composition. Although, and unlike true jam music, their solos don’t last until tomorrow. Connell admits that the band’s sound is continuously being refined, and therefore being redefined. And the gypsy aspect is meant with good intentions. By modern day standards, a gypsy could be equivalent to a hippie. But it is the reference to middle-eastern sounds that primarily sparks the word’s inclusion among the band’s brand—even if, linguistically, the term has come to hold negative connotation, it is not meant offensively.
“The term gypsy refers to the fact that we use gypsy scales semi-often, where we use half-step intervals,” Connell explains. The result of such provides, at times, a more mystical, meditative sound.
The band tours regionally throughout the Midwest with hopes of broadening their market. And so far their DIY attempts have paid off. They were able to generate enough funding through pre-sales of Gypsy River to help with production costs, which also allowed the music to be distributed directly to listeners upon completion. And though they are very proud of their current studio release, Connell admits that Common Center’s live show is something to be consumed. As much as the album is treasured, it is, after all, only a specific snapshot of a moment in time. The live show adds a level of accessibility by gleaning from the recorded material an overall gist that is then transcended.
- See more at: - Dayton City Paper

"CityBeat Music"

• After nearly a year in the studio and a successful crowd-funding campaign, unique Northern Kentucky-based seven-piece band Common Center is finally set to issue its debut full-length, Gypsy River, this Saturday in conjunction with a release party at Leapin’ Lizard Lounge (726 Main St., Covington, Ky., The band’s sound is hard to categorize, a progressive fusion of endless influences played with instrumentation that includes prominent strings and saxophone. Common Center’s Facebook page tags its genre as “Psychedelic Gypsy Rock (Soul-clad) Boogie Funk,” which comes fairly close to describing the quirky vibe conjured on the album.
Along with performances by Common Center, The Turkeys and Saturn Batteries, the Gypsy River release party will feature live art and other surprises. Admission is $10, which includes a download of the album. For more on the band, visit

Common Center has made the new album track "People of the Rain" available for free download. Click below to listen/share/keep: - CityBeat

"Wildly eclectic Northern Kentucky band Common Center readies new EP"

This Friday, Covington, Ky. band Common Center releases a five-track effort titled To Swallow Something Half Your Size, the group’s follow-up to its 2015 full-length debut, Gypsy River. Friday night at 8 p.m., Common Center hosts a release party for the EP at Octave (611 Madison Ave., Covington, with guests Triiibe and Mr. Pointy. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

The seven-member ensemble’s debut introduced its voraciously eclectic sound, a lysergic swirl of the musicians’ vast spectrum of influences, which range from Modern and Classic Rock and Indie Folk to Classical, Jazz and an assortment of World music. That same range manifests itself again on To Swallow Something Half Your Size, but the EP shows how deft Common Center has become at working those seemingly divergent flavors into its increasingly distinctive musical personality.

Along with the broad litany of inspirational sources, the band’s instrumental makeup also contributes to its unique identity. The use of strings and horns in many like-minded contemporary acts’ music is often limited to decoration, but on To Swallow Something Half Your Size, Jessica Graff’s violin, Sasha Suskind’ saxophone and Lewis Connell’s keyboards serve crucial lead roles. “Sewn in History” (listen below) is a great example of how vital their contributions are to making Common Center so singular — the horns punctuate around the groove like The JB Horns, the strings weave rhythmically like the Mellotron-assisted ones on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and the piano sparkles and slithers like Ray Manzarek on “Riders on the Storm.”

The music is often psychedelic and the spirit of Prog is evident, but unlike many artists associated with Psych and Prog Rock, Common Center has an anchoring songwriting core that gives the EP cohesion. With a voice that recalls “Freak Folk” troubadour Devendra Banhart, singer/guitarist Liam Hall unspools rich melodies and impassioned hippie-mystic lyrics (like “Sewn in history/The ohms among the trees/Ancient koans caress the rah/Sweetly pleased to release”) that perfectly match the nomadic aura of Common Center’s ocean-sized soundscapes. - CityBeat


Invisible Ropes - Released December 8, 2018. EP

To Swallow Something Half Your Size - Released April 27, 2018. EP

Gypsy River - Released November 21st, 2015. Album



Common Center is a 7-piece ensemble of 12-string guitar, violin, saxophone, keyboards, bass, and drums. Their compositions intermingle soft, mellifluous tones with punchy, driving rhythms—a balance between meditativeness and ferocity. The goal is transcendence. 

The band's influences range from progressive rock and folk roots to classical music, gypsy grooves, and avant-garde and experimental groups from around the world. The lyrics explore themes of consciousness, friendship, and inter-dimensional travel. Poetry intertwines with operatic swells and occasional, dream-like overtones. Multi-part vocal and instrumental harmonies have the power to both lull and invigorate listeners. 

Their most recent studio releases came in the form of two sister EP's launched seven months from each other in 2018. According to Mike Breen of CityBeat Magazine, the EP's material form "a dichotomy that makes perfect sense when you hear how the music floats between an old-world vibe and a more contemporary, Pop-era sensibility. Ultimately, the musicians’ multifarious fusion achieves a sense of timelessness."

Band Members