Rippletree Effect (formerly known as Barefoot)
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Rippletree Effect (formerly known as Barefoot)

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Kids make the craziest things for their senior projects, but Amanda Hoffman may have trumped them all. No useless "invention" and no "save the world" type community service ordeal for her. No - she actually risked her sanity and a failing grade. She made a band. A good band. Now, the 20-year-old Swoyersville resident and said band, Barefoot, is recording with Bret Alexander at Saturation Acres in a project a bit more weighty than the experiment that put them together. A violin and mandolin complement a unique sound with Hoffman and her "mildly creative" self assuming the role of front girl in a band that has three (Kristen Kirby also writes and Christine Attanasio plays violin). On June 18, they'll open for Rascal Flatts at Montage Mountain. But in the meantime, she studies, she serves, and she shops ... meet the free-spirited, free-footed Amanda Hoffman ...

DC: How did you get into music?

AH: I've always had really supportive parents. I've been singing since I was like, 4. I think that was the first time I sang in church. I have a pretty musical extended family. My aunt taught me how to play the guitar in sixth grade. I went to her house one summer and she gave me one to practice on and I took it home and taught myself. She played for years and she has an amazing voice, too. I looked up to her. So I did that for a couple years and then for my senior project in high school I made a band. Someone told me to make sure to do something that's fun for you, or else it's really going to be terrible. So I picked that.

DC: Which could have also been terrible.

AH: Yes. If it went bad. But I had a good feeling. I had Kristen Kirby, my good friend who also sings at church and plays guitar, and her brother picked up the drums not too long before that. It just grew from there.

DC: Describe your band to people.

AH: Oh, the question ... the one I get all the time.

DC: That you should have an answer for by now.

AH: I should. I'm always asking people to describe it, but they have no idea. We kind of coined the term "grass rock." Because there's a little bluegrass, and a little rock. We're trying to do something different. Sometimes we use "Goo Goo Dolls with girl singers." It's hard. I can't think of anything that's really like it. The instrumentation is different because there are three writers in the band and their influences are extremely different. Tony, who plays mandolin, is into Coldplay. Kristen is into Evanescence and Switchfoot. I like more of Alison Krauss. We kind of mush those together. You can tell who writes the songs once you get to know us.

DC: Is music your true calling?

AH: There was a point where I felt like this was just a dream. Then you think that it can be a reality. I stopped thinking music was something I did for fun. Recently, I've been feeling like I can really do this. It's like God put me here to do this. Certain things that have been happening that made me realize that I'm talented and that I have a good voice. Or else I wouldn't be here.

DC: And Bret would have kicked you out of the studio.

AH: (laughs) Yes he would have. He likes to tell us not to suck when we play. I know that, and I just don't want to waste it. I almost feel like I have to do it now. Like I was put here to do it.

DC: Why Barefoot?

AH: It's for two reasons. The first reason is Exodus 3:5 in the bible. It talks about when Moses went to the mountain and the burning bush and all that, and God said, "take off your shoes, you're on holy ground." That's kind of where we got the name.

DC: You're big fans of Moses?

AH: No, it's just ...

DC: You're not?

AH: Yes! (laughs) To be honest I'm not sure why we picked that. We didn't like it at first and we thought about changing it. But we got the name out there and once that happens, you don't want to change it. Plus, I used to play barefoot all the time. It just worked. I like my feet to be free. They don't like to be trapped in my shoes.

DC: You come off as a pure person.

AH: I don't know about pure. Guess it depends what you'd classify as pure or innocent. But I'm a good person. At least, I try to be. We don't like to classify ourselves as a Christian band but we write a lot about our faith. We do play at churches, too.

DC: What do you do besides play music?

AH: I work at Grotto by the mall and at Hollister. And I'm a student so I don't really have time for much else. Shopping is my guilty pleasure.

DC: Is that the latest Hollister fashion you're wearing?

AH: This is Hollister, yes. The whole ensemble. Put that discount to use. I'm also very small so it's hard for me to find good jeans.

DC: What's something about you that no one else knows?

AH: Hmm. People really know everything about me. If you ask me something, I'll tell you.

DC: I just did.

AH: Um. Secretly, I like Michael Jackson a lot. But maybe you shouldn't put that in there. That might be a bad thing for your paper - that "Bi - Diamond City


Take a core of an internalist, spiritual lyricist/lead vocalist with the keening, dream pop vocal power of the Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan (Amanda Hoffman), add a lead guitarist, writer, backing vocalist capable of delivering a dead match lushness to the harmonies (Kristen Kirby), and round it out with rhythm guitarist, mandolin, keyboardist (Tony Halchak) bent on pushing the band's sound in a multi-instrumental bluegrass direction. Layer over this core aggressive rock drumming (Dave Kirby), solid bass playing (Jess Kirby), and quite notably, the wonderful violin of Christine Attanasio. This band has all the tools and inclination to put together starkly original multi-textured music.

Formed in 2002 out of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Barefoot released this five-song EP late last year. Local airplay has been favorable, particularly "Jeremiah," where the band hits all the elements of their greatest assets, a soaring, hooky chorus, with the vocals of Hoffman and Kirby perfectly meshed and gilded by Attanasio's strings. At times Hoffman and Kirby diverge and the backing vocal lines aren't as tight, but that is clearly the minority.

The band exploits a variety of styles including folk, pop, and rock, and adds exotic spice with almost Celtic and middle eastern melodic flavors. Naturally, I'd like to hear a fatter bottomed, electrified rock counterpoint to the intricate candy of Hoffman and Kirby's vocals, as they hint at on the excellent "Skeletons".

That being said, this is a great first effort; original, substantial, and featuring a central, young, songwriting duo as compelling and with as much potential as any heard around here lately. - PA Musician Magazine


Some bands try to fit into a musical genre. They take their own musical influences, put their own stamp on them, and then see where they fit into the world's musical landscape.

Barefoot, however, wants to invoke a whole new class of music.

Barefoot's new CD, the 'Fallen Whirled EP,' is now available at the band's shows. A CD release party will take place tonight in Dallas.

"We're trying to create a new niche, and we're trying to call it grass-rock, which is a combination of bluegrass and rock," says multi-instrumentalist Tony Halchak. "Lately, all of our songwriting has been geared towards trying to meet that goal."

Barefoot, based in Northeast Pennsylvania, was formed two years ago and features Halchak, vocalists Amanda Hoffman and Kristen Kirby, drummer Dave Kirby, bassist Jess Kirby and violinist Christine Attanasio. Halchak says Hoffman serves as principal songwriter and that her Christian creed is often a source of inspiration.

"Usually what Amanda does with her songs is write about what's going on in her life," he says. "A lot of it is very much faith-based because that's one of the big things that goes on in all of our lives."

With its oldest member only 22, Barefoot is not only one of the region's youngest bands but also one of the most ambitious. A new album, the "Fallen Whirled EP," is available now at the group's shows and includes the tracks "All I'm Asking For," "Dreamer," "Jeremiah," "Skeletons" and "To Understand." It was recorded at BigWay Studios in Kintersville and mixed and mastered at Saturation Acres studio in Danville.

Barefoot has performed at The Staircase in Pittston Township, The Waterfront in Plains Township, Bones Bar in Wilkes-Barre and at venues in Scranton and State College. Influences include Jars of Clay, Jennifer Knapp, Nickel Creek and The Dixie Chicks. Visually, with its heavy percussion and stirring fiddles, the group looks a bit like Rusted Root on stage.

Halchak says the band's songs often try to show how the members' faith works into everyday life, ranging from their personal relationships to their jobs. Still, he says the group never uses the stage as a pulpit.

"We like to call ourselves a seed band," he says. "We like to think that we have a message, but we're not trying to pound it down anybody's throat. When they hear it, we're hoping that maybe it plants a seed, and maybe they'll want to check it out more."

Barefoot will hold a CD release party tonight at The Family Life Center, behind the Dallas Evangelical Free Church, Hildebrant Road, Dallas. (That's next to Dallas High School.) Showtime is 8 p.m., and there is no cover charge. For more info on the band, call 735-3500, 954-7077 or visit www.barefootband.cjb.net

- Alan K. Stout


Discography

released as Barefoot "Sow in Tears Demo"
-April 2003

released as Barefoot "The Fallen Whirled EP"
-September 2004
-mixed and mastered by Bret Alexander of The Badlees at Saturation Acres in Danville, PA
-Tracks "Dreamer" and "To Understand" gained local radio airplay.

released as Barefoot "Chkna Single"
-June 2005
-features first single "Chkna" from upcoming album and an instrumental B-Side entitled "Meteor Shower"

Rippletree Effect streams tracks on our myspace at www.myspace.com/rippletreeeffect

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

*Note Rippletree Effect was formerly known as Barefoot

Rippletree Effect
Biography
www.rippletreeeffect.com

Rippletree Effect is one of the most promising and exciting new bands showcasing serious talent and refreshing creativity. RtE formed in the spring of 2002 to perform thought-provoking and inspiring original music to live audiences. The band has a unique musical spectrum, one song rocking an audience and the next slowing down to a folky acoustic ballad. Most audience members take the spellbinding harmonies, the bands strongest asset, of lead singers Amanda Hoffman and Kristen Kirby with them. The rest are amazed by multi-instrumentalist Tony Halchak's catchy guitar hooks or his beautiful mandolin licks. RtE played in front of audiences in the thousands and opened for several national acts such as the three time CMA award winning and country sensation Rascal Flatts, Grammy-nominated Bering Strait, independent sensation Brother, and Dove-award winning artist Cherri Keaggy.

The band is currently tracking their first full-length album with the help of The Badlees Bret Alexander and Paul Smith. The Badlees, a band instrumental in creating an original music scene in the state of Pennsylvania, have sold over 200,000 copies of their first release "River Songs" worldwide, earning two top 10 national radio singles.

Two songs on RtE's upcoming full-length album were recently completed in Nashville TN with the help of multiple grammy award and Gibson's Player of the Year winning Matt Odmark from the band Jars of Clay.

A previous EP entitled "The Fallen Whirled EP" sees a few of it's tracks already spinning in rotation at local radio stations.

Rippletree Effect is currently booking shows in the Northeast. For bookings and other questions, please contact Kristen Kirby at (570) 954-7077 or via email at barefoot@barefootrock.net

A few venues RtE has played: Nashville, TN-Bluebird Cafe, Douglas Corner Cafe, French Quarters Cafe, Rocketown. Wilkes-Barre, PA- F.M. Kirby Center, Waterfront Bar and Grill, The Staircase, River Street Jazz Cafe. Scranton, PA-Ford Pavilion at Montage Mountain. Allentown, PA- The Sterling Hotel State College, PA- The Crowbar, The Moxie Lounge. New Hampshire-The Summit Cafe. Binghamton, NY- Broome County Forum