Between Liberties
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Between Liberties


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"Live Music feature"

Between Liberties is a unique trio of musicians from Pittsburgh, featuring sultry female vocals, cello and guitar. Appearing live at Little Kings with CaraBeth, Christopher without his Liver and the Jumpin Jesus Christers.

- Flagpole - Athens GA

"Nomads: a Celebration of Women in the Arts"

"... Pittsburgh's Renaissance Woman Emay is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, dancer and performance artist, writer and critic. With a soulful voice, captivating presence and broad spectrum of influences and tastes, she is a force to be reckoned with. Between Liberties is her current band of musicians, though she is performing solo tonight.
That is just her performing life. EMay is, at present, Director of Events at Your Inner Vagabond coffeehouse & world lounge in Lawrenceville, a booking agent for local performing artists, co-director of Inoor Bellydance, and travel agent.
Who knows which trick she will pull out of her hat this evening: she has been known to sing in Turkish, Portugese and gibberish; perform on percussion, bass, keys, guitar, or you-name-it; use stages ranging from 6x6" plexiglass boxes or third-floor windows; spin fire and juggle. EMay's range of talents is intimidating, though she pulls off her acts with a grace and elegance that is just as rare.
Visit her online at, a website she of course built herself. - YIV

"Between Liberties rises from the open-stage circuit"

There are several parallel music scenes in any decent-sized city
like Pittsburgh: The rockers play the bars, the punks play the dives,
and the folksingers play the coffeehouses.

And then there's the open stage circuit. If you don't have a demo or
a full set of original songs, don't worry -- just show up and sign your
name on the list, and you've got 15 minutes of stage time.

That's the world Erika May (also known as EMay) entered while
pursuing a fine arts degree at Carnegie Mellon. Growing up in the
outskirts of Boston, May was introduced to the live music scene in high
school, sprouting as a metalhead (she saw one of Godsmack's first
shows) and ending up in the jam-band scene.

While still a CMU freshman, May organized acoustic open mics on
campus and later approached Squirrel Hill's Te Cafe about running an
acoustic open stage there.

In the meantime, she prowled the open stage circuit, encountering
guitarist Jason Buzon at one of the Calliope-sponsored Songwriters'
Circle Tuesdays at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. "There was a group of
girls who stuck around listening after the open stage was done. I asked
if he knew any Pink Floyd, and he started playing 'Comfortably Numb.'
We began singing along, and we've been friends ever since."

The folk-rock trio Between Liberties germinated when EMay saw Buzon
play with cellist Wytold "William" Lebing at the now-defunct Azteca Mex
in Shadyside. "It was helpful to start at open stages," she says,
"where a lot of musicians listen and critique each other's songs."

May then did her part building up the music community by working
with Andrew Watson and A.J. Schaffer, who opened the coffeehouse venue
Your Inner Vagabond in Lawrenceville. "When I first met [those two], I
was doing a bellydance performance with Mandrake Project and Ishtar at
Club Cafe, and they had just arrived in town. We hit it off and started
talking about music, and I basically became their consultant on how to
establish relationships with artists."

She took on the early booking tasks at YIV as the venue was getting its feet wet in the scene.

From then on, May decided to concentrate on ramping up interest in
Between Liberties, and the trio recorded a disc called "From the Lamp
Light" at the studio of CMU instructor Riccardo Schulz, who made it a
semester project for the students in his sound engineering class.

"I knew him from when I took his class," explains May. "He stood
back and offered advice as necessary, but the students did a phenomenal
job. They really got into the process and enjoyed it. We even have a
couple of them clapping on the track 'American Dreams.' "

That song, one of two written by Lebing, has a distinct
sociopolitical bent, as does "In the City" (which is about the
homeless), when compared to other tracks such as "Afar," which are more
strictly love songs.

"Will wrote 'Dreams' in a plane crossing the country. He was
thinking about where he wanted to go after graduating, and he saw two
paths: becoming a business person or doing the creative, artsy 'carve
your own way' kind of thing. So the song looks at those different
perspectives, and how they would affect two people in a relationship."

May might have dreadlocks and an acoustic guitar, but mentioning Ani
DiFranco is a clear no-no. "I didn't listen to her at all, and really
rebelled against the Lilith Fair stuff," she says. "I got most of my
vocal influences from the grunge scene, like Chris Cornell
[Soundgarden] and Layne Staley [Alice in Chains]. I learned how to sing
from male singers, and even though I was playing covers and singing
about girls from the perspective of a guy, I didn't feel the need to
change the lyrics. I wanted to do something more deep and emotive than
just sound pretty. I really appreciate Alanis Morissette, because she
had this gritty, earthy anger, and when I started listening to female
vocals, I was into Joanna Newsom or Bjork, who have interesting voices
and do more than just sing 'nice.' "

Yet May knew that a mellowish folky outfit without a solid rhythmic
base (even though guitar and cello provide some percussive elements)
would have difficulty appealing to the crossover audience they were
attempting to reach. So for the CD release of "Lamp Light" this Friday
at Club Cafe, they're debuting a new member -- percussionist Tom
Pashby, who adds British flavor. "He's from London and Bristol and is
Will's roommate. They're both getting their doctorates in the history
and philosophy of science at Pitt."

May is still involved in other bands. After immersion in the
bellydance scene, she now plays the riq (Arabic tambourine) in Kirik
Hava, a Turkish folk ensemble featuring Omega Love guitarist Luke
Williams and Middle Eastern percussion master Nick Ragheb. And she's
working on a more electronic-based project with boyfriend Chad Hammitt
of industrial rockers Agnes Wired for Sound.

But Between Liberties is more than a passing fancy -- it toured the
East Coast last March, venturing as far as Atlanta and Nashville, and
is already gearing up to recording another CD with its new
percussionist. "When we tour again, I'd like to have two albums out --
one that shows how we started, and another that points to where we want
to go."

Manny Theiner is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer.


Music Preview
Thursday, February 19, 2009
By Manny Theiner
photo credit: Kevin Ross
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Release your paradigm: Between Liberties"

It can take years for a band to find a memorable sonic signature, and most
never really make it that far. But though it's just over a year old,
local acoustic trio Between Liberties seems well on its way with its
debut CD, From the Lamplight. Over eight songs, the group
creates a consistent, burnished, autumnal sound out of simple
materials: the subtle folk of Jason Buzon's guitar and harmonica, the
sober tones of Wytold Lebing's cello, and the low, intimate vocals of
Erika May.

May, or "EMay" as she's sometimes known, holds an art
degree from Carnegie Mellon, and seems determined to apply her
creativity to every available surface. She performs with Between
Liberties and solo, bellydances at Ren Faires, does "fire-spinning,"
writing and visual art, as well as promoting events and blogging about
the local music scene. (It's this constant bustle, I suspect, that got
the fledgling Between Liberties out on the road for a short tour last

Yet rather than a hippie vibe, Between Liberties' songs
can offer an almost Springsteenian obsession with down-and-outers and
blue-collar workers. The album-opener, "Emily," tells of a woman who
longs to escape "a job that / takes so much time from my life," while
"In the City" describes the pricks of conscience that follow blowing
off a man asking for money (and who inexplicably uses the word
"paradigm" in his pitch).

Between Liberties seems at its best,
though, on more personal themes, such as the breakup song "I Know
Better," with its lovely extended outro, and the guarded utopian
longing of "Evergreen." See for yourself at the group's CD-release show
on Fri., Feb. 20, which also marks the debut of new percussionist Tom

Between Liberties CD-release show with Chai
Baba, Boca Chica, Machete and Zack Simmen. 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 20. Club
Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $8 ($10 at the door). 412-431-4950 or


"Release your Paradigm" - Pittsburgh City Paper CD review, 2/18/09
Category: Music

by the talented Aaron Jentzen, music editor of Pittsburgh's City Paper:
- Pittsburgh City Paper

"EMay is awarded for her contributions to the Pittsburgh music scene"

" I would identify Erika May for her work programming and promoting
innovative and interesting live music in Pittsburgh, and for enriching the local independent music scene with blogs, her own band, and a solo act. She goes to every show that she possibly can, to see and hear what's going on, so she really participates in the scene. "

-from our Nominator

EMay sings for Between Liberties (see photos below), plays darbuka,
riqq and frame drum for Kirik Hava, performs solo as a songwriter,
works with other bands as a studio musician, and is active in
Pittsburgh's dance communities. Working with artists and performing
arts venues in Pittsburgh since 2002, she has helped to establish
several venues in our local music scene (Your Inner Vagabond, the HKan, and ArtDimensionsPittsburgh).

Pittsburgh Creativity Project Acknowledgment awards were given throughout 2008 for people who were supporting the arts in Pittsburgh. These cash awards went to many organizations as well as a few solo artists. They were funded by the Heinz Endowments and the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. - Pittsburgh Creativity Project


Next album: to be recorded in May 2009, most likely a 4-5 song EP with new percussionist Pashtron.

From the Lamplight, 2009 (8 songs) - Recorded by Riccardo Schulz, Sang Mok Lee and their Students at Carnegie Mellon University; Mixed and Mastered by Doug Wilkin at Wilkin Audio. Limited Edition, full length CD.

"Afar" appears on the Pittsburgh Songwriter Circle's Volume 4, recorded by BL

Tilapia Tour Demo, 2008. 5 songs, both live and rough mixes from upcoming album.

�Somos Astronautas� appears on Calliope�s 2007 Songwriter Circle CD, recorded by EMay

�American Dreams� voted runner-up for VH1�s Song of the Year awards. Recorded by Wytold

�Emily� appears on Songs for Woody O, 2006, recorded by Jason Buzon

�Emily� appears on Pittsburgh Rock for Life, 2007. Recorded by Colorful Speech (previous incarnation of BL, featuring Jason and Wytold)



Between Liberties rocketed onto the scene in Pittsburgh late in 2007, quickly garnering a dedicated underground following. An energetic trio of performing musicians, Between Liberties writes vivid original music about lives we all may have lived. The name of this group is a measure of location: with Jason living near West Liberty and Emay near East Liberty, they found each other in Pittsburgh, and hence Between Liberties.

A trio of songwriters, BL collaborates to write about creative, socio-economic, political, and personal liberties. Subjects of Between Liberties songs run the gamut from the mundane to the magical, from everyday routines to passionate narratives of memorable moments.

They have performed on some of Pittsburgh's most prestigious stages (Club Cafe, The Rex Theater, Pepsi Roadhouse, Your Inner Vagabond), Colleges (Carnegie Mellon University, UPitt), at music festivals (Slippery Rock's Kaleidoscope festival, Harrisburg's Millennium Showcase), on radio (WPTS Pittsbugh, WCCS Indiana), and at political rallies (gObama!).

Between Liberties has shared a stage with a wide spectrum of performers, including Erik Mongrain (Quebec), Phat Man Dee (PA/NYC), Ishtar (PA), Anna Vogelzang (IL), Buddy Nutt (PA), The Jumpin' Jesus Christers (GA), and Electric Ladies (VA). They have recently returned from their first tour, which took them through Washington, DC, Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee.

Many live recordings are in circulation, and in the spirit of free trade, the band would encourage you to share the music you love. Their debut album, "From the Lamplight", was released in February, 2009, to a full house at Pittsburgh's Club Cafe.