Gig Seeker Pro


Chesapeake, Virginia, United States | INDIE

Chesapeake, Virginia, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Alternative




"Bison, the greatness of folk music, without all the beef."

Every now and then a sound catches you. Like a faint sound in the wind that you stop and try and find where it’s coming from. That’s what happened to me. Perusing Facebook I came upon a band called “Bison”, totally by accident. A fantastic accident. On their Facebook page their music began playing in the background, and after shuffling through many windows I found the source. The song playing was “Switzerland”, which is now one of my favorites. I was enthralled at the sound of banjos and xylophones (a fantastic mixture). At first thought I felt a rivaling similarity to “Mumford and Sons”. However, after listening to the entirety of their first album “Quill” (recorded live, with minimum overdubs), I decided that they deserved their own category.

Bison, rich and soulful with a story behind every song. Just listen close, and you’ll find a story of your own. I hope to one day sit down with Ben Hardesty, the bands front man, you’ll recognize him by his manly beard, and get the story behind each song. However this sweet dessert to the soul could not have been concocted without equally talented band-mates. This includes:Andrew Benfante, Dan Hardesty, Annah Hardesty, Amos Housworth, Teresa Totheroh, and Jay Benfante. They are such a surprisingly talented group of young artists, and yes that includes you too, Dan.

After viewing them live one afternoon in Borjos in Norfolk, Virginia, at the recommendation of a good friend, I had to see them once more. I won free tickets from 96.X while at Borjos and took that opportunity to enjoy a few drinks and see them at the NorVa. There I was able to hear their entire album, “Dark Am I” being my favorite live, and really see them shine. After the show I felt like a big groupie and purchased their EP “Quill” and a T-shirt that I frequently wear.

I’m excited by the recent mixing of modern folk, and alternative rock. It’s a mixture that speaks straight to the soul. I know that Bison is seeing a lot of local media attention, and they are progressing rather quickly. I can only hope that they continue with their great mix of unique vocals, percussion, and strings (Teresa, you rock)! If you would like to learn more check out the links below.

To listen on Spotify: Click Here

To download their album on iTunes: Click Here

Or, if you want to get the latest updates and news of upcoming shows, follow them on Facebook, Here
- Slash Gadgets

"Bison Kicks Off Pfac’s 50th Anniversary Celebration"

To start off its 50th year festivities, the Peninsula Fine Arts Center hosted its monthly free social mixer, “Art After 5” on Jan. 19 and welcomed hundreds of enthusiastic visitors to preview their newly installed art exhibition. An international collection, “Art and the Animal: Selections from the Society of Animal Artists,” runs January through March. The exhibition brings together works from an association of animal and wildlife painters and sculptors that was founded in 1960 and is made up of members from the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, Japan and Australia.
People of all ages came to see the eclectic collection of animal artwork, ranging from paintings by famed French-American ornithologist John James Audubon to more contemporary works by artists around the world; many local selections included. “Art After 5” also featured poet Nathan Richardson, artists Debbie Poor and Millie Arthur who looked to spark the creative interest of Art Center patrons.
One of the biggest draws to the event was Chesapeake folk band Bison. Teenagers and twenty-somethings filled the standing-room-only gallery space where the soulful sounds of mountain-top chamber music delighted the crowd. The group, consisting of seven talented musicians and vocalists, has seen their star rise quite rapidly in the past few months after tracks from their debut album “Quill” received airplay on local radio stations. Their signature song “Switzerland” has become a hit with over 30,000 views on YouTube alone.
A group of family and friends ranging from ages 17-20 (with the exception of Dan Hardesty, father of singers Ben and Annah), Bison follows in the pastoral traditions of multi-instrumental groups like Fleet Foxes or the Decemberists, but has a sound that is unique to the respective personalities of each band member. Members Amos Housworth, Teresa Totheroh, Jay Benfante and Andrew Benfante complete the dynamic, led by the charismatic frontman Ben Hardesty. Ben, complete with fearsome troubadour beard, is a bona fide star in the making. His humble confidence shines through his expressive eyes and in his enthusiasm to deliver heartfelt lyrics, as well as his penchant for embracing excited fans for photographs after performances. The band was delighted to play at Pfac, especially on the dawn on the Center’s semicentennial. They’ve played larger local venues like Chrysler Hall and the NorVa, but have recently been selecting smaller stages that play more to their rustic roots.
“We’re trying to pick special shows,” Andrew Benfante said. “Things that we feel like would help define us. Tonight was awesome. We’ve been seeing a heightened demand for local shows, but we don’t want to get burnt out right away unless it’s something really unique.” Benfante is currently studying Civil Engineering at Old Dominion University, but like the other members of the band, he’s committed to wherever the road leads Bison in the future.
“Pfac is great, we really hope people were out here looking at the amazing art and enjoying our music,” lead singer Ben Hardesty said.
Members of the band said they were headed to New York in the days following the Pfac show, ready to do some “serious music business.” Yet they don’t want the potential of fame to get in the way of their simple love of playing music. “Looking out in the crowd tonight, you realize that you aren’t any different,” violinist Totheroh said. “Everyone has the potential to make it big if they put their heart in it.”
The night was a great success, but of course “Art After 5” is just part of what Pfac has to offer. With the first events of the year underway they will continue to have invigorating, exciting exhibitions and musical acts that aim to inspire and make visitors think. After a great debut, patrons can expect the Peninsula Fine Arts Center to continue presenting a sensational schedule for their 50th year.
Video available on the NewportNewsTV YouTube Channel: “PFAC Art After 5 Featuring Bison.”
- The Captain's Log

"Bison at Pfac's Art After 5"

A large, diverse crowd came to Peninsula Fine Arts Center to mix, mingle and listen to the indie-folk sounds of the band Bison on Thursday, Jan. 19.

Organizers of Pfac's "Art After 5" event said the audience for the after-work party was 445.

Here's a quick look at the even courtesy of Newport News Television. - The Daily Press

"Bison’s Mountaintop Chamber Music Eclectic Chesapeake band rides “Switzerland” to success"

If you’ve listened to 96X on the FM dial in recent months chances are you’ve heard “Switzerland,” a poignant song sung with passion and backed with folksy instrumentation enhanced with classical-like strings. What you may not be aware of is that the band, Bison, is locally grown from Chesapeake.
Led by guitarist, singer-songwriter Ben Hardest, the eclectic group is comprised by a tight-knit group of family members and friends, including Dan Hardesty, Annah Hardesty, Andrew Benfante, Jay Benfante, Amos Housworth, and Teresa Totheroh.
Bison quietly made its studio album debut in September with Quill. A movie trailer-like video has been filmed by Illusive Media to help push the album to a national audience.
The popularity of “Switzerland” paired with a high-profile concert at The NorVa has Bison riding high on its self-described “mountaintop chamber music,” where bluegrass meets classical and folk mingles with trendy Americana. Their storytelling approach to songwriting and intricate instrumentation recalls Mumford and Sons and The Decemberists.
Sam McDonals, a music critic at The Daily Press, said of Bison's live NorVa performance, "The stars of [the] show did not disappoint. Bison skillfully performed complex arrangements and delivered songs with passion and sensitivity. The crowd sang along with the group's local hit "Switzerland" and gave a warm reception to many other tunes. Bison is a unique musical outfit that creates an unusual energy on stage. The fact that so many local fans are embracing its sound is good news indeed."
To learn more about Bison, we called Ben Hardesty. Here’s the conversation.

How did the band come together?
It all started around bonfires that we were having at our house that me, my dad, Annah and my friend Andrew just kind of broke out the instruments and started playing. Songs started to form. Then we played them in front of people and they grasped on to them. It’s all grassroots. We just started playing music and it seemed to work.

The image of Bison in your photograph and music video is reminiscent of the American Wild West of the 1800s. Is that by design or did it happen organically?
Honestly, for me, it happened organically. That’s kinda just me. I have a love for history and especially American history and the Westward Expansion and all that. So I guess being the head of the band it just took that form.

Your music blends a lot of genres from folk and classical to Americana and indie pop. How would you prefer to describe your sound?
We’ve been labeling it as two things: Folk-chestrial and Mountaintop Chamber, which I think is my favorite.

Bison had a large crowd at The NorVa show. Tell us about that night.
That night really just worked. We had been talking with The NorVa about doing a show and that was a night that was free. At first we were really skeptical about and didn’t think anyone was going to come out before Thanksgiving. We are all about the community and what needs to happen here, so we said, “Hey, let’s try to raise some food for families that live in the area.”
Our manager, Jacob, went and talked to the 96X guys. They started playing “Switzerland” a few week before that. They jumped on doing the show right away, and so did the Food Bank of South Hampton Roads. So they started promoting it on the radio. By the end of the night there were almost 800 people there.

How did you like performing on The NorVa’s stage in front of that many people?
It was an amazing experience because that was where I had gone to shows since I was 13 and seeing bands that were huge to me. Playing on that stage is special.

Some people care the Bison sound to that of The Decemberists. How do you feel about that labeling?
I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily like to be pigeonholed. I think that doesn’t necessarily come from our sound, because they are far more Americana than we are. I think it might be because of the storytelling and the lyrics, and the general use of folk instruments. But I think it is a good reference point, yeah.

How do you approach songwriting, being the sole songwriter in the band?
I don’t have a system per se. It really all depends on what clicks. If I have a lyrical idea in my head I’ll form a melody around that. If I have a melody in my head, I’ll form lyrics around that.

How did “Switzerland” go from an idea to a song?
That song is about a real experience I had where I was traveling in Switzerland and ended up being in this area without a place to stay. It was me and my friend Andrew. All of the places to stay were fancy hotels. There was no way to get down from the mountain except for this mountain tram that was already done going down for the night. So we were stuck up there. So finally deciding to go to one of these hotels after attempting to sleep in the foothills of the Alps with our sleeping bags – it didn’t work – we went back to the hotel and it was closed. So we ended up sleeping in this back alley behind a grocery store in the mountains of Switzerland. It was just a sobering experience for me. It left me with a picture of what it’s like not to have what most of us here in the States have. It was in Sierre, Switzerland about two hours from Geneva.

What time of year was that?
It would have been March 19. It was freezing, so cold.

Your manager Jacob Marshall has a lot of experience with record labels and touring as a member of Mae. What does he bring to Bison?
Jacob has a sense of using his connections for us in the best way, and branding us from Virginia and protecting the authenticity we have with the whole family and folksy feel. He will protect us from any labels that would want to come in and change that. He’s helping us build a solid team. He’s basically the eighth member of the band.

What are your goals?
I don’t really plan stuff that much. If the time comes to have the opportunity to sign to a label but it’s not the right thing to do, then we’re not going to do it. If a label can do something we can’t and the deal works out for us and them, if it was a wise choice we’d think about it. But right now we’re not necessarily looking at doing that.

What can you share about your recent performance with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra?
That was quite a blessing for us, just to watch the Symphony play and then go out and play in front of the audience they brought. It was awesome to walk on the stage of Chrysler Hall and see all the people. It’s something most local bands don’t get to do. I was extremely excited and blessed.

How does a local band get asked to join the Virginia Symphony?
Their general manager visited the church I attend and somehow found out about us. He listened to us and really like us. He and the conductor approached us and asked if we’d be interest in doing it. We just did one song. They asked us to do an old sacred hymn.

Do you feel a kinship to those bluegrass artists in the Southwestern mountains of Virginia?
Yeah. We tend to all play like them. They’re amazing. We just play the instruments they play and fill in the tones. I definitely would say we’re influenced by that.

Do you plan to play out locally on a more regular basis?
No, not at all. We’re cutting back from the local shows because we want the ones we do play to be special. We’re spacing them out strategically to bring crowds and invite them into our world for a night.

The Attucks Theatre would be a great venue for Bison.
I’ve been thinking about that. We haven’t contacted them, nor have they contacted us. I think we would fit in.

NOTE: Bison will perform as part of Veer Magazine’s Local Music Awards, Wednesday, February 15 at the Naro Expanded Cinema. - Veer Magazine

"Bison and other local bands play to big crowd at 96X event in Hampton"

It's easy to be cynical about the local original rock scene, but Wednesday's party at Luckie's Dueling Piano Bar in Hampton helped the year end on an optimistic note.

Bison, the 96X local buzz band of 2011, headlined a benefit show organized by the radio station that also featured The Aragona Project and Audio Strobe Light. Members of the inactive band Mae reunited for a short acoustic set.

The crowd was large and receptive. Wednesday's event started at 5 p.m. and by 6:30 p.m., Luckie's had reached its capacity of about 400, according to James Steele, program director for WROX-FM.

Steele was obviously elated with how the event unfolded. "Everything came together -- and for a good cause," he said. Proceeds from the event were aimed at Toys for Tots and the Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia.

Musicially speaking, there was plenty to feel good about, too. The Aragona Project played electric rock that incorporated modern indie styles along with a dash of English shoegaze textures from back in the 1990s.

Mae's Dave Elkins, a local musician now living in Nashville, sounded strong on stripped-down, acoustic versions of his band's favorites including at least one from the 2003 album "Destination: Beautiful."

The stars of Wednesday's show did not disappoint. Bison -- an acoustic group that combines classical strings, tribal percussion and indie-folk songwriting -- skillfully performed complex arrangements and delivered the songs of songwriter-bandleader Ben Hardesty with passion and sensitivity.

The crowd sang along with the group's local hit "Switzerland" and gave a warm reception to many other tunes.

Bison is a unique musical outfit that creates an unusual energy on stage. The fact that so many local fans are embracing its sound is good news indeed - The Daily Press

"Bison, a folk band from Chesapeake, is attracting a herd of fans"

An acoustic band from Chesapeake called Bison has pulled off a feat rarely seen or heard in Hampton Roads.

It's impressed enough people to propel one of its original songs into regular rotation on one of the area's major commercial rock radio stations.

WROX-FM (96.1) is playing Bison's tune "Switzerland" as many as 30 times a week — and not only in the wee hours of the morning when the audience is small, said James Steele, program director for the station.

"We play them every day, right next to the Foo Fighters and all the big artists," Steel said. "Their sound and what they are doing is something that fits perfectly with 96X."

Hey, wait a second.

Bison is a folk-influenced band that includes classically trained string players. It's led by a 20-year-old songwriter Ben Hardesty who started the group with his 46-year old father, an associate pastor at Community Church of Chesapeake.

Little of that would seem a natural fit at WROX — local radio's home to rock bad boys including Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys and the Black Keys. Yet, "Switzerland" is doing more than holding its own. According to Steele, the song has become a listener favorite. He said "Switzerland" has prompted the biggest audience response of any tune in his five years at the station.

On Wednesday, the band will play a fundraising WROX concert at Luckie's Dueling Piano Bar in Hampton.

"I haven't seen anything like this in a long time," Steel said. "It wasn't like we were shoving it down people's throats. We wanted to see what happened. It grew really fast."

Fast is a good way to describe the development of Bison. While Hardesty has been writing songs since high school, his group fully blossomed only about a year ago. Hardesty, his father, and friend Andrew Benfante started performing original songs at family events and church festivals. Gradually members were added to fill out the sound. It now features seven members, including Hardesty's sister Annah on bells and percussion and a pair of string players, Amos Housworth and Teresa Totheroh.

To hear father Dan Hardesty tell the story, word of the band's music spread fairly slowly until December of last year when the band played a house concert at Old Dominion University.

"All of a sudden, there were these college-age kids who really loved the music," the banjo-playing pastor said. "That started the whole grass-roots, word-of-mouth thing for us."

Recordings helped spread the word. The band's debut album "Quill" was made with minimal overdubs at Minimum Wage Recording in Richmond. Engineer Lance Koehler faithfully captured the group's ensemble sound. On "Switzerland" as well as tracks such as "Iscariot" and "Autumn Snow," Bison bears sonic resemblance to groups such as Mumford and Sons and The Decemberists, bands that blend folk elements with alternative rock.

In September of this year, the band released "Quill" with a celebratory show at the Chrysler Museum of Art.

The next month, Steele saw Bison play at the Jewish Mother Backstage in Norfolk. He was sold. "We've got to get this song on," he remembers thinking. "It's the real deal. They are passionate about the music and the product we put out there. There's no way people won't react to this."

These days, Bison seems to be popping up everywhere. They recently played live on WAVY-TV's "Hampton Roads Show." This weekend in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, they'll appear with the Virginia Symphony, playing "O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem."

Ben Hardesty, the man who breathed life into Bison, said he's happy with the way things are progressing.

"I've been excited to see the local community latch on to us, and how loyal the fans are," he said. "It makes it way easier and more fun when that connection is there."

His goals for the band are simple.

"When I write music, I ultimately hope it brings people a sense of joy and hopefulness in whatever circumstance they're in," Hardesty said. "I will take this as far as it goes. Ultimately, I don't think I have any say in where it goes, but I will go there with it."

See them live - The Daily Press


...Bison (@bisonfolk), hailing from Chesapeake, VA, truly capture the musical heritage of their home and demonstrate that with the huge passion they bring to their music. Distinguishing themselves from other groups in the genre, they also incorporate a unique, classical element to their sound, which features a full string section and arrangements to match. The title track to their newest album, a perfect example of this, begins with beautifully intertwined violin and mandolin sounds that build to include choral vocals and cello. Giving equal merit to both classical and folk/bluegrass, Benjamin Hardesty’s lead vocals follow with great intensity. Their debut album Quill is available free to stream on Bandcamp... - The Wild Honey PIe

"Bison's folk-pop focuses on unique arrangements"

Bison‘s orchestral folk-pop takes a bit different tack than The Collection, who I’ve gushed over repeatedly. Bison’s debut album Quill uses the seriousness of Fleet Foxes’ grounded sound as a framework, layering strings, bells and more on top. “Iscariot” and “The Woodcutter’s Son” have a darkly pastoral bent that recalls pre-The King is Dead Decemberists. But it’s not all heavy and bleak; the title track and “Switzerland” show off a deft balance of meaningfulness and instrumental levity. The former is especially buoyed by a perky, rumbling tom roll.

Vocalist Benjamin Hardesty has a less unusual but no less malleable tenor voice than Colin Meloy, and that lends considerable enjoyment to these tunes. While his voice is the focus in several tunes, the instrumental and near-choral arrangements take precedence in others. This focus is rare for folk, no matter how much instrumental virtuosity is praised in the related genre of bluegrass; instead of being about the individual performances (as in that genre), Bison’s folk is very concerned with mood through the writing of parts. There are many intros and outros, setting the stage for tunes: this took some getting used to for me, a fan of immediate folk tunes. It’s not bad, just unusual: this is an asset toward their originality, after I got used to it.

But every folk lover will breathe a sigh of contentment at “Autumn Snow,” which starts out with a gentle, poignant, fingerpicked guitar line before adding vocals and strings. It’s a fantastic tune that shows Hardesty’s vocals in full bloom, and showcases the band’s straight-up songwriting skill.

Bison’s debut Quill establishes the band as one to watch in 2012. Their vision is slightly different than most folk bands, and that results in interesting, fun-to-hear tunes. I’m excited to see what Bison will be able to do with some refining and a few more tunes under the belt. - Independent Clauses

"bison: quill: switzerland"

Dare I say that Bison is to folk what Arcade Fire is to indie rock? Boasting 7 members and a sound seemingly born on the tree covered mountain tops of Virginia Bison lays down expansive and yet imminently listenable folk with an original feel I’ve not experienced in quite some time.

Amidst all the comparisons regarding this band and others (who will remain nameless here) who have unexpectedly achieved success in this American climate of Katy Perry’s and T-Pain’s, Bison is a welcome respite from all that is manufactured. It’s easy to make quick judgements and label this band with a paintbrush tinted with What Is The Most Popular Folk Band In The Mainstream Today? color, but we will not do so here. No. This music stands on its own, no effigies necessary. To label is to do it all an injustice.

And you. Yes, you. Hi there. Don’t just quit with this download. Carry on and hit that bandcamp link. Give these 7 fine folks some money and fill your heart with some hearty, spacial, moving folk. This band deserves your eyes and your ears… - Folkhive


Quill (2011)

1st single: Switzerland (currently in power rotation at 96X WROX in Hampton Roads, VA)



Bison’s mountain-top chamber music combines elements of alternative indie-folk with classical sensibilities, bringing a fresh inspiring sound to the folk genre. The music of this seven member band grew organically in the family living room and around backyard bonfires giving it a rootsy quality and yet the complex arrangements and refined strings seem just as appropriate in the symphony hall. With recent airplay on 96X WROX (Norfolk, VA), the popularity of the band is expanding rapidly. According to the stations program manager, “Switzerland”, the first single from their Debut album has prompted the biggest audience response of any tune in his five years at the station.

Ben Hardesty’s (vocals and guitar) songwriting bears sonic resemblance to groups such as Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons and The Decemberists. Folkhive stated stated “Dare I say that Bison is to folk what Arcade Fire is to indie rock? Boasting 7 members and a sound seemingly born on the tree covered mountain tops of Virginia Bison lays down expansive and yet imminently listenable folk with an original feel I’ve not experienced in quite some time”. Incorporating traditional folk instruments with a reed organ, percussion and classical strings creates a unique hybrid sound that defies pigeon-holing the band. The blog “Independent Clauses” stated “Bison’s debut album Quill uses the seriousness of Fleet Foxes’ grounded sound as a framework, layering strings, bells and more on top. “Iscariot” and “The Woodcutter’s Son” have a darkly pastoral bent that recalls pre-The King is Dead Decemberists.” Bison has had the opportunity to headline the Norva (Norfolk, VA) as well as perform with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

The Daily Press (Newport News VA) said of Bison’s live performance, “The stars of [the] show did not disappoint. Bison skillfully performed complex arrangements and delivered songs with passion and sensitivity. The crowd sang along with the group’s local hit “Switzerland” and gave a warm reception to many other tunes. Bison is a unique musical outfit that creates an unusual energy on stage. The fact that so many local fans are embracing its sound is good news indeed.”