Brand New Key is a trans/queer, alt-bluegrass five-piece of seasoned musicians from all over the map. Texas natives Amy Moreland (mandolin, vocals) and Jack Kaulfus (guitar, vocals) teamed up in 2013 and began playing as a traditional bluegrass duo. When Pennsylvania-native drummer Jill Csekitz (Fingerpistol) offered to add some acoustic beats to the sound, Brand New Key was born. Percussionist and cajon-under-study, Ashley Welch, joined in 2015 and suddenly BNK rose to hootenanny status. Original bass player Julie Shipp (Bitterheart Society) left for Sweden in 2018, making room for the newest member, upright bassist extraordinaire, Jamie Bahr of Danger*Cakes fame.
In 2016, Brand New Key produced their first full-length, End of the Story, recorded/mixed/mastered with Ryan Young at Suite 2E Studios, and released on the Crosspick Records label (re-released 2017, ran by Crosspick Studio owners, Moreland and Welch). The album is a layered, emotionally rich collection of Americana originals with roots in bluegrass, country, and folk. Brand New Key plays frequently and entertains a multitude of Austin fans with their danceable bluegrass tunes, textured instrumentals, and self-assured songwriting.
Performance is at the heart of Brand New Key. Every gig, we look to put on a great stage show in which we have as much fun as our audiences. Our songs are danceable, singable, and full of light. Our shows are loud (often sweaty) affairs that feature killer mandolin licks, beautiful upright bass solos, and poignant songs that seek to reach even the most die-hard anti-country music fan.
Though we play a genre of music that is traditionally white, male, and heteronormative in story-telling and in ensemble composition, all five of us are activists in the trans, queer, feminist, and anti-racist communities in Austin. Our original songs speak to heartbreak and desire, hard luck and fleeting happiness. They also speak to the struggles of queer people all over the world who face fear and violence every day. We bring passion for equality and gender justice to our songwriting and performance, and clear a way for new audiences to appreciate a very old style of music.
Our cover tunes are special to us because they’re some of our favorite songs by both queer and straight artists. We include Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Steve Earle because of their unique perspectives on the south’s complicated past. We know those songs sound different coming from queer musicians, and love to think we’re only adding to an already rich tapestry of outsider art. There are obviously very few out-queer performers in the broad Americana sonic space, so we want to be visible, we want to be loud, and we want to make sure we are having as much fun as we possibly can.