In 2010, Yankee Greg Bortnichak was touring in the South with the band Sparta Philharmonic. Little did he know that the band’s one Florida tour stop in St. Petersburg would turn out to be the only show he never knew they needed.
“Everyone we ever needed to meet was there,” Bortnichak said.
From there, a promoter encouraged the band to head to Sarasota to meet Erin Murphy who was deeply involved in the music scene there.
“We just hit it off, and it was very professional. I ended up talking about DIY packaging and fringe lifestyle,” he said.
Six months later, Bortnichak found himself back in Florida working on a record with another artist. During this trip, he teamed up with Murphy to collaborate on one of her projects and within 48 hours, they joined forces as Bard and Mustache.
“Forty-eight hours after being in Sarasota a second time, we were playing a show and booking a tour. We have been by each other’s side ever since,” Bortnichak said.
Bortnichak (cello and vocals) and Murphy (guitar, violin and vocals) are a well-balanced mix of classically trained and total badass.
“I was a classically trained public school music student with a private teacher. And I studied in college. Erin is totally badass and taught herself everything. She had a teacher for violin right before this tour, but you might run out of room to print before the end of that story,” Bortnichak said.
With their forces combined, the outcome has been described as scrape rock, which sits well with the pair.
“Scrape rock is cool. I am down for scrape rock. We like post-classical too. I think scrape rock is a little bit more edgy,” he said, with a laugh.
Although Bortnichak confirmed the two didn’t set out to sound like any of their influences, he generously dropped a laundry list of artists they are fond of listening to, including Portishead, The Knife, My Blood Valentine and the legendary Dylan.
“You listen to music your whole life. After a certain point the influences have seeped beneath the surface and are in the ground water, if you will. You’re not really sure how they’re going to affect your body in the long run since you’ve been sipping it so much,” he said.
As the goals for their own musical direction have shifted and changed shape over the course of the past few years, so has their name. Upon completing the writing and recording of their first, yet-to-be released full-length album, they became Teach Me Equals.
“Bard and Mustache was a place holder when we were just having fun playing music and hanging out. With Teach Me Equals, we changed the name after we finished recording. It was a reflecting point and conscious effort to be in control of what the music was saying, and how it was impacting people,” Bortnichak said.
The album Bortnichak speaks of was recorded on their own eight-track tapes, and thanks to a bit of fate and a little serendipity, was mixed and mastered by widely praised producer Joel Nanos. It is currently awaiting an official title and release.
In 2013, Teach Me Equals set out on a yearlong nationwide tour to visit each of the 48 continental states. This tour has taken place on wheels, in a pop up camper. As 2014 kicked off, Teach Me Equals was setting back out for the second leg of the journey.
“We’re at about 43 states,” Bortnichak said. “I know we haven’t played Texas or Michigan but we are playing those on our upcoming tours.”
They are also beginning to circle back to places they’ve stopped before, including Sluggo’s Vegetarian Restaurant on Saturday, Feb. 15.
“In the last six months, so much of the country has been new to us. Now we’ve been circling places we’ve already played, and buzz seems to build in places we’ve been to. We love Pensacola and had a great time last time and are excited to come back,” Bortnichak said.
As far as camper life on the road goes, the two give it two thumbs up. “It definitely adds excitement to life on the road that there wouldn’t normally be,” he said.
“One of the more frightening moments was we got in a freak storm. A gale force wind came with this cold front, and dropped temp down 25 degrees with 50 mile gusts, and it actually blew open our camper while we were asleep.”
The two are taking a break later this month, and are finalizing plans to hit the road again for another run of late spring shows, followed by another full on cross-country tour later in the year, as they grow closer to the official release of their upcoming album.
“It’s a hot topic in the Teach Me Equals Camp right now,” Bortnichak said.
Whatever they decide to do, if there is one thing that’s for certain, it’s that the camper is home and is here to stay.
“It’s a lifestyle. And our camper is totally our home. I feel out of place when I can’t sleep in the camper,” Bartnochik said.
TEACH ME EQUALS
WHAT: Teach Me Equals with JPegasus and Glass Mattress
WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15
WHERE: Sluggo’s Vegetarian Restaurant, 101 S. Jefferson St.
DETAILS: 791-6501 or facebook.com/teachmeequals