Plunging into Thirsty River

Local band bonds like brothers over booze and bluegrass.

Members of local bluegrass band Thirsty River rehearse in Minneapolis on Wednesday. The band will be performing at their CD release show at Icehouse on Friday, April 17.

Juliet Farmer

Members of local bluegrass band Thirsty River rehearse in Minneapolis on Wednesday. The band will be performing at their CD release show at Icehouse on Friday, April 17.

Mary Reller

On a Wednesday night in south Minneapolis, Thirsty River sat together burning incense, drinking beers and watching Home Alone 3.

“There’s some pizza in the fridge if you want it!” University of Minnesota alum Evan Jungbauer called to his band from the kitchen.

The members of the flannel-shirted quintet interact like brothers, but two of them aren’t blood-related.

“I tell people — and you guys may not know this so it will be a touching moment for all of us,” vocalist and banjoist Evan Jungbauer said. “I tell people that my brothers are my best friends.”

Evan and his brothers Jake and Ben Jungbauer have been playing music together for years but joined forces with college friends Mike Store (bass and vocals) and David Anderson (piano, washboard and vocals) for bluegrass-Americana band Thirsty River.

“They say that siblings have some uncanny ability to sing together, and I think it’s true,” guitarist and vocalist Jake Jungbauer said.

Brothers are allowed to be critical of one another’s work, making Thirsty River an easy project to be part of, Evan Jungbauer said.

But they are not a “brother band.”

“To call us a ‘brother band’ puts [Mike and David] in the background when that’s not at all the truth,” Evan Jungbauer said. “We all have equal impact on our sound … each person has a distinct style of playing their instrument … you could listen to each instrument [individually], and it would be an interesting thing to hear.”

The band incorporates the influences from their different musical backgrounds into Thirsty River’s overall vibe, Anderson said.

Store played in garage-punk bands, Anderson played alt-country and Jake Jungbauer played Americana, but Ben Jungbauer introduced the band to the genre that stuck: bluegrass.

Duluth musicians Trampled By Turtles and Charlie Parr were huge inspirations for Thirsty River’s gritty and vivacious sound, Ben Jungbauer said.

With Old Crow Medicine Show’s old timey spirit and Evan and Jake Junbauer’s cheeky lyrics — for example, “Either I’m an alcoholic or I haven’t had enough” — it’s hard not to smirk while listening to these folks.

Over a year ago they competed at a festival for the Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Association. One memory from after the show sticks out as one of the most fun experiences Evan Jungbauer had playing an instrument, he said.

A few Thirsty River members were jamming in the hotel lobby when other bluegrass musicians joined in. Suddenly, 50 to 100 other people entered the jam session, which continued for about 20 minutes, Evan Jungbauer said.

“Bluegrass is a very social scene,” he said. “We’ve never met a single asshole.”

Ben Jungbauer agreed.

“I think bluegrass music is a lot more fun than just three guitars strumming,” he said. “This is all about having fun. That’s how we started, and that’s how we want it to continue to go.”

Making ideas work democratically in a five-piece band is easier than one might think. Majority rules, and Anderson is the swing vote, he said.

Everybody has a different passion in the band. It works because we don’t all want to be a singer-songwriter,” Jake Jungbauer said.

The biggest challenge might be getting the five different personalities to work together at a practice without breaking off into tangents.

“It’s hard to get them to focus,” Anderson said. “We’ll all be practicing a song, Evan will be practicing his new riff, then we all start jamming on Evan’s new song for a few minutes — then I have to clap and say ‘Hey! Let’s just finish one thing for a second!’”

What: Thirsty River CD Release show
When: 11 p.m. Friday
Where: Icehouse 2528 Nicollet Ave. S.,
Cost: $6-$8
Ages: 21+.