What's Chamber Punk? Fables of the Fall Explains

Fables of the Fall is a new chamber punk project from Denver DIY punk and classical music veterans.
Fables of the Fall is a new chamber punk project from Denver DIY punk and classical music veterans.
Heidi Hass
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When folk, punk, classical, metal and chamber music all crash into each other, what do you get? The sound of Denver's chamber-punk band Fables of the Fall.

The quartet, including Joshua “Schwa” Michel, Derrick McGuire, Dana Shin and Lindsey Gardner, are dropping a self-titled debut album tonight, Friday, March 22, at Goosetown Tavern.

Started in 2017 as Michel’s solo folk-punk project, Fables of the Fall eventually evolved into Michel and longtime friend and bandmate Derrick McGuire exploring their shared love of Denver’s DIY folk-punk scene.

“We were playing together for years. We were in a folk-punk band together that broke up maybe three or four years ago,” says Michel. “Right after that breakup, I started doing solo sets. I decided I wanted to just play heavier, darker folky stuff, different from the usual singer-songwriter stuff. It was also influenced by '90s alternative-rock pretty heavily back then.

“At some point, I started playing with Derek again, and then we added mandolin to the thing," Michel explains. "Both of us come from a punk and bluegrass background, but we decided we wanted to do something different with this project.”

Once mandolin player and classically trained cellist Dana Shin joined in 2017, the band started to go through a musical transformation.

“Dana took us in a very different direction than we’re used to going,” says Michel. “Working with classical people was so different. She started teaching us how to play…tightly, is how I would put it. Without us realizing that’s what was happening, she was introducing a lot of ideas about the aspects of chamber music — specifically how we rehearse, how we interact, things like that.”

After pianist Lindsey Gardner joined in 2018, the identity of Fables of the Fall had radically shifted and the band had reached a new level of experimentation.

“Now we’re sort of half-punk, half-classical in the band,” Michel says.

He still has strong relationships within the city's DIY punk community, but his new project no longer fits with the venues he once thrived in. Fables of the Fall still hasn’t quite figured out where it belongs in Denver’s music scene — or anywhere, for that matter.

“I don’t know if there’s a good city for this band. I think we could do well in a place like New Orleans,” says Michel. “I think our sound would go over pretty well there. We dabble with some jazzy elements and are working on being able to play on the streets.

“When we put this together, we wanted to play things like street festivals, art festivals, things like that," he adds. "I don’t know if Denver is the right place for us, but this is the place we’re at, and it’s a thriving music scene."

GhostPulse, with Lief Sjostrom and Fables of the Fall, 9 p.m. Friday, March 22, Goosetown Tavern, 3242 East Colfax Avenue.

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