Sitting around a table at the Pizza Coop, beers in hand, the four members of Ian Hale and the Legacy seem like longtime childhood friends.
Matt Clifford (electric and slide guitars) and Adam Guldhammer (bass and vocals) live together and work together at a local music shop. Chris Hyde (drums) and Ian Skavdahl (lead vocals and acoustic guitar) were once roommates in college.
“I don’t know if it’s called roommates when one person lives in a closet,” Skavdahl joked.
But despite the guys’ brotherly rapport, the band is only about two years old.
The project initially started after Skavdahl entered a Battle of the Bands contest at Hard Rock Café. He entered on a whim, not really thinking he’d be chosen. When he was picked for the competition, he realized he was missing one important thing: a band.
That’s when the group first came together. The foursome learned five songs in two weeks, played a 20-minute set, and won.
“It wasn’t supposed to be a permanent thing,” Skavdahl said. But the fit was too good to dissolve after just one gig.
“It was some really good alchemy,” Guldhammer said. “I don’t think I’ve had a start like this before.”
Within about six months, the band had two hours of music written. They recorded a couple singles and eventually found Phillip Peterson, a Seattle music producer at House of Breaking Glass and a member of the band Tennis Pro, to help them make their first full-length album, “Hidden from the Stars.”
“He heard our sound and immediately wanted to help develop it,” Guldhammer said. “’Hidden from the Stars’ became something way more than we could have done on our own.”
The album took about five months to make and was released on June 9 of this year.
Self-described as “Progressive Americana,” Ian Hale and the Legacy’s sound is a heady, melodic mix of folk, rock ‘n’ roll and blues, all peppered with Clifford’s gnarly guitar riffs.
“I’ve never heard music like we play. It’s something new,” Hyde said.
“It’s new but it’s familiar, is what most people get at,” Skavdahl added.
The album includes some pretty diverse collaborators, from Artis the Spoonman (a street artist best known for his collaboration with Soundgarden) to Seattle composer Nick Shadel playing something called a mellotron.
The band’s unique sound likely stems from its members’ widely differing musical backgrounds.
Skavdahl got into music by singing and playing guitar in church. Originally intending to become a choir teacher, he earned a classical voice degree from WSU.
Clifford, whose repertoire of instruments includes the piano, clarinet, bass clarinet, and the guitar, initially made the switch from piano to guitar in his junior high’s jazz band after hearing Brian Setzer’s version of “Rock this Town.”
“I still think it’s one of the greatest guitar solos ever put on tape,” Clifford said.
Hyde, originally from Anacortes, learned how to play the drums after his older brother got a drum set. He spent his youth playing music and video games and attending shows at the now defunct venue called the Department of Safety.
“I saw a lot of bands there at this young impressionable age,” Hyde said.
Guldhammer began his musical career singing in a boys’ treble choir. He grew up listening to his parents’ mostly classical and baroque vinyls until one school year, when a good friend of his returned home after several months away with a new skill.
“He could shred Van Halen solos,” Guldhammer said. “I was really inspired.”
After that, Guldhammer learned to play bass and eventually went on to tour with bands such as Dating Delilah.
Although the guys all have day jobs, the dream is to eventually be able to play music full-time.
“If I could do nothing but music I would be the happiest person,” Clifford said.
One last note on the band’s name: it comes from Skavdahl’s first and middle name, plus a reference to Hyde’s old Subaru Legacy, which at the time the guys were brainstorming, had been recently broken into. The Legacy’s hatch was leaning against the wall of their garage practice space. Like the band itself, the name was an immediate fit.
Find Ian Hale and the Legacy’s music on Spotify, iTunes, and Bandcamp (at ianhaleandthelegacy.bandcamp.com), where if you buy the album you get two bonus songs. The band has a handful of upcoming shows: Goose Ridge Winery in Woodinville on August 13; Bookwalter Winery in Richland on August 17; The National Lentil Festival on August 19; and The High Dive in Fremont on September 8.