The Men Of Well Strung: (l-r) Daniel Shevlin, Edmund Bagnell,
Chris Marchant & Trevor Wadleigh
photo by Scott Henrichsen
Take four sexy gay guys in black t-shirts and tank tops. Add string instruments. Mix classical with contemporary. Combine that with oodles of charisma. What do you have?
The string quartet – Edmund Bagnell (violin), Chris Marchant (violin), Trevor Wadleigh (viola) and Daniel Shevlin (cello) – may be new to you at this point, but the uniqueness of their show, which fabulously bridges the world between classical music and contemporary pop, is one that will want you to spread the word for everyone to see.
By mixing classical music like Mozart and Vivaldi with pop songs such as Pink’s “So What?” and David Guetta’s “Titanium,” the guys are filling seats at The Art House in Provincetown this summer, heading to London this fall and have just released their first music video (which you can see below) with what is the perfect example of what can happen when you mix Mozart with Kelly Clarkson.
We caught up with the guys in Provincetown last week to chat about their origins, how they pick their music and, of course, who’s single and who’s taken.
TBL: How did Well Strung get its start?
Chris: I was actually here [in Provincetown] in 2010 doing Naked Boys Singing here and I played violin on the street just to make some extra money. Mark [Cortale, Producer/Co-Writer] approached me and asked if I wanted to collaborate on a project, so we started talking about what it might look like.
And then I reached out to a few friends to see if anybody knew musicians who could sing, and someone told me about Daniel, so we started talking on Facebook and then we just met these other guys through friends down the line and that was the beginning.
TBL: How important is the balance of just playing the strings and also singing?
Daniel: The show that you saw is actually our second version of the show. We have a director, Donna Drake, and she does all the non-traditional set-up of how a string quartet…we move around a lot more than if you’re going to see a typical string quartet. Usually it sits in the same four chairs each show and doesn’t even necessarily look at the audience. But she came up with most of the movements and the form of the show.
Trevor: Donna has been great with making a new look, a new version of what the string quartet can be on stage. She does a lot of theater productions, but her background is lots of choreo and dance. She was in A Chorus Line so I think some of that’s coming through in our show. At one point, we had a whole choreographed number, which was since removed from the show.
Daniel: And I had a harness on my cello that I used to just walk around with. I wonder if that’ll make another appearance. It looks like a crazy contraption.
TBL: I love that you guys are constantly looking at each other throughout the show, I’m guessing for cues and just to connect, right?
Chris: It’s necessary for me, otherwise I would lose interest. [laughs]
TBL: How do you pick the contemporary songs? I know you have some new ones in this summer.
Daniel: There’s a little bit of a process to it – the four of us, and also Mark and Donna is involved a little bit in it, we’ll go through and we’ll come up with different song lists, and think, ‘Which of these of these do we think will work as a quartet, in our voices? What’s the feel of a song? Do we have a song like it already?’ You know, just to give it a little more variety and also to play up our abilities. We try to find songs that are popular enough that most people know them and some a little bit newer than others that have got an edge, and some a little bit more classic. We just like to hit all areas of what people are going to like when they come to see our show.
Chris: The original idea behind the show was that, to juxtapose classical music against Top 40 music so that’s where a lot of the draw comes from with the songs, just because people have preconceived notions about what they like already going into the show. It’s a little bit of an attempt to change people’s minds or at least broaden their horizons and get them to enjoy other genres and see that there’s a through line in all music.
TBL: I personally loved the classical moments in the show as much as the contemporary, but was there ever talk of just making this an all-contemporary show?
Trevor: It has been thrown around a little bit. We want to have the most entertaining show we can, and we want to show ourselves well, create the best experience we can, and we’ve been looking at what that would mean. If we had an all-contemporary show, what would that be if it was all pop? Would that be something worthwhile? But I think we decided that it is integral to have both and that’s what makes it a unique experience. It’s not all covers, it’s a little of both worlds, and that’s something novel that we haven’t seen.
TBL: Are you guys doing this all full-time now? I mean, obviously you are this summer, but has it become year-round?
Edmund: Yeah, but it’s all Well Strung. So, last summer was our first real big…we did a couple shows in New York before coming here for PTown. Essentially, PTown was our first real go with the show, and normally, you know, I had other jobs and would audition for other things and everything, but Well Strung was doing so much general business over the past year, we always had something coming up. So, really, it’s been all Well Strung for me.
Chris: Yeah, and it just seems to be picking up more and more, which we are all very much looking forward to. Because we have all had to work other jobs over the past year while we were rehearsing and recording and performing just to make ends meet and it makes for a really difficult rehearsal schedule, because we’re trying to coordinate four day jobs and rehearsal time and still have energy to perform well. So we’re really hoping that this year we can subsist on just Well Strung, so we can really give it our entire focus.
TBL: If this didn’t pan out, what would you guys be doing?
Chris: I’m a bartender, usually.
Daniel: I’m a waiter, and also server. I walk dogs, and I house-sit. I could do a lot of odd jobs.
Edmund: I don’t know, I love performance, so acting, playing, whatever…so if I were to do something else, I don’t know. I’d go back to school and get a Master’s in business or something, A completely opposite direction.
Trevor: My degree is actually in business, and I kind of did that after school, and actually I was going to go back and do a pre-medical program and then apply to med school and then I’ll get derailed when I join the boy band string quartet. [all laugh]
TBL: What are you guys hearing from audience members and people?
Edmund: They’re intrigued by the idea but they don’t even quite know what the idea is while being intrigued by it so after the shows people are like, ‘wow, this is a golden concept and we really like how you deliver on it!’ and I don’t know.
Chris: I think, in PTown especially, people don’t expect to find anything more than a basic drag show, which is great and I love that about PTown, but we’re trying to change the course of art in town, make a little bit, a step higher at times. But telling the people about the concept, I don’t think they fully understand it. If you tell somebody we’re a string quartet, we play half classical, half Top 40s, and we sing while we play the Top 40s, people still don’t quite get it until they see it happening. Like, ‘Oh, yeah, a string quartet who sings,’ and it doesn’t really register.
TBL: Any trepidation about being labeled a gay quartet or a gay act? Kind of put into that niche?
Chris: It has. Last year, our show was significantly gayer in content. The jokes and some of the dialogue was very blatantly gay and I think when we were starting the show out our goal was, ‘Let’s make a show in PTown’ and so that’s why the content was like that, but then we thought, ‘Oh, this could really go beyond PTown,’ and so then we started making it a little more user-friendly and appeal to the general public a little bit more.
Daniel: I think we had more campy elements last year that we probably didn’t necessarily need.
Trevor: I was in a jockstrap the whole show.
TBL: Some people might appreciate that.
Trevor: [pointing to Chris] He was, for a number, in a jockstrap.
Daniel: It was just a pain in the ass for you to get all your clothes off, then on again in two seconds.
Chris: That was awful, really.
TBL: In the show you say, Daniel, that you’re available, dating-wise, right?
Daniel: Yes, I am.
TBL: Are you the only one available, are you guys all taken? That’s important. People will want to know this.
Daniel: I’m not the only one.
Trevor: I guess I’m available, aren’t I?
Edmund: I’m taken.
Chris: And I’m taken.
TBL: What is your hope for Well Strung? It‘s a fairly new venture, isn’t it?
Daniel: Yeah. It’s pretty new. We’ve only been together for just under a year and a half and I think we all want to just make this our full-time thing and just keep performing and keep doing shows and keep touring the country. We’re actually going to London in September. We’ll be going over the ocean.
TBL: Obviously in PTown I’m sure you’re getting some attention in that regard. People might see you on the street because it’s a friendly place.
Daniel: [grinning] We certainly made a lot of friends last year. [all laugh]
TBL: And we can take that any way we’d like.
Trevor: Friends and fans. Spreading love, joy and music!