The Perryville, Md.-based band won the 10th annual Musikarmageddon after getting a drummer from Craigslist and switching from covers to all-original music
It wasn’t just hard work that carried The Susquehanna Floods to the championship of this year’s 10th Musikarmageddon—the annual Wilmington-based battle of the bands open to regional artists.
For the Perryville, Md.-based foursome, it was a meld of specifics like pre-practice outlining of what would be accomplished during weekly practice, articulate shaping, polishing and reflection, and discussing and immediately implementing needed improvements. And talent, of course.
It all came together at the Oct. 15 finals at the baby grand when the band scored unanimous victories in both audience votes and by judges’ scores over the other three finalists, TreeWalker, Hoochi Coochi and Arden Kind.
“Phew, man,” says lead guitarist Zach Crouch. “To be honest, we were kind of shocked, although we were working really hard to fine-craft our set for that specific event.”
Surprisingly, the Musikarmageddon shows were some of their first gigs, Crouch says. Well, kind of.
The band—Trevor Biggers (lead vocalist, guitar), Brett Pearson (bass, vocals), Crouch and drummer Eric Picard—blends rock, blues and folk. It’s a tightly-knit crew, not least because Biggers and Pearson went to high school together and Crouch and Biggers are cousins.
“Eric we found last year on Craigslist,” Crouch says.
Picard, a 50-something thrown in with a group of guys in their late 20s, was a catalyst for total overhaul. Crouch, Biggers and Pearson had actually been a cover band for the last four or five years, Crouch explains, but that got old. They were exhausted by the local circuit and felt creatively unfulfilled, although they did make some money. Like a 1970s near-flooding of the Susquehanna River between the two Maryland towns of Havre de Grace (Crouch’s hometown) and Perryville (Pearson and Biggers’ hometown), they were about to burst. (That’s how they got their name, by the way; it gives a sense of the band’s roots, says Crouch.)
A Bold Move
“We finally decided to do originals, and wanted a drummer for that,” says Crouch. “Trevor and I wrote two songs and we all shared them with Eric one night, and before we officially decided if he was going to be in the band, he got up and said, ‘See you guys at practice next Thursday,’ and then left. It was kind of a bold move, but there was no discussion after that—he was in.”
Counting a handful of shows prior to Musikarmageddon, they’ve been playing originals for just over six months now. Crouch points out that, despite years of dedicating themselves to learning other peoples’ music, switching from cover band to original wasn’t too difficult. The Susquehanna Floods had a general idea of what they wanted to sound like, with folksy influences like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Jones, CCR, Eric Clapton and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.
“We spend a lot of time around the kitchen table practicing harmonies,” Crouch says.
These harmonies, along with strong vocal focuses like catchy choruses or synced guitar solos, are specific musical aspects the band loved, and it’s probably these details that helped win over the Musikarmageddon crowd.
Says Pam Manocchio, the Grand Opera House’s director of community engagement: “Their songs were memorable, their voices and instruments balanced well, and their music had variety throughout the set. Smiling at the audience makes a big difference—you knew they were having a good time and that made us respond positively.”
The younger guys’ music experience traces back to high school theater productions and marching band, but Picard has been in touring bands and playing music, as Crouch puts it, “longer than the rest of us have been alive.”
“He has a level of wisdom, and it’s a good feeling ‘cause it comes from respect, to be like ‘I’m gonna come out of my musical retirement to play with these kids,’” says Crouch.
The band is clearly serious about their music, which they juggle around their day jobs for now. Crouch, who serves at Granite Run Taproom in Port Deposit, Md., says his managers are good at keeping his schedule open for the band, so he’s become the Floods’ designated social media manager/PR guy.
Biggers works at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Pearson works at State Farm Insurance and Picard is at Capital One in Wilmington. They manage to squeeze in about one practice session a week, meeting centrally in Newark—Picard lives in Middletown, the other guys in the Perryville area—at a rented practice space.
And as we already know, they are anything but slackers.
“We practice our tails off every time we’re in there,” Crouch says. “When we first go into practice, we will have already decided what exactly we’ll be working on—we’ll listen to soundbites ahead of time and discuss what our strengths and weakness are, then shape it up, down to enunciating vowels, vocal harmonies, everything. Most people are driven toward a career, and we’re driven toward ours—we treat it as such. Playing music is our ultimate goal, so if we have to take it seriously to get there, so be it, we will.”
Aside from the winners’ perks of free t-shirt designs at Spaceboy Clothing on Market Street, a photo session with Wilmington-based Moonloop Photography and a recording with West Chester’s TribeSound Records, the Musikarmageddon win has put them in the regional spotlight. Last month they were interviewed on WSTW’s Hometown Heroes, and experienced a surge of social media buzz. But they remain modest.
“Once all this blows over, hopefully we’ll have been a local model for other up-and-coming bands like us to follow, and if not a model, at least a friend to them,” says Crouch.
He hopes that’s true especially in Wilmington, which he admires as a tight-knit, supportive music scene—a scene Musikarmageddon has highlighted and celebrated in the past decade.
“It’s hard to believe we’ve presented 10 years of Musikarmageddon competitions,” says Manocchio. “It has nurtured a spirit of cooperation. Musicians support each other. It’s nice to see the finalists representing different geographic areas, musical styles and even experience.”
Crouch concurs. He says Kirby Moore of competing band TreeWalker—whose members have been friends with The Susquehanna Floods for years—was the first to encourage the band to branch from covers to original music. Other competitors, like Hoochi Coochi, had shared the stage at a show in Elkton, Md., with The Susquehanna Floods a few weeks prior to the competition, and when Crouch and crew met Arden Kind back stage at the competition itself, everyone hit it off.
Camaraderie, if not already existing, was inevitable. That naturally made the win bittersweet.
“The hardest part of the entire thing was being in a competition with our friends and not really wanting to win, because we wanted to see them win,” says Crouch.
Catch The Susquehanna Floods at Gable Music Ventures’ Wilmo Wednesdays at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Wednesday, Nov. 16, and again at The Queen on Nov. 18. For other shows and updates, visit facebook.com/thesusquehannafloods.