Four fellas migrate and strike a chord in the local music scene
If Greenville’s music scene has a spine, it might just be four guys from Kentucky. You’ll find them rocking the local music scene at places like Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe, The Velo Fellow, or Gottrocks. Listen to the music at one of these spots, and you’ll likely see Matt Fassas, Nathan Gray, Troy Jones, and Sam Kruer in some configuration.
The four friends, who have known each other since the early 2000s, are part of popular local acts like Darby Wilcox & The Peep Show, The Grateful Brothers, and Quasi Quasar, but they can also be seen playing bars, restaurants, weddings, and patios all over town. As far as genre goes, this group of musicians can handle it all. They might play bluegrass on a Monday, rock on a Wednesday, and Latin pop over the weekend, without missing a beat.
The first to move to Greenville from Kentucky was Nathan Gray back in 2006, but it wasn’t primarily to play music. In addition to playing guitar and bass, Gray is an accomplished photographer who worked for the Anderson Independent-Mail newspaper. But he played around town and talked to his friends back in Kentucky about the burgeoning Greenville music scene.
The next domino to fall was guitarist Matt Fassas, who moved here in 2008.
“I was looking more to leave Kentucky than I was looking to come to Greenville,” Fassas says. “I was trying to spread roots and go somewhere new. I wanted to go somewhere where I could start over and do my own thing.”
Bassist Sam Kruer followed in 2011. He was touring in a band with Fassas’ father, who played Greenville’s Handlebar venue. Kruer immediately felt at home here.
“I got to spend some time here, everyone was really super friendly,” Kruer says. “I really liked the town, and Matt was actually nice enough to let me sleep in his basement for free when I first moved here in 2011.”
Drummer Troy Jones took a more circuitous path, living in Nashville for a few years before moving to Greenville in 2014.
Once the quartet was all here together, they wasted little time making their mark on the local scene. They even formed a short-lived band called the Kentucky Gentlemen Band before moving into other projects.
“The thought behind it was that we played so well together, it was so natural that we could back anybody in Greenville,” Gray says.
“What I really saw in Greenville was that there were places with plenty of regular work,” Fassas adds. “There weren’t necessarily people buying tickets to everything, but there were enough restaurants and patios where you could go out as a working musician and get two or three gigs a day and pay your bills with it. There was a lot of opportunity here.”
From Kentucky Gentlemen to the Practice Pad
Fassas and Kruer further planted roots in Greenville’s music scene by buying the Practice Pad, a music lessons and rehearsal space now located on Easley Bridge Road.
“I knew there were like 10 bands in the area looking for rehearsal space,” Fassas says, “so it was more about trying to capitalize on that hole. And every other big city, if you look at Atlanta, you look at Charlotte, they have rehearsal spaces. It was a hole we were glad to fill.”
Popular local acts like Jamie Wright and Cash Machine have rehearsed at The Practice Pad, but they’ve also hosted national touring acts like Tommy Tutone, Asking Alexandria, and theater performrs who are in town for Peace Center shows.
Now you can catch these Kentucky gentlemen in various bands across the Upstate, most notably in Darby Wilcox’s Peep Show, at Smiley’s Live Band Karaoke on Wednesday nights, in tribute bands, and on their own.
“It’s been a long history,” says Jones, “and I think what keeps us bound is that we’ve been friends for so long, and we’ve been through so much together, and musically speaking I think we’re like this amoeba that’s shifted in similar directions.”