Hoopla

No rest for Iowa City's own The Recliners

The weather was a little warmer last July, when The Recliners performed on the Bunker Mill Bridge near Kalona. The Iowa
The weather was a little warmer last July, when The Recliners performed on the Bunker Mill Bridge near Kalona. The Iowa City band will move indoors, to perform Friday night (1/17) at The Mill in Iowa City. (Jan Friedman)

The Recliners is an ironic moniker since the eclectic Iowa City-based band gets little rest.

When the musicians, who easily move from folk to rock to bluegrass, aren’t writing and recording songs or working on covers or playing out, they all have jobs. Several have some heavy daytime gigs. Guitarist Rich Stapleton is an internal medicine physician. Multi-instrumentalist Paul McCray, who plays guitar, bouzouki and mandolin, is a researcher concentrating on cystic fibrosis. Bassist John Kramer is a clinical psychologist. Vocalist Sasha Alexander and fiddler Emma Stapleton work at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Alexander is an executive assistant and Stapleton focuses on environmental air pollution. Drummer Woody Sims sells cars.

“It’s non-stop,” vocalist Kevin Hanick said from the band’s Iowa City practice space. “The busier you are, the better off you are. We’re used to having a lot on our plate.”

Hanick should know since he has been part of the band and working a day job in real estate since 1999.

“It’s been interesting what we do outside of the band and within the band,” he said.

If there were a Recliner tour bus, a revolving door would be apt. The band averages about one new member a year since it formed in 1994.

“When someone leaves, we normally play for a while before we figure out who to add,” Hanick said. “We do what we can to keep it going. We’re always busy.”

The group is a sonic chameleon, taking on elements of band members and keeping those musical traits even after a musician leaves. After singer/songwriter Bahri Karacay left the group, his native Turkish influence remained. The Celtic impact from Robert Gray’s period in the band still is there after he left the group, as well.

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“We like to play a wide range of sounds,” Alexander said. “We have some new songs in store for those who make it out to our show.”

The Recliners will offer some new originals and some fresh covers Friday night (1/17) at The Mill in Iowa City. Expect some Beatles, the Who and a version of Gillian Welch and David Rawling’s minimalist take on Radiohead’s gorgeous “Black Star.”

“Their cover is just amazing,” Alexander said. “It’s so unique. We love doing covers. We’re doing Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit.’ That song will be a stretch for me, but we’ll try it and see how it goes.”

Don’t be surprised to hear versions of songs by recording artists Van Morrison, Richard Thompson, Jason Isbell, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Rodney Crowell.

“All of those guys are favorites of ours,” Hanick said. “We’re working on our set list now. We’ll have a mix of songs all set to go.”

The band used to be called the Lazy Boy and The Recliners — until the act was surprised with a trademark infringement lawsuit.

“Some attorneys for La-Z-Boy, who were on retainer, were cruising the internet and they found out about us,” Hanick said. “We didn’t see that coming. We didn’t want a lawsuit. We changed our name and they donated $5,000 to a charity of our choice, which was Summer of the Arts. We’re talking about changing our name again. Maybe this time we’ll call ourselves General Electric and we’ll see what happens.”

Speaking of Summer of the Arts, The Recliners will be part of that Friday Night Concert series in downtown Iowa City.

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“We’re looking forward to the show on July 10,” Hanick said. “Those shows are always a great time. But for the moment, we’re focusing on the show this month at the Mill.”

Get Out!

• What: The Recliners

• Where: The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., Iowa City

• When: 9 p.m. Friday (1/17)

• Tickets: $7 at the door

• Details: Icmill.com

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