Indianapolis’ Andy Duncan has been around the music block a time or two.
Known to most by the stage name of Andy D, the exuberant artist was hailed by NUVO as Indy’s party monster back in 2012. But now as the education chair of local music nonprofit Musical Family Tree, Duncan is looking to share information with local artists that need it.
In 2018, Duncan kicked off his Musical Family Tree education efforts with an informational event on DIY touring, continuing forward with several other knowledge-spreading endeavors throughout the year. Now in his second year as education chair with Musical Family Tree, Duncan is planning to expand on his efforts, kicking off his 2019 programming with a collaborative panel discussion on inclusivity at Irvington Vinyl & Books this Record Store Day, April 13).
In looking to the horizon, we caught up with Duncan for an interview, discussing his music career and how that led to his passion for music education. Read the full interview below, or simply listen to it by following this link.
NUVO: Can you give me a little background on when you first started making music and how you got plugged into the Indianapolis scene?
ANDY DUNCAN: I actually grew up on the south side in Greenwood. So I first started making music in high school, maybe even as far back as middle school. I was in a really bad, weird metal band because we were kids. We weren’t great, but we played Smedley’s Dream, The Purple Underground, and even the Emerson once or twice. And then, I moved away to college and got into an experimental, noise project. Late college, I started doing Andy D in its current form as me. That’s why I use my own name. [laughs] After a few years in New York, where I went to college, I came back, moved to Bloomington, and [we] recorded our second album there. I started playing Indianapolis pretty regularly then, so I’ve been playing Indianapolis for almost 10 years now.
NUVO: When you came back to Indianapolis after being away for a while, where were some of the big places you played?
DUNCAN: I think the first place we played was the Melody Inn. [It was] a hip-hop show. That was really awesome. Locals Only, when it was still around. We played there a lot. Radio Radio. And then when White Rabbit opened, we played there a lot, and [we] still do. HI-FI, of course, and Pioneer now.
NUVO: You mentioned some DIY venues like Smedley’s Dream, which I’m familiar with. I’ve been having this ongoing conversation with a lot of artists about DIY venues recently. How important were those to you in your earlier years?
DUNCAN: Super important. The Smith Valley Community Center on the southside was another one, as well as the Smedley venues. DIY venues and all-ages venues are super, super important, and I’m glad to see that we still have people trying that out in Indianapolis. I think it’s huge.
NUVO: I know that you have a lot of touring experience. When did touring come into the picture, and how did you first learn the ropes of touring?
DUNCAN: As a promise to myself as an artist, I really wanted to make sure that I did everything I could to really give it a go, and part of that was touring. At the end of the day, I can’t walk away from this sort of thing without having toured. Not that I plan on walking away from it. [laughs] I just meant it was a bucket list thing, so I had to do it.
There was no map for it, so I had to be a pioneer. Even though I knew that a lot of people had already done this, the information wasn’t readily available. I decided to tour, and from that, I ended up touring for three years with my wife, who’s also in the act. And we really made it our full-time job. It was just a determination to do it and make a go of it that happened.
NUVO: Where all did you hit when you were touring? Was it only in the U.S., or did you go overseas too?
DUNCAN: Both. We established a tour route pretty quickly. We toured 35 of the 50 states, and then we did Europe twice. That was in support of Electric Six, who’s a slightly larger band over there. They have a pretty good following. I think they go to Europe twice a year now.
NUVO: That leads into my next question. I know that the first educational event you coordinated for Musical Family Tree was about touring. Why did you want to get on board with Musical Family Tree and start doing the stuff you do as education chair?
DUNCAN: Before me, I don’t think there was an educational programming committee at all. I found out about Musical Family Tree from Daniel Fahrner from a Locals Only show, back when I first started playing Indianapolis. He was the drummer in Everthus the Deadbeats. He was involved very early on with Musical Family Tree, and he told me about it. I was like, “That’s a cool idea.” And then, Sean “Oreo” Jones was on the board. He told me about it, and I was like, “Ah yeah, Musical Family Tree.” Eventually, it hit critical mass last year, when I was like, “Man, I would really love to be involved with Musical Family Tree.”
Touring is such a big source of revenue. Having come through that three-year experience and knowing how to do it, I was like, “If I could help other artists not go through all the learning and reinventing the wheel that I went through, that would be huge.” The idea was to let artists know what they don’t know, but also have good info about how to play shows … once they’ve saturated their home market here in Indianapolis or regional market, [to help them] get out of town and represent what we’re doing to the rest of the world.
NUVO: You did that first event on touring. Which other events did you do last year through the educational committee?
DUNCAN: Last year was the proof-of-concept year, so we did four pilot programs that we decided on, just to see if they would work. That first one was DIY Touring 101. It was a big info dump/lecture, and then [there was] a panel/Q&A at the end that I did. We had Clark Giles, who’s a lawyer, do a similar info dump on entertainment law. Not giving legal advice, but just letting artists know some of the subjects that they should be thinking about and considering when it comes to the law and their work.
The third one was a panel discussion with audio technicians, starting a dialogue with artists and audio technicians. Because they often work together but have different goals. So [we were] trying to bridge that. And then, the last one was about building an inclusive scene, so it was a more social justice-forward idea. There just can’t be enough of those discussions. We’re planning on our first event this year to be something like that.
NUVO: Tell me about the things you have on the docket for 2019.
DUNCAN: Last year, we did the Smarter Scene series, and that was kind of our own [effort], going it alone. [We were] trying to fill in some gaps from what we could tell existed in educational programming surrounding music in the community here. Now going forward, we’re trying to partner with folks who are already doing educational events to support them, which is what Musical Family Tree does best. But then, [we’re] still filling in those gaps.
The first event will be Record Store Day at Irvington Vinyl & Books, and it will be another scene inclusivity discussion/panel put on by Irvington Vinyl & Books and Musical Family Tree. That will be moderated by Ari [co-founder of FAF Collective] from our board. For the next event, we’re partnering with Virginia Avenue Music Festival, who did some awesome panels last year. So we’re helping them curate that and push that out, [while] moderating those panels as well. [We’re] trying to take those to the next level.
The first Smarter Scene series [event] will probably be in June or July. That will be on de-stigmatizing mental health in the music community. And with that will come some discussion about the opioid crisis and addiction, which are two big things that musicians face.
NUVO: Are there any other organizations in town that are doing similar work (in the realm of educational programming) that you would also like to team up with?
DUNCAN: I’m always looking for more, of course, and I’m finding that we do have a wealth of educational programming already going on in Indianapolis, which is great. We’ve spoken with Kheprw Institute and have some people on our board that are also involved with them. Stacia and Diop both do The Build monthly, so that’s something we want to partner with. Across The Boards is a really cool symposium for producers. I’ve spoken with them briefly. There are some other ones, but we haven’t gotten too far in discussion. It’s just a thing where we’ll boost those signals as they come, and then try and get as many resources to as many people as possible.
NUVO: Lastly, how can people keep up with all the things that Musical Family Tree has going on?
DUNCAN: MusicalFamilyTree.com is great. We have the archive on there and all our legacy stuff. We’re on all the relevant social media. Our curation committee is actually doing guest curation takeovers, so we should be even more active on the social medias going forward. That’s where we’ll push out all of our educational programming as well.