Serious fun with the Gallus Brothers

Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2008

Few bands incorporate luggage and juggling into their acts, but the Bellingham, Wash.-based Gallus Brothers is not your typical band.

David Sheakley / Juneau Empire
David Sheakley / Juneau Empire

"We play everything kind of our own way because the instrumentation is a guitar and a suitcase, which kind of limits us in a way but also allows us to get real creative in what we do, I guess," guitarist Devin Champlin said.

Champlin and percussionist Lucas Hicks have had Southeast Alaskans dancing across the panhandle the past several weeks with their unique blend of blues, ragtime and early 20th century pop music. Hicks, the "suitcase player," has created a musical contraption that boasts a variety of sound-makers ranging from bells and whistles to rhythm bones and an old banjo head that he plays brushes on.

"Things evolved over the years," Hicks said. "This is actually the fifth or sixth suitcase that I've put together. The primary thing that I started with are spoons. You can take them a lot farther than people normally do."

The Gallus Brothers also take performing a lot further than most duos, incorporating balancing acts and other tricks into its act to liven up the crowd.

"We worked up these kind of half dance routines, half acro-balance, half juggling," Hicks said. "That's a lot of halves. Maybe I should say 33 percents."

Champlin said the acts evolved as an attention grabber to lure in crowds when they first began performing together roughly three years ago. The duo worked out a number of pretty involved numbers over the years, although the music is the backbone of the shows, he said.

"We're kind of focused more on the music than anything else, but people will ask for tricks and we'll jump on the bar at the drop of a hat and do something stupid and dangerous," Champlin said.

Videos of Gallus Brothers performances can be found on the Internet at or on the duo's MySpace page at

"It's mainly balance tricks that incorporate playing one half of an instrument while the other one plays the other half, and then the free hands are juggling or holding the other up, or something like that," Hicks said.

The duo has been performing in Southeast throughout May, from Ketchikan to Skagway and numerous places in between. They are performing at the 10th annual Pelican Boardwalk Boogie being held May 22 through 26 in the fishing village on Chichagof Island. The band will continue performing throughout the Northwest in the coming months and Hicks said the duo is considering coming back for another mini Southeast Alaska tour in August.

Hicks said the band has fun playing and thinks this translates into more fun for the audience.

"It's fun dance music and I think that idea transcends the genre or the novelty or any of that stuff," he said.

"We're all about having fun ourselves and generally that moves everyone else to have fun too," Champlin said. "We take having fun very seriously."

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