This is the story of two people who have a passion for music and want to entertain anyone with the time to sit back, relax and just enjoy.
Chauncey and the Beast is composed of Anna Donnell, senior theatre major, and Alex Mauney, a recent alum of the University of Mississippi.
While the Oxford Shakespeare Festival was in full swing in the summer of 2008, Mauney found his petite female accomplice during one of their rehearsals. As soon as he heard her raspy voice, he knew he wanted to work with her.
Soon after, they began working together and composing music of their own to perform at Taylor’s Farmers Market and any open mic night they could find.
Originally known as Kissin’ Cousins, they later decided to take the band in a new direction with a new name.
“We wanted something bolder and more fun – definitely less icky,” Mauney said. “Now when anyone asks me how we came up with the name, I simply point to Beasty and say, ‘Just look at her.’ Oh, and my real name is Chauncey.”
With her sleek and slender stature, one look at Donnell gives the impression of meek and mild, but her voice says something different.
The atmosphere at their recent 208 lunch show was enhanced by the intimate upstairs setting surrounded by people who were there to listen to music, not to jam out and get hammered to incoherent vocals and loud bass beats.
Donnell’s strong yet feminine vocals mix well with the accompaniment of Mauney on the guitar, banjo, harmonica, spoons or any other instrument he happens to play.
However, this is not just a girl and her backup acoustic musician.
They sing, play and write an even amount. Most of their songs are written together with all harmonies falling to Donnell alone.
“I can’t write [harmonies] to save my life, but they melt out of her,” Mauney said. “I got really lucky in this respect. She’s able to make our songs 3-D with those vocals.”
One of the best songs from that afternoon was a beautiful song written and performed by Mauney about the recent death of his father. Whether he’s the star of the moment or supporting the Beast, the passion he has for their music is felt in every note and every strum.
Even though Donnell is a senior nursing and theatre major while Mauney lives in Ripley, they still manage to make it work and rehearse any way they can.
“When I was in Chicago all summer, we had lots of song-singing over the phone so that we could keep up with each other,” Donnell said.
Playing off of influences like Neutral Milk Hotel and Bob Dylan, they bring a modern feel to the “ol’ banjo-on-the-porch” images usually associated with folk. They bring in aspects of blues and groove pop as well to create a sound unique to the pair.
“I think we are a little different because we have a very natural, raw sound,” Donnell said. “We rely a lot on the simplicity of what we do and on how much we enjoy doing it.”
They have been seen at local venues such as Thacker Mountain Radio, 208 and Proud Larry’s, but they have also been asked to sing at more intimate and refined events such as weddings.
For those of you staying in town over the break, watch out for Chauncey and the Beast to be performing at an undisclosed location (as of yet) around the end of the year.
“We have no VH1 Behind the Music aspirations,” Mauney said. “I just want our music to be heard far and wide.”
@ The Daily Mississippian — Oxford, Miss.