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Band fuses down-home Hoosier vibes with rock, R&B flavors

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Reaching the Super Bowl is the goal every football player dreams of before the season starts.

But when the championship game came to Indianapolis in 2012, it became an achievement for local musicians as well. Only the best bands from central Indiana would be invited to perform in the Super Bowl village for thousands of visitors and fans.

So when Flatbed Twitch stepped to the stage to open for soul singer John Legend, it because their own Super Bowl moment.

“Sharing an event with a nine-time Grammy winner, that was something you don’t forget,” said Brady Jacoba, lead singer of Flatbed Twitch.

Over its four-year career, the band has carved out a niche for themselves in central Indiana combining down-home sounds of Indiana classic rock with country and R&B flavors.

With a mix of original songs and covers by Johnny Cash to John Mayer, the band has followed an upward trajectory to become an act that’s pure Hoosier.

“We refer to what we do as ‘heartland rock.’ Growing up, all of us grew up in Indiana and you couldn’t help but be influenced by guys like John Cougar Mellencamp and Henry Lee Summer,” Jacoba said. “We have that kind of classic rock feel to it.”

The band came together as an offshoot of other Indianapolis bands. The members have been part of the local music scene for more than 20 years.

Jacoba and guitarists Brett Hogle and Mark Hutchins had been working together writing original music for their own project.

When drummer Jason Stahl heard some of their songs, he was interested in lending his skills to the band. Flatbed Twitch was born.

“It’s been a natural process. Everyone is coming from enough of a common ground, but at the same time with our own influences that it works out real well,” Stahl said. “If you try to force things to a certain sound, it never works.”

But while the band members have a common vision to their sound, each member brings a different influence to the songs. Jacoba grew up listening to the Beatles and Motown, giving the pieces he pens an R&B sound.

Other members were more into country music and hard rock, which peppers different songs with big guitars and thumping rhythm.

“We’re kind of a mix between Keith Urban, Kings of Leon and then some throwback to the old Mellencamp thing. We had that ‘heartland’ thing naturally growing up here, and Brady is very heavily country influenced,” Stahl said. “It kind of all mixes up naturally.”

In rehearsal, the members are very focused on discussing potential songs to add to their repertoire. No suggestions are outright rejected; each one comes with a discussion.

But they don’t allow just anything to become part of the show, Jacoba said.

“We love each other, but we’re very candid with each other. We expect a lot out of each other, and I think that striving for perfection shows once we get on stage,” he said.

That seriousness translates into a tight, professional performance. But that’s not to say that the band members take what they do too earnestly.

“People are going to get a lot of energy, some solid musicianship, some fun songs. There’s not going to be anything melancholy. It’s all about getting that energy out there,” Jacoba said.

The band dabbles in a little bit of rockabilly, and mixes in Merle Haggard, the Mavericks and Ryan Adams into their set lists. Their debut album, “Memory Lane,” features odes to the excitement of burgeoning love, nostalgia and rising above your problems.

Those segue nicely into the covers songs, both popular hits and obscure B-sides that the band sprinkles in.

“When you’re out playing clubs and festivals, and you want to get people to listen to your original stuff, you really have to do about 80 percent covers that people know, can dance with and sing to,” Jacoba said. “Otherwise, you’re playing in a bar for 10 people.”

Their formula seems to be working.

In addition to the invitation to play Super Bowl Village, Flatbed Twitch has also recently booked a gig at one of the city’s largest fundraisers.

The band was a featured performer at Zoobilation, the Indianapolis Zoo’s annual charity extravaganza.

“Every single person that came to Zoobilation walked by us. We got a lot of good looks and comments from people,” Jacoba said. “Hopefully, we can keep building on what we’ve done.”

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