Tyrannosaurus Chicken’s sound is as unique as its name

By Chase Myers

When coming across a new band, the name is usually what leaves a first impression. The second impression would be the actual music, and when both strike the listener’s interest, everyone is satisfied.

Tyrannosaurus Chicken, based in Arkansas, blend unique instrumentation to create a mix of delta blues, classical and trance music that is unparalleled to the kind of music you might hear on an everyday basis.

The band is comprised of Rachel Ammons on violin and vocals and Smilin’ Bob Lewis on guitar and vocals. The duo will give their first performance in Carbondale at Tres Hombres this Thursday starting at 10 p.m.

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The early conception of the band started when Ammons’ parents suggested that she sit in with their good friend Bob Lewis’ bluegrass band after she came home from college.

Even though the bluegrass band fell through, she still sat in with Lewis’ one-man blues band side project.

“That was kind of “it.” I was just instantly hooked,” Ammons said. “I just thought it was the coolest thing I ever heard in my life.”

After it became apparent that Ammons was not just an accompanist to Lewis, they decided to solidify their group and for the last six years, the two have been playing live shows as Tyrannosaurus Chicken.

The band draws inspiration from the combined musical backgrounds of Ammons and Lewis.

Lewis’ influence is predominantly a mixture of delta blues and bluegrass, where as Ammons draws inspiration from artists filtered in by some of her friends  like ZZ Top, Led Zepplin and LCD Soundsystem, she said.

“It’s like this weird mix for me, this old-timey blues and folk music with like Daft Punk,” she said.

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Ammons said she was classically trained on the violin while at college and she incorporates the musical knowledge most classical musicians gain into Tyrannosaurus Chicken.

“I think that the classical was just a pathway to getting my technicality down pretty good and being able to have the tools to express myself,” she said. “I think I’ve lost a lot of the rigidity that comes with being strictly a classical … player and now I’m more improvisation. I use what I’ve learned being classically trained, but I don’t think it defines me.”

The band’s unique name is derived from a need for one combined with inspiration from a CBS documentary about chick embryos that Lewis was watching, Ammons said.

“[Lewis] was saying that they were showing X-rays of these embryos inside the shell and that you could see that they were growing little teeth and tails and that they looked just like a little tyrannosaurus chicken, and I was like ‘that’s the name of the band’,” she said.

Being only a two-piece band, Ammons and Lewis have to pick up slack in areas that bands with four or five members can accomplish with ease, such as loading the vans, booking gigs and making posters, she said.

Ammons said keeping fans updated through email lists can also be quite tedious so she tries keeping people updated as much as possible through outlets like Facebook groups.

Tyrannosaurus Chicken will be having their first performance in Carbondale at Tres Hombres this Thursday starting at 10 p.m.

Ammons said the band has enjoyed playing shows with local band Whistle Pigs in the past and is excited to see what the Carbondale crowd has to offer.

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