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The Ben Miller Band formed, roughly, in 2005, as a result of an open-mike night experiment gone right. Ben Miller, who grew up in rural Washington state before attending art school in Philadelphia, had been working as an open-mike night host in his adopted home of Joplin, Missouri when he met and began playing music with Doug Dicharry and Scott Leeper.
Miller fronts the band on guitar (styles include both slide and fingerpicking), banjo, harmonica, and lead vocals. He’s also proven to be an accomplished songwriter. Dicharry is primarily a percussionist, though he also plays trombone and mandolin. Percussion-wise he handles drums, washboard, and electric spoons. Leeper gives the band its backbone, keeping rhythm on his homemade one-string washtub bass.
The bass is constructed from a weed-eater string that runs from the end of a stick that sits upon an inverted washtub, to the washtub itself, which presumably houses an elaborate pickup system that gives the instrument’s deep resonant sound a lot more volume than you’d expect. Occasionally, Leeper also keeps rhythm on the side of an old-school fire bell that he’s transformed into an interesting-sounding drum. Dicharry and Leeper both add backing vocals as well.
The Ben Miller Band is not only curious and inventive musically, but also instrument and equipment-wise. Leeper’s homemade one-string bass has been mentioned, but Miller and Dicharry have some interesting gadgets of their own. Miller sings into two microphones; one is your typical mike, while the other is the receiver from an old land-to-land telephone. The telephone mike offers a distorted sound and is run through a trunk, which Miller keeps beat on with his right foot using a drum pedal. Attached to Miller’s left foot is a tambourine and he alternates between the pedal and the tambourine. Dicharry, meanwhile, has a suitcase full of distortion pedals, which he uses to great effect when playing washboard and electric spoons.