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Broad & High Presents: Push Me Pull You

Through various serendipitous events, Erika Holycross (accordion and vocals), Dan Sherwood (guitar), Leslie Dowler (keyboard and vocals), and Adam Darlin (drums) came together to form Push Me Pull You, a Columbus-based Americana band.

Love Letter
“Love Letter” is a song Erika wrote after returning from a break from performing. When she returned from her break, she saw a photo from a performance and noticed that her hands looked very old. Self-doubt began to creep in, but she decided to change her perception and embrace her age.

From that moment on, she decided that she’d never abandon music again. “It’s not just a love letter to myself but to everyone who deals with that self-doubt, no matter what the reason is that you tell yourself you can’t do something,” says Erika.

“Salem” is a song dedicated to Erika’s mother’s hometown in Salem, West Virginia and her mother’s experiences there. It also touches on themes related to the loss of innocence and the passage of time

Cornflower Blue
“Cornflower Blue” is a song about the tattoo that Erika’s mother wanted since she was young. Before passing away, her mother told Erika she’d always wanted a cornflower tattooed on her shoulder. Tattoos were considered fairly taboo when her mother was young, but once tattoos became more acceptable, she felt like she was too old to get one.

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Meet The Musicians

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From left: Leslie Dowler, Erika Holycross, Adam Darlin, and Dan Sherwood

Interview with Push Me Pull You

Erika Holycross, vocalist and accordionist, tells us about how she learned to play the accordion and sing at the same time, a song she would erase from history, and her favorite girl scout cookie.

The Origin Story
Dan Sherwood and Leslie Dowler met in 2001 through the Athens Musician Network. After dating for a period, the two remained friends and Leslie later joined a band called Fokushima where she met Adam Darlin. A few years later, Leslie left Fokushima to rejoin Dan in a band called Occasional Monster.

During this time, Erika Holycross had her own band called Erika Carey and the Calamities. Dan eventually moved to Columbus and auditioned for her band. However, the audition fell through as the band decided to part ways.

A few years later, Dan opened Big Basement in the Sky, a rehearsal and recording studio. Erika contacted him about using rehearsal space for a personal project and he ended up sitting in on guitar.

The two rotated musicians in and out until Dan asked Leslie to join them. The music and vocals just seemed to click and a couple months later, Leslie heard that Adam was moving back from LA. She asked him to complete their band as their drummer and “[t]he band finally felt complete,” says Dan.

How did you come up with your band name?

Dan: There used to be a mural in the Old Town East neighborhood of a two headed horse – one head facing forward, one backward. My aging dog growled at it from the car one day. With her bad vision, she thought it was a larger dog. In telling the story to an older friend, I was informed that such a mythic beast was referred to as a Push-Me-Pull-You. There’s not really a deeper meaning. Sometimes you just need a band name that’s not already in use.
Erika: It also describes the movement of an accordion which though perhaps accidental is excellent.

Give us the lowdown on your sound

Dan: I refer to it as Southern Diaspora Rock. That feels a lot more functionally descriptive than the nondescript term “Americana” that gets used for us sometimes. Our music is emotive and rooted in lived experience.

Erika: Our sound would mostly be considered Americana. We have a wide array of influences, but I am personally drawn to alt-country, southern rock and anything Tom Waits. I think all of these show up quite a bit when I’m writing.

What is the band’s process when writing songs?

Erika: I am the main songwriter for the band. I usually begin with a simple lyric phrase. From there I sit down with the accordion and work out the chord progression from the bass side while writing the rest of the lyrics.

When I bring the song to the band, I give up control over where it goes and the experience has been quite incredible. We work on parts and arrangements together, and I am always surprised and amazed at the direction a song can take. It’s really humbling actually.

What is it like balancing your life as musicians and as working adults/mothers/fathers?

Adam: The best thing you can do for your kids (besides the obvious stuff) is live your life authentically. Hopefully, they see that your authentic life is full of love, laughter, and delicious food, all of which occur in this band. I think I’m setting a great example

What are some fun facts about the accordion and does it enhance your sound?

Erika: Dan said to tell an accordion joke here:

What is the definition of perfect pitch?

It’s when you throw a banjo into a dumpster and it hits an accordion.

The accordion has a button on the bass side to close the bellows. It allows air to pass through without going through the reeds. When I close the accordion using this button (especially when it’s plugged into an amp) it sounds just like the Dennis Hopper character Frank from Blue Velvet, when he’s breathing in nitrous oxide from his mask. That’s more of a creepy fact.