The New York City trio of Pearl and the Beard can go to extremes. Styles of beard.
On one song, the threesome can produce a haunting, harmonic ballad punctuated by Emily Hope Price's cello.
On the next, they may perform a rollicking medley with an acoustic version of rapper-singer-actor Will Smith's greatest hits, as evidenced by the band's website.
"We didn't get together and say, 'We're going to be this type of band,' " said guitarist Jeremy Styles, who shares vocals with Price and percussionist Jocelyn Mackenzie. " 'I like your playing style and you like my playing style. Wouldn't it be cool to bring some songs together and play?'
"It's more of a case of what do the three of us like rather than what something sounds like or how a song goes," Styles said as the band headed out of the Big Apple toward Bloomington, Ind., earlier this week.
Pearl and the Beard is headlining this month's Communion club nights tour, which stops next week at the Rock Island Brewing Company. The three had already played three tour dates in New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, sharing the bill with equally established groups.
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The unpredictability, Styles said, is one of the ways the band draws fans.
"Because we are complex humans, I guess, we all like different types of music," he said. "Since we aren't really skilled at copying, note for note, a complete bluegrass sound or '80s synth-pop sound, we wind up bastardizing a lot of that music in various ways to become this unnameable hodgepodge mix of things."
The trio, he said, is also comfortable shifting gears, both emotionally and musically, on a moment's notice.
"We like the juxtaposition of light and heavy and happy and sad," he said. "If (a song's) more on the upbeat side, the next might be morose. And if it is down, there might be some element of hope to it. We don't want to end up being too (far to) one side or another. There's always something creeping around the corner to bring you down or bring you up."
Styles and Mackenzie met at an open mic night in New York during 2008 and began writing songs together. Then, months later, they added Price, who is also an open-mic veteran.
That year the band was on a bill with British folk singer Laura Marling, whose band included her then-husband Marcus Mumford, the leader of Mumford and Sons. Communion founder Ben Lovett is the percussionist for the Grammy-winning Mumford and Sons.
"We just kind of stayed connected throughout the years," Styles said. "They were putting together this tour and asked us."
Pearl and the Beard is in the middle of recording its first full-length album since 2011's "Killing the Darlings." The songs are part of its Communion set, and Styles said they are getting a good response.
"Hopefully somebody will want to put some money behind it," he said of the album, which does not yet have a distributor or record label.
"We're weighing our options so it's a right fit for everyone and gets out to as many people as possible, however that is," he said.
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