There is no genre to describe the sound of the group Stereotyped, so the trio invented one that best describes what they play — "black grass." The three members of the group were friends for years before they started the band three years ago, and banjo player Matt Hendrix even has the words "black" and "grass" tattooed across his fingers.
"Black grass is a mixture of bluegrass, punk and everything else we could think to throw in there," said Hendrix.
The trio's creativity doesn't stop at coming up with their own genre of music. Even lead vocalist Julie Jankowski made her own instrument called the "Kaz-et." The Kaz-et is a kazoo attached to a trumpet.
"Kaz-et had no other name before that," said Hendrix, jokingly.
Jankowski also sings over a megaphone and plays the harp. Bassist Larry Grose carries much of the boot-stomping percussion through his bass, but is a multi-instrumentalist as are Hendrix and Jankowski.
Grose plays the guitar and the banjo, and Hendrix plays the piano, mandolin, guitar and just picked up the banjo two years ago.
"Any of our long shows you'll pretty much see us go through different instruments. Sometimes I'll even pick that thing up and ruin my fingers for the night," said Hendrix pointing at Grose's bass.
The trio plays 95 percent originals with a few cover tunes thrown in.
"Sometimes I have songs that are already written, and then they (Grose and Hendrix) just play it, and it's like, oh my god, that's my song," said Jankowski.
Since Grose, Hendrix and Jankowski had been friends for many years before starting the band, hanging out and collaborating together comes easy, they say.
Stereotyped usually has gigs every weekend, playing almost every month at Caldera Tap House in Ashland.
"We like to get our music out there. We like as many new people to hear and experience the black grass — the more the merrier," said Hendrix.
"Every time you go out and play, you have a sense of satisfaction. We always leave a piece of us with those people and that makes it worth it," said Jankowski.
Recently, Stereotyped opened up for Hillstomp, a Portland trio with a sound not dissimilar from black grass, to a packed crowd at Taroko. It was just the kind of show the trio prefers to play.
"We love an energetic crowd," said Grose.
Stereotyped returns to Taroko, at 11 p.m. Sunday, March 17, performing with Ol Mount'n Due of which Grose is also a member, and Championship, a punk, rock, roots band from Roseburg. Taroko is at 62 E. Main St. Cover is $5.
One of the highlights of their time together is when they got to join banjo player Cooper McBean from Devil Makes Three at a gig at Boone's Farm, a dairy in the Applegate Valley.
"He was doing something separate from Devil Makes Three, but it was a lot of fun," said Jankowski.
"It gets rowdy and fun. We've gone through there and had to track all of our instruments and equipment through stinky mud this deep," said Hendrix, indicating about 2 feet. "And still loved every second of it."
One of the band's favorite places to play is Johnny B's in Medford. For the Tidings Cafe, Stereotyped performed an original song Jankowski wrote about Johnny and his bar called, "The Old Outlaw Bar." Go to www.dailytidings.com/tidingscafe to view it.
"That song is just all about every time we play at Johnny B's and the afterparty and how fun it is. It's kind of a little joke about how we always get caught up in the action. When we go to play an hour-long set and we end up playing a 6-hour set," said Jankowski.
Stereotyped has three albums, one official release called "Back Porch Black Grass," one live recording from the Barter Fair and one recording they made when they first started playing together. Eventually they would like to take their van, which has their band name spray painted on the side, and tour up and down the West Coast.
"We want to go as far as we can. You're going to see us playing on the moon in 20 years," said Hendrix.
Even in 2011 when they were busking in downtown Ashland, they said the mayor came out and dubbed them the "Ashland City Street Band."
He didn't really do anything about that," said Grose.
"We got nothing out of it," said Hendrix.
Jankowski said she asked if he could put it on a plaque but never heard back.
Despite the kind gesture that only seemed to confuse the trio, they hope to return and play on the streets more when the weather allows.