Fifteen years after its first gig at Standing Stone Brewing Co., The Rogue Suspects still is going strong and is scheduled to perform nearly 100 shows in 2013.
"The most consistent comment we get is, 'Boy, you guys look like you're having fun up there,' and we do," says bassist and frontman Greg Frederick. "We have a ball."
The band's lineup features original members Frederick and lead guitarist Dirk Price, along with drummer David Bolen, vocalist Shae Johnson, keyboardist Don Harriss, percussionist Mary Rydman and, when he's not on tour, guitarist Jeff Pevar.
Who: The Rogue Suspects
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22
Where: Avalon Bar & Grill, 105 W. Valley View Road, Talent
Looking back, Frederick counts 14 musicians, including its current members, who call themselves Suspects alumni, and at least another 30 musicians who could be considered "regulars" with the band. With all the camaraderie, there's no room for drama, jealousy and competitiveness, he adds.
The Suspects will celebrate its 15th anniversary — and the grand reopening of the Avalon Bar & Grill, now under new ownership — at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, at the Avalon, 105 W. Valley View Road, Talent. The cover is $7.
Frederick calls The Suspects "everyman's band" for its versatile catalog of funk, blues, R&B, jazz and pop music that can be tailored to fit most settings. The band plays originals by keyboardist Dean Angermeier and Price, as well as original arrangements of songs by other artists, such as Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
"One night, we did The Beatles, and it didn't sound like the Beatles," says Frederick. "It sounded like The Suspects playing The Beatles."
Members each have books of songs to play from, including one for when Johnson sings, one for when Inger Jorgenson sings and one for when Angermeier plays.
Three years ago, The Suspects had the good fortune to cross paths with pretty, young vocalist Johnson at Alex's Plaza Restaurant.
Johnson, who was just 21 years old at that time, asked whether she could sing a song with the band.
"We let her up there and asked her what she wanted to sing, and she said 'Chain of Fools' by Aretha Franklin," Frederick recalls. "She opened her mouth and knocked the wall down. She was with us from that point forward."
Since her Suspects debut, Johnson has attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and caught the attention of some of the music industry's biggest producers. It's only a matter of time before one of them snatches her away, but until then The Suspects are keeping her at the helm of their project.
Frederick compares her vocal range to that of powerhouses such as Whitney Houston.
The band's forthcoming album, its third, is being built around Johnson's vocals. So far, the band has recorded two songs — "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore" by Prince and an original funk song by Price. They plan to return to the studio this summer to finish album, which has yet to be named.
For more information about the band and to see a schedule of upcoming shows, see www.theroguesuspects.com.