Normally, one doesn’t hear much mention of grunge bands when speaking with folk singers, but, true to her unorthodox spirit, Megan Jean Glemboski crosses that line. “I grew up in Seattle during the whole grunge thing, and for me, Nirvana is as traditionally American as Hank Williams,” she says.
Megan Jean is one-half of the Charleston-based Megan Jean & The Klay Family Band (or KFB for short). Together, she and her husband Byrne Klay (rhymes with “learn fly”) make up this self-described avant-garde Americana duo that has made a name for itself touring the country, DIY-style.
“It’s ‘Americana’ in the sense that our music draws from the full American music spectrum,” Megan Jean says of their original music. “Folk, country, rockabilly, surf music, punk … all of it. And it’s avant-garde in the sense that we seek out unorthodox elements to add to the sound.”
Megan Jean and Byrne first met in 2004 in New York City, where she was attending N.Y.U., and he was attending New School University. Based in Brooklyn, they decided to start a serious band together. The duo soon became frustrated, however.
“New York is such a black hole for up-and-coming bands. It’s so over-saturated and no one seems to care about anyone’s music but their own,” Megan Jean says.
So what was the logical next step for this musically motivated duo? Pack up everything and hit the road. They initially booked 12 shows in the Southeast.
“We were playing once or twice a month and felt we weren’t getting anywhere,” remembers Megan Jean. “It was like screaming into the wind. Then one day, I said to Byrne, ‘Let’s just get out of here.’ We left our jobs, our apartment, and pretty much got rid of everything to play the first 12 shows in the Southeast.”
A short tour gradually extended into a 200-gig trek covering a span of 50,000 miles. The two tasted life on the road and they liked it.
Touring around in a red/green Suzuki Sidekick, the trio eventually began to wear down — and spending Thanksgiving at a Hooters wasn’t exactly their ideal lifestyle. They soon happened upon Charleston, and fell in love with the city.
“We ended up playing some last-minute gigs, which got us back in the game,” says the singer. “After another year on the road and many more trips to Charleston we decided to call it home.
The couple settled down in Chucktown and released their debut album, Autumn.
“We found that Charleston is special musically. The talent level is so high, especially among female musicians,” says Megan Jean.
Neither of them had ever been to Charleston before, but it the small clubs and tight-knit scene enticed them.
“We found an open mic gig at The Mill in North Charleston, and they welcomed us with open arms,” remembers Megan Jean.
“There are so many places to play here, and it’s so central to a lot of good music in the Southeast,” she adds. “Trust me, we’ve been all over this country and when it comes to music, there’s no place like the Carolinas. People really listen to music here. They care about how it sounds more than whether it’s trendy or cool. It was a breath of fresh air for us. That’s why we live here.”