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Westfielders Rock Austin and Beyond With New Album

Jon Fichter said most of his musical education was picked up at Sound Station.

Two Westfield musicians have taken their show on the road. Jon Fichter, 23, and Gabe Yukon, 24, have formed the Austin, Texas-based soul/funk band The LaRues.

Growing up in the same town, the two began making music together long before they hit Austin, often referred to as "the live music capital of the world." 

Fichter left Westfield in 2007 for Brooklyn, New York where he lived for two years before moving to Austin.

"I knew Gabe Yukon since the eighth grade, now he plays drums in our band, The LaRues. He left for Austin earlier than I did, but we wound up making music again pretty quick once I arrived down here," said Fichter, who added that he can "mess around" with a lot of different string instruments but mainly sticks with the guitar. 

"I started playing young," he continued. "My dad is a guitarist and taught me everything I needed to know. I didn't start taking it seriously until I started playing in bands in middle school, that's when I actually started practicing. That, and I took cello all throughout school, starting in Franklin, then Roosevelt, up until high school."

Fichter also noted that a good portion of his musical education came "from hanging out in the late, great Sound Station record store on South Avenue."

Fichter and Yukon returned to Westfield where they were joined by fellow Westfield High School alum Mike Risberg in April of this year to show their support for Bob Larsen and Liz Walsh by playing in a benefit show at Crossroads in Garwood to help the owners in their effort to rebuild after a six-alarm fire destroyed their business. 

When Yukon and Fichter first reunited, they formed a band, Bigfoot, which focused strictly on instrumental music as well as some original soul tunes and The LaRues grew out of that, the guitarist explained.  

"We still gig as Bigfoot from time to time, but when we met the girls (vocalists Sonya Benjamin and Kara Knorpp) we knew we had something interesting going and so we put more time and energy into that, writing and perfecting songs and building up a solid live show. We wanted to be able to kick some butt right out of the gate, so we kept it a secret for a while until things were really jelling," he said.

Their hard work is paying off. Named one of the Top 10 Best New Local Acts by The Austin Chronicle, the band marked its one-year anniversary with the release of a self-titled album of original tunes. Additionally, Fichter, Yukon and the rest of The LaRues recently opened for New Orleans-based Papa Grows Funk at Antone's, the Austin club known for launching the career of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

"I'd say our band has got one foot in the great soul music of the past, but the other foot moving somewhere modern. Too many current soul bands are doing the 'retro' thing, and I think what keeps LaRues interesting is we don't want to look or sound like 1966 all over again, even though we all probably agree that the older stuff is best," the musician said.

While Fichter is unsure if this will be his lifelong career, he's enjoying the ride. 

"Music is what I do to keep myself sane," he said. "To view it as a job is nice, but impractical at this point. We make money doing this but almost all of it goes back into promotion, merchandise and recording costs.  I supplement doing what I love by having a job on the side. 

"My musical path or whatever you like to call it isn't planned out like a career or higher education. I mean, how can you plan where your art is going to take you?  I can only hope to keep working at it, and constantly improving myself and the band. That is in effect the most exciting part, is taking yourself seriously and playing the music you love, and maturing and evolving as a player as a result."

To learn more about The LaRues, visit the band's Facebook page. 

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