MCLA community members who attend this weekend’s Freshgrass Festival at MASS MoCA may recognize some familiar faces as Izzy Heltai ’18 of Brookline, Mass., and alumni Mike Vogt ’14 and Tim Shiebler ’14 take the stage when the event begins this Friday, Sept. 16.
Heltai, an arts management major, had performed as a solo act for about a year when he decided to form his band, Secret Creature, last April. The contemporary folk music group is known for pop-up performances.
“Most of our stuff is upbeat folk-rock with a handful of harmony-driven slow songs thrown into the mix,” Heltai explained. “I write all the songs, and the band helps me arrange them.”
In August, Heltai joined forces with his friend, Christopher Hantman ’14, now MCLA’s community engagement coordinator. Hantman started the label, Sounds and Tones Records, during his sophomore year at MCLA, when he and some friends decided to put the music they’d released under a moniker to boost their recognition.
Heltai and Secret Creature’s extended-play vinyl record (EP) is expected to be out on Sounds and Tones Records in late September.
“Our goal for the EP was to have an accurate representation of what we do live,” Heltai said. “What you hear is what you get as far as how we actually perform, compared to the recorded version. I love folk music because a lot of the time that’s what artists do. They don’t dress up their recordings with things that they cannot deliver in concert.”
Over the summer, Secret Creature played at numerous venues throughout the Berkshires.
This fall, “We are really hitting the ground running, and are getting ourselves as far out as we can,” Heltai said, in what he describes as a “drastic change in exposure and reach” outside of the local area.
Throughout this September and October alone, Heltai will play at 15 venues in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont – with and without Secret Creature – as he actively pursues his solo career.
Although he’s performing at the Freshgrass Festival as a local artist, the opportunity represents to Heltai how far he might go with his music. The Festival will feature more than 50 artists, including Old Crow Medicine Show, Glen Hansard, Ricky Skaggs, The Devil Makes Three and Rosanne Cash.
“I’m most excited about getting my name on a poster and playing alongside many artists that I look up to and respect,” Heltai said.