When Robin Chambers first met Nick DiSanto, she knew him as the quiet younger brother of her friend Leo.
“I never would have dreamed from that meeting that I would have this wonderful relationship with him in a band,” Chambers says.
But at a friend’s birthday party a couple of weeks later, Chambers found herself taken with the dark, smoky edge to DiSanto’s music. Chambers, formerly of the Lancaster trio Modern Icons, was hungry for a new musical adventure. She didn’t expect a “yes,” but asked DiSanto if he’d like to create a new group anyway.
To her surprise, he said yes, and Lavacave was born.
Eight years, countless shows and a lot of genre-bending gypsy folk later, Lavacave will play its swan song Saturday at Lancaster MusicFest. The band promises to span its repertoire in the final show.
The ending isn’t entirely sad, though. One of the final motivating factors for the natural end is DiSanto and bassist Donna Volles welcoming a baby boy into the world. Volles had already stepped away from the group, but as DiSanto juggles new fatherhood with his solo gigs as a one-man band, it seemed appropriate for everyone to close the chapter of Lavacave.
The group played its first show in 2011 at Philadelphia’s Soy Cafe with banjo player Kenny Cotich. When Cotich relocated to California, DiSanto filled out the duo’s sound with a foot drum he could play simultaneously will strumming a guitar — a trick he also uses in his “One-Man Band” show.
Chambers and DiSanto came from different musical worlds. A fiddle player, Chambers’ original songs are rooted in her love for the music of the British Invasion in the ’60s. Lavacave lived in the middle of those two sounds.
“Her songs tend to be mysterious and atmospheric, so I contributed material that I thought would both complement and contrast with her style,” DiSanto wrote in an email. “Most of my songs turned out sounding like some sort of Eastern European chain gang. It was a good fit.”
A drummer first and foremost, DiSanto used Lavacave as an outlet for his development as a guitarist. When Volles joined, the music was further deepened by her jazz-influenced bass playing.
“I really enjoyed her style of playing, that it left space, and was really melodically oriented,” Chambers says. “When you have only three people, you don’t have any just filler instruments. You want to make everybody really count and contribute.”
That equality among members helped Lavacave thrive, Chambers says. Battling egos wasn’t ever a problem. In fact, the musicians were all so self-deprecating, that anyone who said something negative about themselves during rehearsals had to throw a dollar in a jar. The proceeds went to the band’s beer fund.
That shared dark sense of humor worked its way into the band’s lyrics, too. Chambers says the pair were so tuned in musically that sometimes words weren’t necessary to communicate.
“He felt like a brother,” Chambers says. “We could kind of know what was on each other’s minds.”
DiSanto thinks the duo played to each other’s strengths.
“I think Robin provided the sizzle and I supplied the steak,”DiSanto says. “She’s great at playing in the moment, losing herself in her performances, and connecting emotionally with audiences. My focus was more on maintaining the music’s momentum (and) rhythmic heft.”
Looking ahead to the future, DiSanto will continue his gigs as a One-Man Band, which has enjoyed a surge of interest over a wider geographic area in recent years. Chambers has begun collaborating with Bedford musician Matt Otis, and will begin work on an EP with him in Pittsburgh later this month.
The Lancaster MusicFest show will give Lavacave fans one last chance to hear their favorite songs live.
“Since we’re only playing one set, we can choose from all of our material and focus on our most representative songs,” DiSanto says. “A band has to pace itself during a long bar show, but a 50-minute time slot lets us distill our repertoire down to its essence.”
But given their bond as musicians and friends, this isn’t the end for Chambers and DiSanto.
“I can’t imagine a time when they won’t be near and dear,” Chambers says. “You become family.”