“Nautical America includes a variety of styles,” Brian explains, “Come watch us and be surprised. We play it all, from Morrissey, to Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones.”
For those who don’t know, trop-rock is the name for a style of music that is heavily influenced by island rhythms and often credited to Jimmy Buffet and his loyal following of Parrot Heads. Which would make sense that there is still trop-rock included in their sets since Brian and Michelle first started coming to Key West for the annual Meeting of the Minds festival, which just wrapped up its 26th year in a row. However, they weren’t yet doing shows together at the time. That would come a few years after they got to know each other. In a world far away from this one.
The husband and wife-to-be met when they were stationed in South Korea. It is where they first started performing karaoke and learning how to sing with each other. They continued their romance in Washington, D.C., before going southwest to Albuquerque, N.M., and eventually ending up on the island that they describe as a “juckanoo kind of town.”
Their musical story started when Brian, who had previously dabbled in bands including one called the Garage Boys, as the front man of Bi-Man and the MizzBeeHavens, decided to add some female vocals to the group. Ever since then, the two have been combining musical talents — he on guitar and vocals and she on percussion and vocals. They are now known around town as B-Man and mi-Shell.
Michelle learned harmony from nuns as a child in Pueblo, Colo., while Brian taught himself the guitar at the age of 13 in Ohio. They were both young when music made its impact on their lives and both strongly agree that it can be an important part of growing up.
“It upsets me when I hear that they are taking music programs away from schools,” Michelle says.
“For some people, music is their only option,” Brian adds, “and it teaches you math, literature and history. I had this amazing music teacher in the eighth grade who took music and went through the eras and into the ’60s when music first became interesting and artists were getting a message across. Music is a message.”
At the moment, Brian and Michelle play at a few venues around town including Smokin’ Tuna Saloon at 4 Charles St., Rum Row at 3824 N. Roosevelt Blvd., Salty Angler at 1114 Duval St., Viva Saloon at 903 Duval St. and Tiki House at 430 Greene St. They recently orchestrated a spur-of-the-moment Parrot Head event at the Tiki House, where they invited all interested local and traveling musicians to play a short set on air with visiting Tiki Man Radio. The idea came to them just after Fantasy Fest with the understanding that if they were to pursue it, they might not have enough time to do it right. Yet with their persistence and determination, Brian and Michelle instantly became the gracious hosts for over 20 musicians, even offering the use of their car or the roof over their heads if anyone needed it. The event was open to all, but specifically allowed those who were not a part of the actual Meeting of the Minds festival a venue to showcase themselves as well. In essence, they were doing what they could to take care of their community as though it was a family to them.
The couple has been coming to Key West since 2005. When asked why they decided on this island in the first place, Brian says, “We came for the music, somewhere tropical where we could rock it out on stage, and be happy and in love along the way.” ¦