The Faux Paws bring unique sound in Yellow Springs today



Plenty of musical acts claim to have an unclassifiable sound. Few come as close as the Faux Paws, performing at The Foundry Theater at Antioch College in Yellow Springs on Saturday.

The acoustic trio featuring Chris Miller (vocals, saxophone, banjo, dobro, clarinet) and brothers Noah (vocals, fiddle) and Andrew (vocals, guitar) VanNorstrand combine folk, old-timey music, jazz, Celtic, Americana and other disparate elements to create a cohesive but indescribable whole.

“There are no genres anymore,” Miller said, speaking by telephone from his home in Port Townsend, Wash. “Those lines have broken down for better or worse. I’m 38 and people my age grew up with music on the Internet. Our parents’ generation maybe had a few records they got at the record store, and they lived with those.

“They were their core influences while we had influences from all recorded music history,” he continued. “Where we are now as a culture, we’ve all got this vast array of influences. It would be strange to just keep it strictly between the lines of a traditional genre when you’ve got that.”

The Faux Paws grew out of Great Bear, a contra dance band featuring the VanNorstrand brothers and their mother. Those experiences are the core of the group’s unique approach.

“What we do is so rooted in those grooves from the contra dance experience,” Miller said. “Having the foot percussion in there, that drive, is very common in a lot of traditional Quebecois music. When people see us Stateside, a lot of them are seeing that for the first time. I don’t know of anybody else that sounds remotely like we do by combining those elements with saxophone, my jazz background, our Celtic fiddle, our cowboy songs and all that. That’s a good thing but it can be challenging to describe.”



Staying fresh

The Faux Paws released “The Hurricane EP” in 2019. The four-song collection was followed by a self-titled full-length in 2021. The latest offering, the five-song EP, “Backburner,” was released in April 2023.

“The idea was ‘Backburner’ is an in-between thing between our full-length records,” “Miller said. “We have a lot of material, but we didn’t necessarily have the time or the money to make a whole record. Rather than wait until we did, we just wanted to put that EP out, then we immediately started working on the next record. That’s almost finished now but we’ll probably wait until next year to put it out.”

For now, Miller and his bandmates are focused on performing live.

“We were supposed to tour in January, but we had to cancel that due to some family stuff,” he said. “This will be the first time we’ve played together since December, which is unusual for us. Starting in April we’re going to be together consistently for the rest of the year. Things are finally coming back this year. We’ve been on this gradual build since things started opening up and this will be our busiest year since 2019.”

On stage, the Faux Paws are performing songs from its three releases along with unreleased material.

“Our set will be a mix of old and new,” Miller said. “We like to keep it fresh and challenging for ourselves so it’s always fun to play new music. We’ve never played in Yellow Springs before so everything will feel pretty new for the audience. For our own creativity and enjoyment, we like to keep it fresh. We have way too much material from all these years.

“The hard part is narrowing it down to fit into a show,” he continued. “We just have such a wide range of things. We all sing and write songs so two 45-minute sets can go by very quickly. People say it’s hard to sit still. I would encourage anyone who loves to dance to come out to the show and give it a shot.”



A deeper connection

For Miller, there are many advantages to playing with brothers with a long musical history.

“It’s wild because they do this mind meld thing where they kind of communicate without words,” he said. “What that means for me is they’re creating this really strong foundation where I feel very supported to just play around. It’s strong and supportive and it’s safe so I feel that I can then take more risks and it won’t all fall apart. I really do feel like the third brother at this point. I love both of them dearly. We all love each other and have a great time together.”

Miller, who grew up in south Florida, had an instant rapport with the brothers from Fulton, N.Y.

“We met at the Ashokan fiddle and dance camp in Upstate New York, and we just really connected there,” he said. “Andrew and Noah sort of adopted me into their weird little family. I had never heard of contra dancing. I had been playing Cajun music and I loved playing for dances, so I slowly started getting into playing for contra dances with them. We’ve been playing together for 12 years in various configurations.

“I played with the Andrew and Noah Band, which was another project they had,” Miller continued. “Then I joined Great Bear. I was on their last two records, and I played a lot of dances with them in the last big year they had before retiring that band. We had been doing the trio casually off and on over the years, doing house concerts and things but we never named it until a few years ago.”

While the musicians hadn’t decided on a name, they were already accumulating a repertoire of original material.

“All the while we were doing Great Bear, we were working on Faux Paws material too,” Miller said. “We were just figuring out what it sounded like. We have such broad interests in so many styles of music so we had to narrow down what the sound of the band would be.

“It can be a bit schizophrenic but it’s really authentic to who we are,” Miller added. “I’m still really proud and excited that we’ve honed a sound over the years that’s recognizable and unique.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or

How to go

Who: The Faux Paws

Where: The Foundry Theater at Antioch College, 920 Corry St., Yellow Springs

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13

Cost: $20 general admission, $5 current Antioch College students and children 17 and younger

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