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The Bergamot is coming to Williwaw for music, storytelling and car signing

  • Author: Chris Bieri
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published April 27, 2016

For the first time in 2016, the two members of The Bergamot will be without their constant companion.

It's not a friend, relative or even a favorite instrument.

It's their car -- a 2002 Volvo V70 hatchback dubbed "The Unity Car." Since embarking on tour Jan. 2, band and wagon have been inseparable, until the band traveled to Alaska.

In fact, the vehicle has become a band icon, symbolizing the overarching message of community positivity promoted by husband-and-wife duo Nathaniel Hoff and Jillian Speece.

"We were joking about driving in the old car and talking about an album and a tour," Hoff said. "It just exploded out of my mouth. We have to take it to all 50 states and have people from all the states sign it."

The Bergamot has done just that, and Hoff and Speece have put some 26,000 miles on that Volvo since the beginning of the year on their Unity Collective USA Tour. According to their website, the band started Unity Collective USA "to share uplifting music, garner unifying signatures + messages onto The Unity Car while documenting the American dream in motion."

The documentation part of the journey will come in the form of a film funded with a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised $17,000.

"We have room for one passenger," Speece said. "And next month, a documentarian will be traveling with us."

The tour will have reached all 50 states by Aug. 27 and shooting of the documentary is scheduled to conclude in October, when Hoff and Speece will return to their hometown of South Bend, Indiana.

There they will auction off the car and donate the proceeds to the South Bend Memorial Children's Hospital, the facility where Speece was born.

"It's a not-for-profit (hospital)," Speece said. "We're trying to bring some awareness and let people know how cool these kids are."

The heavily inked car has become quite an attraction, drawing interest from fans of the band as well as passers-by.

"We've (had) well over a thousand people write on the car," Hoff said.

The messages have ranged from inspirational to pithy. One person wrote: "Humankind, be both human and kind." Another wrote community with UNITY capitalized. A favorite of Hoff's is written on the rear-view mirror: "Don't look back."

Hoff said people of all social and economic backgrounds have signed the car, bringing a variety of perspectives to the message.

"We are stronger, united and beautiful because of our differences," Speece said.

Although the band left "The Unity Car" in the Lower 48 before traveling to Alaska, they are bringing part of the car, probably from the vehicle interior, for Alaskans to sign.

"We're flying a large piece of the car with us," Hoff said. "We want the Alaskan signatures to be protected."

Speece and Hoff met as teenagers in high school in South Bend. They started writing and performing together, and eventually a romance blossomed.

The band's sound trends toward indie folk, with strong harmonies and personal lyricism.

"There's a lot of passion in the songs," Speece said. "They're stories of the joys and heartaches of life. We try to make sure there's a sign of hope."

Released just over a year ago, "Tones" is the Brooklyn-based duo's most recent album.

"It's very much derived from that stripped-down, simplistic approach to music," Hoff said.

The Bergamot was struggling to find a band name until Hoff came across a bergamot-scented essential oil at a market. He loved the scent and passed the idea on to Speece.

"This smells amazing," he said. "Let's think about for a week."

The name, and the scent, stuck. As part of their tour merchandise, the band sells an organic bergamot/lavender body oil.

"It's selling like hotcakes," Hoff joked.

Speece said the band's live performances play out like "The Bergamot Autobiographical Musical."

"It's a fun night of music, entertainment, storytelling and car-signing," she said.

The Bergamot

When: 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 29

Where: SteamDot at Williwaw Social, 609 F St.

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