About the Band
In 2006 South Asian-American Yale graduate and political activist Sumanth Gopinath started a country/bluegrass band in Minneapolis called The Gated Community. Influenced by his dad’s classic country record collection and modern Americana bands like The Flatlanders, The Gated Community mixes folk, bluegrass and country music with a raw, rock edge.
Born in Chicago, Sumanth’s family relocated to Slidell, Louisiana when he was nine. “At first, my brother and I hated the place. We consciously decided not to adopt southern accents, but we were of course surrounded by them, and by contemporary country music,” he recalls. Later, as a grad student at Yale he fell under the musical mentorship of fellow graduate student and Chapel Hill, North Carolina country/bluegrass veteran Rob Slifkin, who introduced him to the music of classic Americana artists. Sumanth’s songwriting quickly blossomed in country music—a genre he’d shunned since his days in Slidell. “Playing a form of country and getting to ‘play southern’ became a form of therapy, a way of dealing with all of the unpleasant bullying, racism, and social dislocation that I experienced while growing up in Louisiana.”
In 2005, Sumanth moved from New Haven to Minneapolis to begin working as a professor of music theory at the University of Minnesota. There he would meet fellow faculty members and grad students with whom he would form The Gated Community. Over the years, some members have come and gone. The band’s current lineup combines professors like Sumanth (vocals, acoustic guitar), Teresa Gowan (fiddle, vocals), and Beth Hartman (vocals, percussion), and musicians from the broader community like Rosie Harris (vocals, banjo, cello), Paul Hatlelid (drums, acoustic guitar, vocals), Cody Johnson (bass), and Nate Knutson (electric guitar). About the interesting mix of people in the band, Sumanth says “Even though I have strong social ties to the academic world, I don't like hanging out only with academics. I prefer to work with people from all walks of life—whether they be union organizers, office workers, or full-time artists.”
The Gated Community just released their fourth album Won't You Believe Me and will be touring throughout 2020 in support of it.