Best You’ve Never Heard: Sh! The Octopus

So, you’re starting a band. The guitarists, the drummer, the bassist and the vocalists are set. What’s next? The perfect name – something unique, unusual, memorable. Something that fans can shout rhythmically to get you to perform an encore.[headphones]
When thinking about unusual band names, little known movies might be the way to go. The Misfits, Black Sabbath and Duran Duran all took their names from Hollywood, and Sh! The Octopus, an up-and-coming, Detroit-based, classical-alternative group falls in with this set of bands as well.
“We get asked that all the time,” frontman Randy Bishop said with a chuckle when asked about the origins of the group’s name. “It actually came from an old movie; I have the DVD version of it. It’s a bad movie, but I was just really intrigued with it.” The detective comedy film “Sh! The Octopus” was released in 1937 with a small budget under the direction of William C. McGann. The band nabbed the name and ran with it, creating a standout Detroit band who has never been shushed, but does require you to stop talking and listen.
Making the Band
Although Bishop originally began his project as a one-man show in July 2003, he eventually recruited the help of bassist Chris Sesta, guitarist Andy Stachowiak, drummer Joel Pearson and vocalist Christine Baxter to round out the band. While Sesta, Stachowiak and Pearson have all been members for at least a year, Baxter joined the line-up just months before their debut full-length album, The Carrot Chase, was released last July.
Although the band in its current shape is relatively new, none of its members are novices at their craft. Baxter has a classical music background and has been on the keys for years. Bishop and Stachowiak have each been playing the guitar for more than a decade. Pearson has been playing the drums for eight years and Sesta has been playing bass since he was 17. [everyone1]
Even though Baxter came into the line-up a little later than the guys, her talent is never underestimated because of the close-knit bond that brings together the five. “We’ve probably gotten along better than any other band – or even group of friends – actually has. We’re all really hard-working,” Bishop said.
Baxter had to go on tour with the band quickly after joining. It was a fast transition, but being on the road with a band haunts so many people’s pipe dreams that it seems completely understandable she jumped right in. “We actually have an ‘Alphabet Game’ where we look for road signs,” Baxter said. “There are a lot of sing-a-longs in the car.” [donpeterka]
Get Seen, Get Heard
“When we were on tour it was just a lot of fun, joking around, playing shows every night, the people,” Pearson said. Intimacy always makes fans happy and Sh! The Octopus gets about as intimate as a band can. “The last concert I went to, I was like eight feet away, and in between songs I could just go up to Randy and talk to him,” fan and musician Don Peterka said. “They’re totally approachable, especially when you buy them beer.”
The band operates their touring and recording smoothly, considering they aren’t signed to any record label. “Promoting can be a little frustrating, but an offer probably wouldn’t have helped that much anyway,” Bishop said. “But we wouldn’t turn down a record company’s offer now.”
Promotion can be tough for an unsigned band, especially when taking into account the plethora of indie rock star hopefuls that overwhelm the music scene. The media recognizes some of this competition and the more bands that emerge, the harder it is for smaller bands to get their voices heard by the press and public. For those who want to support the band’s tour agenda, Sh! The Octopus is planning to schedule shows at The Magic Stick in Detroit and the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Mich. areas; check out their Web site for more details. “When you’re a big indie band where you’re independent and you’re playing a circuit and some bands come up bigger or more noticed than others, some of that is because of their talent, but I think a lot of it has to do with certain critics,” Peterka said. [game1]
The Sound of Sh!
There’s the budding young, hip folk scene and there’s the edgy, emotional indie rock scene. We’ve all heard plenty of each, and most have their favorites from each genre. Sh! The Octopus is able to blend these two sounds with such ease to create refreshing music that stands in its own box.
[randybishop]One track that stands out from The Carrot Chase is “Apology,” which boasts harmonizing vocals and foot-tapping drum beats. The melody repeatedly switches from slower to faster and back again. The actual recording took a total of seven months, and in terms of track life and length, there is a good amount of variation. Some songs were recorded three months before the album dropped, and others had been around since 2003. “I think we like being able to experience music in a different way,” said Baxter. “I’m teaching music during the day and I’m rocking out some nights. It’s a really great outlet – a different outlet – for expressing myself.”
Another notable track is “Flaking Friends,” which has similar guitar style and vocals with a stronger drum track and a more constant fast beat. “My Kicks” is also worth a listen – especially if you like shoes. The drums do most of the work in this song, and the vocals are shared by guitarist and vocalist Bishop and pianist and vocalist Baxter. Bishop and Baxter also blend their voices together on “Come on Down,” incorporating more exotic sounds with softer guitar hues and little drumming. All four tracks can be previewed on the band’s MySpace page.
Many of the band’s fans also can vouch for stand-out songs on The Carrot Chase. “The last song (‘Come On Down’) kinda sounds something more like the direction I wish he would go into if he was gonna change direction. It’s just a little more alternative country, folky and a little rougher,” Peterka said. [table1]
For a similar sound, “The Brunt of Our Jokes” incorporates the melody of “Come on Down” with the addition of Pearson’s percussions. It has a beat on the fast side with soft vocals that still hit on every slam of the cymbal.
Although the band members devote time to school, work and other endeavors, the band is still number one for the members of Sh! The Octopus. “The best part to me is when I take a song, write it on a quick think, show it to these other four people and they make it into something that I completely did not expect,” Bishop said. “That’s hands down the best part.”

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Best You’ve Never Heard: Sh! The Octopus

So, you’re starting a band. The guitarists, the drummer, the bassist and the vocalists are set. What’s next? The perfect name – something unique, unusual, memorable. Something that fans can shout rhythmically to get you to perform an encore.[best]
When thinking about unusual band names, little known movies might be the way to go. The Misfits, Black Sabbath and Duran Duran all took their names from Hollywood, and Sh! The Octopus, an up-and-coming, Detroit-based, classical-alternative group falls in with this set of bands as well.
“We get asked that all the time,” frontman Randy Bishop said with a chuckle when asked about the origins of the group’s name. “It actually came from an old movie; I have the DVD version of it. It’s a bad movie, but I was just really intrigued with it.” The detective comedy film “Sh! The Octopus” was released in 1937 with a small budget under the direction of William C. McGann. The band nabbed the name and ran with it, creating a standout Detroit band who has never been shushed, but does require you to stop talking and listen.
Making the Band
Although Bishop originally began his project as a one-man show in July 2003, he eventually recruited the help of bassist Chris Sesta, guitarist Andy Stachowiak, drummer Joel Pearson and vocalist Christine Baxter to round out the band. While Sesta, Stachowiak and Pearson have all been members for at least a year, Baxter joined the line-up just months before their debut full-length album, The Carrot Chase, was released last July.
Although the band in its current shape is relatively new, none of its members are novices at their craft. Baxter has a classical music background and has been on the keys for years. Bishop and Stachowiak have each been playing the guitar for more than a decade. Pearson has been playing the drums for eight years and Sesta has been playing bass since he was 17. [everyone]
Even though Baxter came into the line-up a little later than the guys, her talent is never underestimated because of the close-knit bond that brings together the five. “We’ve probably gotten along better than any other band – or even group of friends – actually has. We’re all really hard-working,” Bishop said.
Baxter had to go on tour with the band quickly after joining. It was a fast transition, but being on the road with a band haunts so many people’s pipe dreams that it seems completely understandable she jumped right in. “We actually have an ‘Alphabet Game’ where we look for road signs,” Baxter said. “There are a lot of sing-a-longs in the car.” [peterka]
Get Seen, Get Heard
“When we were on tour it was just a lot of fun, joking around, playing shows every night, the people,” Pearson said. Intimacy always makes fans happy and Sh! The Octopus gets about as intimate as a band can. “The last concert I went to, I was like eight feet away, and in between songs I could just go up to Randy and talk to him,” fan and musician Don Peterka said. “They’re totally approachable, especially when you buy them beer.”
The band operates their touring and recording smoothly, considering they aren’t signed to any record label. “Promoting can be a little frustrating, but an offer probably wouldn’t have helped that much anyway,” Bishop said. “But we wouldn’t turn down a record company’s offer now.”
Promotion can be tough for an unsigned band, especially when taking into account the plethora of indie rock star hopefuls that overwhelm the music scene. The media recognizes some of this competition and the more bands that emerge, the harder it is for smaller bands to get their voices heard by the press and public. For those who want to support the band’s tour agenda, Sh! The Octopus is planning to schedule shows at The Magic Stick in Detroit and the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Mich. areas; check out their Web site for more details. “When you’re a big indie band where you’re independent and you’re playing a circuit and some bands come up bigger or more noticed than others, some of that is because of their talent, but I think a lot of it has to do with certain critics,” Peterka said. [game]
The Sound of Sh!
There’s the budding young, hip folk scene and there’s the edgy, emotional indie rock scene. We’ve all heard plenty of each, and most have their favorites from each genre. Sh! The Octopus is able to blend these two sounds with such ease to create refreshing music that stands in its own box.
[bishop]One track that stands out from The Carrot Chase is “Apology,” which boasts harmonizing vocals and foot-tapping drum beats. The melody repeatedly switches from slower to faster and back again. The actual recording took a total of seven months, and in terms of track life and length, there is a good amount of variation. Some songs were recorded three months before the album dropped, and others had been around since 2003. “I think we like being able to experience music in a different way,” said Baxter. “I’m teaching music during the day and I’m rocking out some nights. It’s a really great outlet – a different outlet – for expressing myself.”
Another notable track is “Flaking Friends,” which has similar guitar style and vocals with a stronger drum track and a more constant fast beat. “My Kicks” is also worth a listen – especially if you like shoes. The drums do most of the work in this song, and the vocals are shared by guitarist and vocalist Bishop and pianist and vocalist Baxter. Bishop and Baxter also blend their voices together on “Come on Down,” incorporating more exotic sounds with softer guitar hues and little drumming. All four tracks can be previewed on the band’s MySpace page.
Many of the band’s fans also can vouch for stand-out songs on The Carrot Chase. “The last song (‘Come On Down’) kinda sounds something more like the direction I wish he would go into if he was gonna change direction. It’s just a little more alternative country, folky and a little rougher,” Peterka said. [table]
For a similar sound, “The Brunt of Our Jokes” incorporates the melody of “Come on Down” with the addition of Pearson’s percussions. It has a beat on the fast side with soft vocals that still hit on every slam of the cymbal.
Although the band members devote time to school, work and other endeavors, the band is still number one for the members of Sh! The Octopus. “The best part to me is when I take a song, write it on a quick think, show it to these other four people and they make it into something that I completely did not expect,” Bishop said. “That’s hands down the best part.”

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Best You\’ve Never Heard: El Boxeo

[one]It can be hard to set yourself apart in a world of barely-making-it bands. El Boxeo\’s sound allows them some distinction in a business where it is easy to blend in. But together they come, with expertly flowing harmonies and bizarre rifts and backgrounds. Some of their songs have lyrics and some don\’t, but the melodies speak for themselves on every record.
El Boxeo\’s music has made a name for itself on originality, and fans notice the oddity of their sound right away. \”It\’s just the combination of older, more rustic tones with the newer, more upbeat melody that\’s really unique and interesting,\” horticulture sophomore Carmen Tracey said. \”I think it\’s because they blend more modern sounds with guitar and drums, and violin and viola.\”
The slower beats and soft tunes of the instrumentals seem to appeal to their fans. When it\’s time to unwind and take a load off your day, El Boxeo\’s songs just might set the tone perfectly. \”You can just have it on; it\’s just good music to relax to and have on in the background,\” Tracey said.
El History-o
El Boxeo hails from Livonia, where they still practice in the basement of their parents\’ house. Their beginnings go back to 2001, although they didn\’t release their first self-titled EP until June 2003. \”We just have one proper album; we released two EPs before that, and released a Split 7\” with another band,\” bassist Zach Norton said.
The Split 7\” EP was done with Station Odyssey and released on Boyarm Records in May 2004, and they did another EP in March 2004, entitled Songs from an Unwritten Play About Giant Birds, independently released by the band.
The most current album is titled Awake & Dreaming, released in August 2006 on the increasingly-trendy Suburban Sprawl Music label, which also features collaborations with other bands and artists. The two instrumental tracks that stand out are Chopping Up Vampires and (Tri-Colored Tricycles) Floating In An Orange Sky, both of which can be heard on their MySpace page. Zach is responsible for the rifts and chords, his sister Lisa Norton does the melody, and Danny Sperry takes care of the background track.
Fab Collabs
\”I\’m responsible for the structure and the backbone, Lisa adds in the melody, and Danny always has good suggestions for new sounds and tricks,\” Zach Norton said. \”It\’s a really collaborative process.\” As collectively as they work within themselves, they don\’t just join forces with each other. Several bands they work closely with appeared on the Awake & Dreaming record, with local groups like The Pop Project and The Pizazz.[influence] \”It\’d be interesting to see what they could do with other artists\’ influence because they\’re so unique themselves,\” Tracey said about El Boxeo\’s collaboration with other bands.
Even though it can be expensive and time-consuming for El Boxeo, coming together as a unit to make their records is what they\’re all about. Each members\’ rifts are brought together to form one song. While some groups may have leaders, El Boxeo is the front man of its own project. \”We all just try to agree on what direction to take the album and what kind of sounds we want,\” drummer Sperry said.
When drawing inspiration, Sperry looks to bands like Modest Mouse. \”I listen to a lot of different music, but it\’s kind of strange because the kind of music I play isn\’t necessarily the kind of music I find myself listening to.\”
Regardless of where the band gets ideas, the buzz about their music trickles through fans and their friends. \”My friend went to the Metro Times Blowout,\” Tracey said. \”He heard them and bought their CD and made me listen to them, and I was just blown away by them.\”
Beats, Bucks and Books
Going on the road with the instruments can be tough and costly, but El Boxeo envelops the good and laughs off the bad when on tour. \”I had to move back with my parents for a year after spending essentially half a summer on tour,\” Sperry said. From the deserts of Arizona to Fifth Avenue in New York City, traveling brings joy and stress to the job. \”It\’s fun but it was terrible, because we had the classic van-breaking-down and being stranded out in the middle of Arizona,\” Zach Norton said.
\”We got stuck with our trailer, and eventually we had to take all the equipment out of the trailer and walk it down a snowy hill,\” Sperry said of an episode that occurred a few years back. \”It just totally reminded me of like, a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-type situation.\”
El Boxeo is looking to do some small tours during the summer of 2007, and they have a show lined up at Mac\’s Bar on May 18. When the band isn\’t performing or recording, they\’re learning and working. \”Zach and I are both in school full-time, both play in two bands, and we both work,\” Sperry said. \”Most of our spare time goes to the band.\”
Violinist Lisa Norton also works on the side, taking business classes, doing public relations work for a non-profit organization, and volunteering for the Michigan Humane Society. Sperry and Zach Norton attend Wayne State University as full-time students, with Sperry majoring in art and Norton focusing on public relations. Both play in another local band called Child Bite, which is also on the Suburban Sprawl Music label.
Since all the members go to school while playing with their bands, they\’re perfect role models for up-and-coming college groups. Balancing jobs, school and two bands can become stressful, but El Boxeo proves it can be done.
\”You all have to be on the same page as far as how much time you want to commit,\” Sperry said. \”You just have to make sacrifices. Either be devoted or don\’t waste your time.\”

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Best You\’ve Never Heard: Mason Proper

[mason]Grab a few techno beats, mix in some percussion and eccentric guitars, add some strong, melodic vocals and you\’ve got Mason Proper. Without an official recording studio, this band is making records in kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms. Hailing from Michigan, the men of Mason Proper thrive on packing their bags, hitting the road and performing for audiences of all sizes. A musician\’s life should be about the music and Mason Proper is one of those bands that savor every melodious moment, even in the john.
\”What I like most is probably the fact that they\’re a local band, and not a lot of local bands can become really, really big,\” microbiology freshman Catherine Lee-Mills said. Mason Proper is on their way.
A Proper Story
Jonathan Visgr, Matt Thomson and Brian Konicek originally called themselves Honesty in the Auto Industry. Later they would add bassist and vocalist Zac Fineberg and drummer Jesse Parsons, and change the name of the group to Mason Proper. Front man Jon Visgr collaborated with hip hop artist Jawnrah to produce the first sounds of the band on the Sunday Sampler EP, released in 2003 (it was not released on a label.) Visgr, Thomson and Konicek started making music together experimentally in high school, but it would soon blossom into something much bigger.
\”It was very much that Cinderella story of a group selling their album right out of the trunk of their car kind of thing,\” Thompson said of the band\’s beginnings.
The debut album There Is A Moth In Your Chest (Dovecote Records) was initially released last year exclusively in Michigan. But the band went back and remixed the entire project, with help from mixing engineer John O\’Mahoney, and brought a whole new edge to the record. The final product was released on March 13 and is now available in several states around the country.
Several songs on There Is A Moth In Your Chest stand out for their eccentric chords and lyrical outlandishness. \”My My (Bad Fruit)\” is one such track, and \”Miss Marylou Carreau\” isn\’t far behind. While these two songs feature swifter melodies, tracks such as \”Chemical Dress Eliza\” and \”Blue Lips Eternal Inquiry\” are slower and easier on the vocals.
Most of the electrical and mechanical tunes found in the songs are Thomson\’s work. Parsons takes care of the precise percussion, and the steady, firm bass is attributed to Fineberg. Vocals and guitars are taken care of by Jon Visgr and Brian Konicek, and each member\’s style and instrument contributes in a unique way to the overall sound.
Dovecote Records, the label that released There Is A Moth In Your Chest, isn\’t a big organization, but it earns praise from Mason Proper. \”I\’ve been quoted lately as declaring it probably – maybe overdramatically – the best record label ever,\” Visgr said about Dovecote. \”I feel like we get treated like gold.\”
Interestingly enough, the band did not record their debut album in a studio because of the amount of time spent on it. In fact, most of their recording is at home. \”We couldn\’t really put out the same music that we put out if we were under the gun because we like to experiment kind of endlessly,\” Visgr said.
\”If we\’d done them in the studio, it would\’ve cost as much as some bands spend to make their whole album. We\’d spend months on one song and that would\’ve been unrealistic in a studio,\” Visgr said.
Let\’s take it on the road
Studio work may not be on their schedule in the near future, but touring is. They have several shows coming up in the Midwest and eastern parts of the country, including neighbor Lansing, New York and Kentucky. They will also be doing shows north of the border in Canada. \”Touring is why you do it,\” Visgr said. \”Traveling around, just a different city every night is the greatest thing in the world. When bad things happen we pretty much just laugh at it.\”
Whether welcome or not, eccentric people can show up when a band is on the road. \”In Kentucky, there was this woman with an old pink shirt on, she had to be 50 or 60, with just the longest black hair you could imagine. She had the classic, sheer red lipstick that went far beyond her lips and these big, heavy sunglasses,\” Thomson said.
And what\’s the best thing about traveling with a band?
\”The first thing I want to do whenever I get to a city is go out meandering, just to see places that I\’ll probably never get to see again in my life,\” Thomson said.[thomson]
Besides The Beatles…
When the band isn\’t on tour, they\’re writing music. David Lynch, Lewis Carroll, Modest Mouse and The Pixies are just a few names that the men of MP can turn to for inspiration. If it\’s noisy and is made of pop and rock beats, Mason Proper is all over it. Bringing extreme noise to a digestible context is what MP does best, and the challenge is the fun part of the job.
The band members may be inspired by legends, but MP fans have idols of their own. With traditional sounds and original vibes, listeners can\’t help but tap their feet to the songs. \”Their songs are just traditional,\” Lee-Mills said. \”They\’re not always catchy the first time you listen to them, but they have an artistic quality to them. They just vibe on originality.\”
\”Not a lot of people know about them, which is another appeal,\” Lee-Mills said. \”They\’re not as mainstream, and sometimes artists are hesitant to go outside of targeted social groups.\”
Music is what the members of Mason Proper are all about, and not much else comes into the picture. \”We all pretty much make music in our spare time – it\’s really become an over-the-top obsession,\” Visgr said.
And as a result, they see a lot of each other. \”A few years ago we moved down to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area and met up with Zac Fineberg, who\’s the bassist,\” said Visgr. \”We lived literally together non-stop for about three years.\”
Noise man Thomson went to school before he played for Mason Proper for writing to be a novelist (he\’s currently working on a book.) Visgr was considering videogame/film production in the pre-band stage, and drummer Parsons went to school for communication and film production. No matter what they do on the side or where they draw their inspiration from, Mason Proper is only at the tip of the iceberg of their career.
\”There\’s always something right below the surface that we can offer if you just look hard enough, it\’s there for you to find,\” Thomson said.
The band will be performing at the International Center on April 27, and is free for all students.

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Best You\’ve Never Heard: Great Lakes Myth Society

[band]We all know the indie rock thing has been done. The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Belle & Sebastian are sure to ring a few bells to those of the particular persuasion. However, few bands have created the unique sound that the Great Lakes Myth Society (GLMS) has. Forget the in sync harmonies and the copious instruments – they’re a divergent and unique group all together.
The beginnings of GLMS go back to the late \’90s, when they were called The Original Brothers and Sisters of Love. The band included a different member and two critically acclaimed albums: 1999’s The Legende of Jeb Minor and 2001’s H.O.M.E.S., both on the New York-based label, The Telegraph Company.
After the departure of their violinist and only female member, Elizabeth Auchinvole, the collapse of a record label, and an album in limbo, a change was in order. Instead of throwing in the towel and heading back to their hometown of Ann Arbor, they adopted a new black-suit look and officially dubbed themselves the Great Lakes Myth Society on Jan. 1, 2004. “One of the things that made the Great Lakes Myth Society come to play is us having a chance to reinvent our band, kinda from scratch as far as an image and a unit,” McClintock said. The first album they released as GLMS was self-titled and hit record stores in April 2005 on the Boston-based label, Stop, Pop & Roll.
Today, GLMS is made up of Timothy Monger on the guitar and accordion, James Monger and Gregory McIntosh on the guitar, Scott McClintock on the bass and Fido Kennington on drums. All the members help to create the distinct vocals.
Their name and look might be a new invention, but the type of music they play hasn’t changed a bit. Could we call them a punk rock band? Close, but not quite. There are too many reverberations of classic rock and contemporary chords in the choruses to call it punk. Alternative? Still not there. Their sounds are missing the jarring bass and raucous voices of the alternative sound. We’ll have to settle on the chronically overused label of “indie rock.”
The indie rock genre may be clichéd, but MSU students still enjoy the contemporary sounds. “I like that they have a folk-like style and it’s not just rock, and they have different instruments to make everything interesting,” said political science/pre-law sophomore Jessica Davis.
“Their lyrics – I can personally really relate to them because they’re about things in Michigan,” Davis said. “I love Michigan, I love up north, and I love all the stories of the state and they work that into their music. That’s really different, there aren’t many other artists out there who try and do that.”
Since the band comes from Ann Arbor, it’s no surprise that some of their fans do, too,” said fisheries and wildlife junior Taaja Tucker, who attended the University of Michigan for two years before coming to MSU. “They have a variety of instruments. I really like the violins. I’m mainly just a Michigan nationalist, so I just like Michigan-based songs.”
[michigan]She too enjoys the band\’s focus on Michigan. “I really like the references to places, like their song ‘No. VI’ is obviously Novi, which is where I pretty much live,” Tucker said. “It’s something you can easily identify with if you’re from Michigan.”
The band is a family-oriented group to boot; a lot of their backing comes from those closest to them. “Our families are always really supportive,\” said Timothy Monger, whose brother, James Monger, is also in the group. \”We’re definitely the kind of band that usually has at least one set of parents in the crowd, and this is after like eight years of playing. The backing to this band has always been really strong with family and friends, girlfriends, wives.\”
Regardless of familial abet, most of the members agree that, as a group, they’ve made it this far mainly due to each other. “As a band, I gotta say we’ve largely been really self-sufficient,” Kennington said. Not only do they survive on their own, but they’ve been really close friends for around a decade, even before The Original Brothers and Sisters of Love was formed.
“There really hasn’t been any real question of breaking up either, even when the label folded,” Monger said. “We really intended to stay together.”
Like their own sound, the band members\’ taste in music is unique. The inspiration they draw does not reside in just one genre, but flows over a broad range of classifications. “I’ve always prided myself in having a really broad taste in music and I have to say this is the first and longest running band I’ve been in, in which everyone else is equally as broad in their tastes,” Kennington said.
While they haven’t released an album in about two years, the group is getting ready to rectify that. They’re currently in the studio in Ann Arbor putting the finishing touches on their new project. They’ll be releasing Compass Rose Bouquet on June 12 this year. “We recorded it in a record six months, which may be long for some other bands but I think the shortest we’ve ever taken for a record is about 12 months,” Tim Monger said.
Back in May 2006, the band visited the original Motown town for the Detroit Music Awards held at the State Theater. They were nominated for “Outstanding Alternative/Indie Artist/Group,” and even though they didn’t win, they were honored to have the recognition. “We donned our suits and sat at a table by ourselves and watched people schmooze and watched our guitarist hump an inflatable Heineken bottle, so it was just fun, and it was bizarre,” Kennington said.
The group has a lot of love for Michigan’s big city. “Detroit has been really great,” McClintock said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the bigger venues there, like the Magic Stick.”
Outside the music sector of their lives (which is a pretty big portion), they all take on different hobbies and jobs. “I went through good bird-watching phase; I still have my binoculars and my little book,” Monger said. “I still do it from time to time, too.”
As for Kennington, “Teachin’ and giggin’, that’s what I do. I don’t consider my job a real job because it’s so much fun.” Kennington gives music lessons and works in four or five other bands along with GLMS.
As musicians first and foremost, the band is the priority. They withstood adversity and encountered the prospect of imploding as a band, but they stuck together and plan on continuing to do so. Say what you will about them, the Great Lakes Myth Society is an entity of great sounds, great musicians and great friends.
“I always say I am the salmon and GLMS is my net,\” said McClintock. \”They’ve caught me.\”

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Best You\’ve Never Heard: Jen Sygit

[jen]There’s something about folk-roots artist Jen Sygit that draws people to her. It might be her sinuous harmonies that will make you tap your foot and nod your head. It could be the gripping lyrics about the truth of love, life and everything in between. Maybe it’s the many instruments that find their way into her music, including guitar (both acoustic and electric), banjo ukulele, accordion and dobro.
Or it could simply be how expertly she and her music work together. She’s only been performing since the release of her first album, Here to There, in 2003, but music has been in her blood since childhood. “My mother tells me that I would grab whatever instrument was lying around and given a few minutes, I would start picking out melodies,” Sygit said via e-mail.
Sygit’s music has come a long way from picking up instruments as a tyke. “With my first album, my classical training was more evident, especially in my voice and I think I was really just emulating the music I was listening to at the time. With my new album, I’ve sort of started to figure out my voice and style,” she said. “Now instead of emulating other music, I let it inspire and influence what I’m writing.”
The guitar is Sygit’s main instrument, and she has favorite ways to play it. “I play my guitar both with and without a pick. You get totally different sounds from your fingers than you do from a piece of plastic, but both have their places,” she said. The first band she ever played in was called ‘Omni,’ and she played electric guitar. “I’ve moved on to play more acoustic music, but I still love rocking out.”
Her music draws insight from country, indie, folk and classical music. “I am definitely influenced by country music, especially classic country. Janis Joplin and I have the same birthday, so I guess I always feel like we’re somehow cosmically linked,” Sygit said.
Her ideas also come from artists such as Greg Brown, Tom Waits, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Todd Snider, Ray LaMontagne, Gary Jules, and Ryan Adams – a killer setlist for any genre lover.
Sygit, however, isn’t necessarily living the alluring life of the rock stars she looks up to. “Most of my touring is around Michigan because that is where I’m the most well-known,\” she said. \”I’ve played shows in 11 states, mostly around the Midwest and east coast. I don’t make a lot of money and I don’t lead a glamorous lifestyle. I get to travel and that can be fun, but the reality of soaring gas prices, long hours alone in the car and sleeping on floors and couches can make the road a hard place to be.”
Performing at new places is as exciting for Sygit as warm apple pie. “I’m always excited to play in new places in front of new audiences. I enjoy connecting with the many communities I visit and educating them about the other types of music out there that aren’t in the main stream – music that I think many people wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise,” she said.[main]
Folk roots is an interesting genre of music for her to put herself into, but it fits like a glove. Rock n\’ roll lyrics and melodies seep into her songs, and even some blues and contemporary ride on the back of the main genre line. It’s all mixed together in a satisfying blend.
“It’s hard, I think, for artists to classify ourselves because we all want to be original, but if I had to choose a genre, I think I would say folk roots. I’m a songwriter, but I also mix a lot of blues, jazz and old-time music into my live shows,” Sygit said.
Music is the path Sygit has chosen for herself, but it wasn’t the only one she considered. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from MSU with a cognate in advertising.
She does most of her performances solo, but she also works with Laura Bates in a duo they call ‘Calamity Jane.’ “Laura and I have been friends for years now. I met her when she used to play with and write songs for a bluegrass band called ‘Hot Toe Mitty,’” Sygit said. Sygit also works with a backing band called ‘Spare Change’ with three other equally experimental artists. “I typically play with Spare Change at festivals or larger venues that can afford to pay a full band.”
Sygit does not consider herself to be famous, but her fans give her enough support to start her on the road to fame. “I get contacted daily by fans – usually through e-mail, but sometimes people will stop me when I’m shopping or getting coffee and tell me how much they enjoy my music.”
Every artist has encounters with crazy fans, and Sygit has her own story to tell. “My favorite story was when I met a little girl named Irene at a music festival I appeared at in northern Michigan. She asked me who I was and I told her I was Jen Sygit. I must have looked sorta bedraggled from my drive, because the little girl told me that there was ‘another Jen Sygit coming to the festival and that she was beautiful.’ I didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted; it still cracks me up to this day.”
Sygit knows there are young independent artists like herself who are struggling through the business themselves, and she recognizes them. It isn’t an easy road in the entertainment industry, and only those who truly have talent, drive, and passion survive. “You know you’re up against these ridiculous odds, but it’s just something that you know you have to do,” Sygit said.
“If you don’t love music you shouldn’t try to make a career of it, because someone who truly loves it will be able to put the amount of effort into it that it takes to succeed. But, if you truly love music then you owe it to yourself try.”

Sygit will be performing in the East Lansing area this month. Every Tuesday night she hosts an open mic night at the Dagwood Tavern in Lansing. She’ll be performing at the Ten Pound Fiddle Coffee Shop in East Lansing on February 22 at 8 p.m. and she’ll appear at Leroy’s in Lansing on February 28 at 9 p.m.

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