With prog-rock and alt-rock hues, Bradley Self’s Igby Iris has delved into lush, bracing musical territory for seven years. The band’s new lineup plays Jake’s Music Festival at Wealthy Theatre on Saturday. (Video, podcast)
Credit Aerosmith’s 1975 album, “Toys in the Attic,” for changing Bradley Self’s life.
As a boy – long before founding the Grand Rapids rock band Igby Iris in 2006 – Self stumbled across a cassette tape of the classic recording that his father had hidden away.
Although he’d later also find strong influences in the music of Pink Floyd, Queen, Tool, T. Rex and David Bowie, the Grand Rapids-area musician and songwriter’s vocation and passion was sparked by this discovery, eventually leading him to release three full-length albums and an EP as frontman for Igby Iris, earning radio airplay, kudos for the band’s ambitious live shows, even a solo tour last year in France.
With a dynamic, wide-ranging voice and compelling lyrics, Self’s dark-yet-melodic, prog-rock-hued music with Igby Iris covers a lot of territory, an approach reinvigorated recently by a new lineup for the group: Papa Vegas and White Rabbit guitarist Pete Dunning, Screaming Tribesmen bassist Robert Wackley, keyboard player John Neil, drummer Jeremy Gish and vocalist Nikki Johnson.
On Wednesday, Self and Dunning brought a stripped-down version of Igby Iris into the studios of News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW) for my Local Spins Live segment, delivering a riveting rendition of the song, “The Bottom.” Listen to a podcast of the show here and check out a video of that performance below.
Self, who this year plans to refashion songs for a long-anticipated album, “The Ocean,” with his new bandmates, described the revised lineup as “a new machine,” “a new journey,” “a new frontier,” “turning-over-a-new-leaf kind of thing” and “a bigger bang,” sparked by this association with some veteran musicians.
“There’s no limit to what we’re doing,” he said.
JAMMING FOR JAKE’S MUSIC FESTIVAL
Igby Iris will uncork that fresh presentation on Saturday night – Dunning called it “an hour of power” – as a headliner for Jake’s Music Festival, an annual benefit for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation that this year features seven diverse West Michigan acts at Wealthy Theatre, 1130 Wealthy St. SE.
The festival begins at 7 p.m. with the Last Call Band and continues with Lynn Thompson (7:45 p.m.), The Nick Stevenson Band (8 p.m.), Otis Blueswell Jr. (8:45 p.m.), Simien the Whale (9 p.m.), Jared Wekenman (9:45) and Igby Iris (10 p.m.) Admission is free, but donations to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation will be encouraged, with a silent auction of merchandise also part of the evening’s offerings. Get details online at the festival’s website.
Self, who started on drums at age 5 and now plays a host of instruments, including guitar and keyboards, said the band plans to play “a little bit of old, some new. We’re just excited to get up there and put on a good show.”
The singer and songwriter conceded it’s sometimes difficult replicating the lush, layered sounds featured on his recordings in a live setting. “It’s always a struggle. I hear more than what we can do and if you put too much in there it gets out of control,” he said. “You have to find that middle ground.”
He’s doing that now with Dunning, a guitarist he met 11 years ago during a Tuesday night jam session. Self started playing drums in Dunning’s White Rabbit cover band and, last fall, Dunning returned the favor by joining Igby Iris.
But Self also has found success as a solo artist, touring France last year with The Screaming Tribesmen, an Australian-bred punk-rock/garage-rock band from the ’80s which reformed a couple of years ago.
“It was a new experience,” Self acknowledged. “I was actually pretty well-received. They (French audiences) were very, very nice and did what I liked pretty much. Their (Screaming Tribesmen) crowd really took to me.”
Self, who’s recording his next album at Grand Rapids’ Stone House Recording, also has produced film soundtracks and continues to create widely varied songs that have become an Igby Iris trademark.
“When I started writing music, I was a little bit sad about the fact that I could never write two songs the same,” Self said. “I thought, ‘How am I ever going to write an album that matches?’ It wasn’t until … somebody said, ‘No, that’s a good thing. You can be versatile and get away with it.’ So I said, ‘Ok, fine.’ It’s just part of what I do.”
For more about the band and to purchase its CDs, visit the Igby Iris website.
Copyright 2013, Spins on Music