The popular mid-Michigan band has wrapped up work on its first studio album in years and is eager to be the first act to play 20 Monroe Live. The exclusive Local Spins interview.
The way Joe Hertler sees it, The Rainbow Seekers are “growing up a little bit” while retaining their crowd-pleasing, funky pop aura.
“We’re still who we are. The reason people come to our shows is that we’re ourselves on stage,” said the charismatic guitarist and frontman. “We like to have fun and love to throw a good show.”
That reputation helped land Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers the opening slot for the Feb. 1 debut of Grand Rapids’ 20 Monroe Live featuring Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue – making the popular Lansing band the first act to officially play the stage at the much-talked-about new venue.
“When we realized we’re the first band to play it, it was really cool,” Hertler said of the 2,600-capacity facility being managed by Live Nation next to The B.O.B. in downtown Grand Rapids.
“We’re really honored. I think Grand Rapids is thirsty for a venue like 20 Monroe Live. They (Live Nation) always do a great job and the people in particular that are running 20 Monroe Live are really talented, knowledgeable people in the industry.”
The Michigan band’s high-profile opening slot is just the kickoff to what’s shaping up as a milestone year for Hertler and his Rainbow Seekers: They’re releasing their first new album, “Pluto!,” in more than two years this spring while launching a major U.S. tour. The tour officially gets announced Tuesday, the day before the band’s 20 Monroe Live debut. (Get tickets, $32.50-$39.50, online here.)
MARCH UPDATE: The band plays a headlining show at 20 Monroe Live on Saturday, April 1, with The Legal Immigrants and Less is More. Get tickets and details online here.
SEEKING A NEW LABEL OR INDEPENDENTLY RELEASING THE NEXT ALBUM
Wednesday’s concert comes after the Lansing-based group spent more than a year recording the new album in various studios in Lansing and Ann Arbor, including Hertler’s own home studio.
The follow-up to 2015’s “Terra Incognita” also represents a split with the Bad Mascot record label, and the band is mulling whether to release the new album independently or find another distribution deal.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as well as we had planned,” Hertler said. “We’re shopping around a little bit. We might release it ourselves. I really like owning my own music. If we find a label, we want it to be a healthy relationship. … If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, we’ll still be ourselves and we’ll still release our record.”
Suffice to say, the band is “super excited” about its new songs, and recently finished up work on the first of what Hertler hopes is several videos for the project.
“We kind of dropped the ball on music videos with the last record, like they never came to fruition,” he said. “With this one, we want it to be multi-media and do a lot of videos. We want to have the songs be fully realized.”
Hertler noted the band is in “a really comfortable place,” which aiding the songwriting and creation of the new album. (The band features Hertler, Ryan Hoger, Rick Hale, Micah Bracken, Aaron Stinson and Jason Combs, with Kevin Pritchard on production. Kim Vi also joins the band for “bigger shows.”)
GETTING POSITIVE FEEDBACK ON THE NEW MUSIC WHICH ‘JUST CLICKED’
For the first time, the Rainbow Seekers sought “mass feedback” on the new music from dozens of friends, musicians and producers. The comments were overwhelmingly positive.
“All of a sudden, it just clicked. The vibe was there and it was really cool to see this record come together and become the record we wanted to make,” said Hertler, who conceded he’s “kind of deaf” to the direction of his own music.
“I feel like it’s a little bit more of a mature record, but I feel like the band has this very joyous, celebratory front. It’s how all of our personalities mesh. … It’s a little bit darker, I think, but it still has that shimmer that is the Rainbow Seekers. The songs are a little more thoughtful. There’s a lot more intention with this record. … It became a record that we cared really deeply about.”
Stylistically, band members have always had a tendency to “jump around a bit” – something that enhances their vibrant live shows, which unfurl a “weird, nebulous” stew of funk, pop and rock.
Working with Madison House Inc. for bookings, they’ll take that attitude on the road for that major U.S. tour later this year.
“We disguise ourselves as a jam band (that’s) fully realized in a live sense,” Hertler said. “We just sort of feel like the music that we make allows us to create a more holistic listening experience. You have these darker, brooding songs that sit next to funky pop songs that sit next to the jam elements of the band.
“We can never be one thing.”
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC