With Earth Radio’s Justin Avdek playing with three different artists at Friday’s Jammie Awards, Local Spins asked the multi-instrumentalist to reveal albums that have impacted him most.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians can trace their inspiration to key recordings that influenced their careers. Today, writer Ross Boissoneau showcases music that changed the world for Grand Rapids bassist and multi-instrumentalist Justin Avdek of Earth Radio. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of his picks, along with the latest track from Earth Radio and a song of his own.
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Justin Avdek is bassist for Earth Radio, the award-winning, progressive neo-soul band that performs regularly across the region.
But he’s much more than that.
He’s a multi-instrumentalist, handling keyboards, guitar and vocals as well as bass. He’s played with an assemblage of local performers, including Eric Engblade, the Tommy Foster Band, Hannah Rose Graves, Ralston Bowles, Mark Lavengood, Chordis Bell and the Underground Circus, and has released several albums as a solo artist and with other groups.
On Friday for the much-anticipated WYCE Jammie Awards show at The Intersection, he’ll take the stage with no fewer than three other West Michigan artists: Sarena Rae, Cole Hansen and the brand new super-group, Moss Manor. The event begins at 5:45 p.m.
Earth Radio initially formed in 2017. He met Hannah Laine at a wedding and brought keyboardist Dutcher Snedeker into the fold, and eventually drummer David Ward. “We’ve gone through some personnel changes,” he says. “These are the ones doing it going forward.”
The band combines elements of funk, rock, soul and progressive jazz into a musical stew that Avdek admits is hard to pin down. “We’re steeped in many things. As a band we’ve leaned on progressive soul,” he says. “We’ve always struggled with describing our sound.” That makes sense given his breadth of influences, as you’ll see below.
1. Opeth, “Ghost Reveries” (2005) – It’s a Swedish prog-metal band. I was a metalhead for a long time. I’d watch “Headbangers Ball” every Saturday. There was something beautiful about it. I bought the CD for a friend’s birthday, and his mom had already bought it (so he kept it). There are 10-minute songs of light and dark, beautiful and grotesque, even scary Halloween-esque sounds. The first track has haunting guitar, then the heaviest full band metal you’ve ever heard. It stays with you even if you wouldn’t listen to it now – but I do.
Listen: “Ghost of Perdition”
2. Rage Against the Machine, “Rage Against the Machine” (1992) – It’s also heavy. I didn’t believe you could do anything like that. It’s a band that seemed to do everything you wouldn’t do and shouldn’t do and still was successful. The guitars and bass are mixed equally, right together. There’s something beautiful about Tim Commerford’s bass. It was pivotal for me as a bassist: Oh man, I wanna do that.
Listen: “Killing in the Name”
3. D’Angelo, “Black Messiah” (2014) – It’s one of the best in the last 20 years. Every song is so different. The songwriting, textures, it’s so beautiful. It’s one of my favorites of all time.
Listen: “Ain’t That Easy”
Currently Loving: Moses Sumney, “Grae” (2020) – A lot of bands aren’t writing for conceptual albums anymore. It’s for Spotify. They don’t have ups and downs. Moses Sumney does a fantastic job of that. He’ll hit a peak, you just don’t know where it is. It was 20 songs released in two parts.
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Justin Avdek’s Playlist on Spotify
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