With a much-ballyhooed debut EP and upcoming shows, Ficus rocked Local Spins on WYCE, which also aired new music by Loren Johnson, Travis McNamara, Spencer Chesnut and more.
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For emerging bands such as psych-rock’s Ficus, some key indicators signal that they’ve arrived as an up-and-coming regional artist.
There’s increased radio airplay at a station like Grand Rapids’ WYCE (88.1 FM), with listeners and programmers paying attention to their latest release – something that even sent Ficus’ self-titled 2022 EP into the Local Spins Hot Top 5 Chart for September and October.
Or, suggests guitarist and singer Blake McWatters, how about when a stranger actually recognizes you in public as a member of the Grand Rapids rock band?
“We’re blown away,” McWatters says of the reception the band has received for its music and performances over the past year.
Inspired by the likes of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Pink Floyd, All Them Witches, Black Moth Super Rainbow and The Beatles, the band – McWatters, bassist Mike Kalinowski, guitarist Benjamin Graham, keyboardist Michael Failing and drummer Nick Johnson – already is eyeing a full-length, follow-up album while honing its robust live shows.
Failing, a guitarist by training, concedes band members do a lot of “goofing around” while having a blast during their lively performances.
“We’re all such great friends, like it’s actually hard to practice sometimes because we just want to hang out and I think that really manifests on stage,” says McWatters, a graduate of Rockford High School and University of Michigan who works at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
“We love being together, we love making music, creating art. The whole experience is incredibly collaborative, so just being on stage, it’s what we do best.”
That collaboration extends to the progressive psych-rock band’s songwriting, in which all members have a hand, as well as the varied musical influences each musician leans on – from ambient post-rock to doom metal to classic rock.
“Just anything that we enjoy, I think a lot of us try to put that into what we’re doing,” says Failing, a Grand Ledge High School and Kalamazoo Community College alum who also propels the Secret Sound Lab solo project. “There’s a lot of self-discovery.”
A VIDEO PREMIERE AND AN ‘INSANE’ UPCOMING PYRAMID SCHEME SHOW
This week’s episode of Local Spins on WYCE spotlighted two tracks from the band’s 2022 EP – “Mirage” and “Samsara” – with today’s Local Spins Artist Spotlight premiering the video for “Asteroid Blues” that was recorded at Dogtown Studio in Grand Rapids.
Watch the video here and scroll down to listen to the radio show podcast. Two more Dogtown videos and live tracks officially get released on Jan. 20.
VIDEO: “Asteroid Blues,” Ficus (Live at Dogtown Studio)
For the band’s debut EP, Ficus recorded songs in Johnson’s basement, with Kalinowski mixing the tracks.
“It has a raw, lo-fi aesthetic that we love,” says Failing, noting the band also plans to release a new single on Feb. 3 that was recorded at Upstairs, Man Studios in Lowell.
As for upcoming live performances, Ficus has a hectic 2023 schedule, starting with an elaborate Feb. 11 show at The Pyramid Scheme with Carbon Decoy, Levitator and Overdrive Orchestra also the bill, along with “live visuals” by Super Nuclear.
“That show will be insane,” McWatters insists, adding that the band has booked shows “pretty much into mid-summer already.”
Other upcoming Grand Rapids appearances include Feb. 24 at The Stray and March 3 at Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill.
Beyond showcasing Ficus, the Jan. 13 edition of Local Spins on WYCE — which spotlights local and regional music at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org — featured new music from Loren Johnson, Superego, Spencer Chesnut (this week’s musician’s pick by Ficus), Travis McNamara, Pink Sky, Sophia McIntosh, Adrian Wright, Sarena Rae, Billy Strings, C.A.R.Ma Quartet and Last Gasp Collective. Listen to the full radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (1/13/23)
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