The ‘rasta funk’ band from the Lansing area made its WYCE debut with a summery performance for a show that also boasted music by Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, Blanca Luz and other regional gems.THE BAND: Speak Easy
THE MUSIC: High-energy reggae and modern funk
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE BAND: 10 p.m. June 17 at New Holland Brewing in Holland; July 1 at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor; July 15 at Mulligan’s Pub in Grand Rapids; July 29 at Unruly Brewing in Muskegon; Aug. 12 at The Stache in Grand Rapids; Aug. 19 at Walk the Beat in Grand Haven
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Lansing-area band Speak Easy describes its reggae-propelled music in a variety of ways.
“We like to call it ‘rasta funk,’ ” suggests keyboard player Nathan Walker.
Guitarist and singer Connor Ralph is, uh, a little more descriptive, quoting a fan of the band: “A shot of adrenaline straight to the cojones, and that’s honestly what I think describes us best. If we show up at an open-mic night, we’re not going to put you to sleep. We’re going to make you leave before we put you to sleep. We’re going to go all the way to the wall and we hope you guys like it.”
Adds drummer Jordan Otto: “We’re passionate about performing and playing, and it’s really nice to be able to get together and really melt some faces.”
Formed about two years ago among musicians attending Michigan State University, this band’s face-melting reggae with a twist has earned an enthusiastic fan base while exuding that rare sort of musical camaraderie sparked by close friendships.
The band — Ralph, Walker, Otto, guitarist Olin Clark, bassist Joe Vasquez and saxophonist Julian Velasco — also teems with college-trained musicians, including impressive jazz players who split their time in other groups and projects.
“Having a theoretical understanding of music can help … pick up on things faster, and it helps with songwriting and improvising,” says Clark, who recently completed his master’s degree in jazz studies at MSU, fronts his own jazz band and has played with bands such as Vulfpeck and Kim Vi & the Siblings.
But it’s really all about creating memorable musical vibes, no matter the genre.
“I love all kinds of music. I love these guys. These are all my best friends. I love this band,” says Clark. “We all kind of see it as good music and bad music, and just trying to be part of as much good music as we can.”
Speak Easy brought that attitude to this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, performing the songs “Got What You Want” and “This Is What I Believe In” in the radio station’s Studio X. Listen to the full podcast below, along with the band’s official video for “This Is What I Believe In.”
RECORDING A FULL-LENGTH STUDIO ALBUM, PREPARING FOR CROSS-COUNTRY MOVES
Band members insist Michigan’s scene is rife with “good music” and they’re proud to be part of it.
“It’s pretty great,” says Vasquez. “There are a lot of great music schools around the Midwest, so I think a lot of the talented musicians are breaking off these schools and coming and doing their own thing. I think the music scene is exploding, honestly.”
This week’s Local Spins on WYCE appearance served as a warm-up to this weekend’s sessions in a Detroit studio, where members of Speak Easy are starting work on the band’s first full-length album after earlier releasing an EP.
The upcoming new album, titled “Where We Belong,” will be released later this summer — a season during which the band also has booked a hectic slate of shows across the state, including June 17 at New Holland Brewing in Holland, June 23 at Detroit Riverdays festival and July gigs at Mulligan’s Pub in Grand Rapids and Unruly Brewing in Muskegon.
That all precedes a time of transition for the band, with Ralph moving to Seattle and Clark planning to relocate to New York City. Speak Easy, they insist, will march on.
“I’m headed to Seattle and I’m going to keep the dream alive. I’m going to keep playing with Speak Easy,” Ralph declares. “We’re all headed ‘Where We Belong,’ and that’s kind of the idea.”
This week’s episode of Local Spins on WYCE also featured the on-air debut of songs by On the Line, WuZee, Lapdogs and Blanca Luz, plus tracks from Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, Desmond Jones, Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe, Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish and Fable the Poet. Listen to the full podcast here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE with Speak Easy (6/9/17)
VIDEO: Speak Easy, “This Is What I Believe In”
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC