The West Michigan band playing the Smiling Acres festival Saturday debuted new music for Local Spins on WYCE, which also premiered tracks by Willamena, Wild Air, John Piatek, Travis Atkinson and more.
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Describing the improvisational, jazz-based mélange of The Deep Stare demands more than the usual two- or three-word categorization.
“We’re definitely trying to push as many boundaries and get rid of as many genre labels as possible,” drummer Andy Szumowski said of the West Michigan-based band aiming to release its debut album later this summer.
Guitarist Travis Swanson calls it “an incorporation of all elements right up to the present moment. I think too often, composers and improvisers get stuck in stylistic periods. For me compositionally, I like so many different genres and so many different styles that I don’t want to get trapped into a box or a label.”
Consequently, this assemblage of musicians has leaned on collaborators such as well-known Grand Rapids rapper Wuzee, Slovenian-born and Brooklyn-based saxophonist Igor Lumpert and former U.S. Air Force musician Andrew Peck of Ypsilanti to create its provocative, genre-melding jazz.
Band members Szumowski, Swanson and bassist Jonathon Muir-Cotton characterize the music as modern instrumental jazz, hip hop and improvised music with elements of bebop, samba, funk, free jazz, rap, rock, balladry and “plenty of the avant garde.”
Formed a few years ago after Szumowski and Swanson met as part of trumpeter Brad Fritcher’s MOODS project, the band recorded its debut album, “Clarity in Chaos,” at Grand Rapids’ Local Legend Recording with owner and engineer Josh Kaufman.
For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, The Deep Stare debuted the tracks “Deep: Spirits of the Earth” (featuring Wuzee) and “Omage to Ralph Peterson.” Scroll down to listen to the tracks and the full radio show podcast.
An “abstract musical journey filled with the sounds of our lives – personal struggles, loneliness and community chaos” that somehow brings “clarity to the experience,” the intricate new album is being produced by Grand Rapids musician Cameron Blake, for whom Szumowski plays drums. The band also plans videos for some of the tracks.
AN ‘ARTISTIC STATEMENT’ UNFURLING ON STAGE AT SMILING ACRES MUSIC FEST
As the band’s main songwriter, Swanson stressed that he wants “the music to be meaningful, too. It’s not just, ‘I’m going to write a bunch of weird, esoteric stuff just to prove I can do it.’ ”
It helps immensely, he said, to have talented musicians who can take this material and run with it.
All of them have the resume for that: Swanson, originally from Marquette, has a master’s in music from the University of Michigan; Szumowski attended Interlochen Arts Academy and Western Michigan University; Muir-Cotton is a product of the Jazz Studies program at Michigan State University.
They’re also all inspired by “the entire history of black American music,” not to mention classical composers, jazz and rap icons, rock, pop, folk and gospel artists.
“Everybody is so fantastic on their instrument and bring their own style,” Swanson said. “The concept is simple: Put everything you like together and then sift through your being and see what comes out.”
Fans can expect to see and hear that same approach when the band performs live, scheduled to take the stage at 6 p.m. Saturday (July 3) as part of the inaugural Smiling Acres Music Festival in Trufant.
“There’s going to be an element of exploration always anytime you come to see us perform,” Swanson said. “I can guarantee it doesn’t sound like anything you’ve heard before.
“It’s not a jam band, it’s not a pop band, it’s not something where we’re trying to appeal to a certain group. It’s an artistic statement and that’s it.”
Learn more about Smiling Acres Music Festival online here.
This week’s episode of Local Spins on WYCE – which spotlights Michigan music at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org – also featured new tracks by Billy Strings, Greta Van Fleet, Willamena, Kamsi, Travis Atkinson, ttypes, Biiko & .Shi, Wild Air and John Piatek & Friends, as well as a classic single by Fauxgrass (this week’s musician’s pick by The Deep Stare). Listen to the full radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (7/2/21)
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