Lansing, Michigan is becoming known for musical talent all across the Midwest and the nation. Off The Ledge, is just another name on a very long list of successful artists to come out of the Lansing area.
Off The Ledge is making a splash in the Lansing music industry because of their unique sound. When asked to describe the band’s musical sound, a few words didn’t seem to be enough. “Very broad ranging from bluegrass and folk sounds to jazz and blues to hard rock. Most simply put, funky, folky, blues influenced alterna-rock jazziness. But definitely not jazzy, funky, alterna-rock, blues influenced folkiness. That would just be ridiculous,” said members of Off The Ledge.
I had the chance to interview Off The Ledge. We discussed everything from what musical influences the members channel to how social media has changed the way musicians can reach fans. The entire interview with Off The Ledge is below.
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C: When did Off The Ledge come together?
O: Hailing from Lansing MI, the band started under the original monicker of The Hair Of The Dog in October of 2012. After a few months of trying out members, finding our sound and playing some small gigs, we kicked off 2013 with a new band name; Off The Ledge. A finalized line up and our first studio recording were soon to follow. The origin of our band, however, has a speckled history. While living in the small town of Grand Ledge, Tab Wakley was booking shows for his ska band Falling Forward (2001-2004) and often invited Matthew Shannon to open as a solo act. Although they recognized each other’s musical prowess, they certainly hadn’t had any notion of forming a band yet. Their biggest ambition was making each other laugh, and in some respects, it still is.
In 2012, Tab invited Matthew to co-teach a children’s music program he was teaching at Elderly Instruments in Old Town Lansing. After one of these classes, Matthew and Tab were jamming a bit and got into a conversation about use of modes and other music theory mumbo jumbo and Matthew said, “Tab, we need to start a band”. In the meantime, Tab was teaching Ian Wallace (Chico) how to play upright bass at LCC. At his behest, Matthew sat in on some teaching sessions. Matthew and Tab performed for a short period of time as a duo playing 4 hour cover gigs at some local bars until they started to write some originals and decided they needed to start a full band. With Chico on bass and finally Kevin Herbert (Chip) on the drums, the righteous birth of our band came to fruition.
C: What would you consider to be some of your most notable music influences at a younger age?
Tab: Grew up with oldies bands like Credence Clear Water Revival, Chicago, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughn. The blues, in general, is my biggest influence from Muddy Waters to the Allman Brothers. I love blues guitar.
Chico: At a younger age, I was influenced more from a heavy rock genre with bands like Alice In Chains and Queens Of The Stone Age. I still pretty much pull from the same influences but now I tend to want to add a little more “groove” into it. With the bass, there’s gots ta be some stank on it.
Matthew: Dave Matthews Band has certainly been my main influence, but I also grew up with a lot of Neil Young, Pearl Jam, Harry Nilson, The Black Crowes, Creedance Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd. Some grunge, mixed with folk, mixed with classic rock. Dave Matthews came along in high school, and Nickel Creek, the Avett Brothers, and the Decemberists were soon to follow.
Chip: When I was younger, I used to be obsessed with the Beatles. As i got older though, I started getting into bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush, Hendrix. I also have been influenced by a wide variety of genres, from Albert King and the blues, to experimental bands like the Mars Volta, to jam bands like Phish, Umphreys Mcgee, and the String Cheese Incident. Early Incubus would also be on that list.
C: Off The Ledge in a few words, how would you describe the band’s musical sound?
O:Very broad ranging from bluegrass and folk sounds to jazz and blues to hard rock. Most simply put, funky, folky, blues influenced alterna-rock jazziness. But definitely not jazzy, funky, alterna-rock, blues influenced folkiness. That would just be ridiculous.
C: What musical influences do you pull from when you are performing or writing music?
O: All of us grew up rocking to 90s bands which we pay homage to with our selection of covers, but additionally we all listen to a very broad range of music. Dave Mathews and Jack White are the 2 biggest influences influencing our writing. When we write, we try to pull from each of our individual influences. When we perform however, I think we pull from each other. The carving of a song into something memorable is achieved by pulling from an amalgamation of the music we grew up with, but the presentation of that song relies on all of us, communicating, relating, indeed pulling from each other.
C: Off The Ledge has gained quite a large following in the Midwest, what was the process of coming up in the industry like?
T: The band has only been together for 3 months now. In spite of that short start up time, our music has been well received and we have already turned down several show offers due to conflicting schedules; it’s good to be busy. Our first single, “Masquerade” was played on The Impact 88.9 fm two days after being recorded. The secret is networking and good old fashioned hard work.
C: How would you guys as a band describe the Midwest music scene?
T: Over saturated with bands and lacking venues. A general disinterest in live music from the general public is plaguing the scene. Everybody and there brother has a band nowadays and anyone with an iPad can record an album. As a result, there are loads of generic bands everywhere you look. Also, in some respects, the rise of the internet has hurt the live music scene. YouTube allows you to see any bands live show from the comfort of your home, so why go out and pay money to see bands? In general, music fans are over stimulated and not encouraged to participate in the local scene.
C: How do you all as a band feel social media has helped and will continue to help your career?
T: Social media is huge. I (Tab) was recently blocked from posting anything on Facebook for 60 days because I spam links to our bands’ video and audio in every possible avenue. Hence, our quick development of a following and our current level of exposure. A week after our first show, I heard from a complete stranger at a local record shop that he had heard good things about us from multiple people. We can attribute most of our success so far to Facebook marketing. We don’t get twitter though.
C: What does the future of the band hold?
T: 2013 goals include a full length album, a live unplugged DVD showing off our folkish side, Michigan college radio airplay, and hopefully lots of great shows. We are hoping to get in on some of the many Michigan festivals this summer. Honestly, we just want to play, and especially, we want to play for all of you.