Michigan in the Mix

The first item in my music collection meets my first interface.

The first item in my music collection meets my first interface.

I guess it was inevitable that I wouldn’t stay where I started. That would be Michigan, my original home state. I can’t explain it, entirely. I just always knew that I would move away and, once I did leave, moving back became less likely. At this point, I’ve lived longer outside of Michigan than I’ve lived in it…but that’s hardly the end of the story. I don’t think where you come from ever really leaves you even if you leave it, so where I started has definitely stayed with me.

Of course, my love of music began in Michigan. How could it not? I have four siblings; we lived in a smallish house. If the stereo was blaring from the bedroom of my two older brothers because they propped up a speaker in the window so that they could listen to music while playing Frisbee in the yard, I could hear it. Hell, the whole neighborhood could hear it. Ah, my brothers’ bedroom. It always smelled a little bit like leftover feet but it was my connection to the outside world via a turntable and a hardy collection of rock vinyl: Queen, The Police, The Clash, Prince, The Who, Blondie and so on. While my brothers were outside, I was inside spending an afternoon singing, “What can I do? All I want is to be next to you,” with Sting and, “I don’t need to fight, to prove I’m right. I don’t need to be forgiven,” with Roger Daltrey. The highlight of my basement bedroom listening sessions, though, was the time I spent belting Queen songs out with Freddie Mercury. I would get lost in all of that power, fanning the flame of my internal rock star. Watching the movie Bohemian Rhapsody recently opened up a floodgate to those happy memories of singing along with Freddie. I can connect my love of belting out songs—songs that are so full of energy that you can practically hold them in your hands—directly to Freddie Mercury. Here’s a link to Queen at Live Aid in 1985 just because it’s awesome.

Things that no longer exist since my sweaty teenage hand held this ticket: concerts sans cameras, $16.50 tix, and, sadly, the  Pontiac Silverdome .

Things that no longer exist since my sweaty teenage hand held this ticket: concerts sans cameras, $16.50 tix, and, sadly, the Pontiac Silverdome.

Of course, Queen, The Who, The Police…these are huge bands, and hardly indie, but they gave me a solid musical base. It was somewhere around the time I discovered U2, again through my brothers’ collection, that I realized there was another world of music removed from the popular airwaves. I’m not sure how but I do know that we were listening to U2 before it hit our local channels because I distinctly remember the first time I heard “Pride (In the Name of Love)” on the radio, already being quite enthralled with U2’s Boy, War, and Live: Under a Blood Red Sky. I thought, “Huh? Why don’t they play the stuff I like on the radio?” Thus, the seeds of my indie music fascination. At some point, my brothers’ taste in music and my own went in different directions; c’est la vie.

Of course, with the Joshua Tree album, U2 became “rocks hottest ticket” for a while there, which only cost $16.50, apparently. I was in high school by then and my musical tastes were evolving and changing, influenced by those around me…luckily, some of the coolest people I know came out my high school. One of those people, Michael O’Connor, brings us full circle to my plum indie pick this month. Mike was a senior when I was a freshman, so to me his stock in cool was quite high and he introduced me to plenty of new music. And now, as I’ve gotten into songwriting and music production, it’s been cool to reconnect with him over shared musical interests. Out of Detroit, Mike has been instrumental in the creation of some great indie music through his band FUR and now with VSTRS. My song pick for this month is FUR’s “Another Satellite” from their Image on the Reverse album, which was released in 2012. Along with O’Connor, FUR is made up of Ryan O'Rourke and Zach Pliska. I like “Another Satellite,” in particular, because it pairs well with my longer runs. It flows through my headphones and creates a moving soundtrack, pushing me along. I like the simmering, multi-layered synths mixed with the megaphone-style vocal effect, which at once is both edgy and easy-going. You don’t have to be running to enjoy “Another Satellite,” however; it’s a welcome addition to any playlist. Give it a listen on SoundCloud, Bandcamp, etc.

Although FUR is no longer together, according to the band’s Facebook page, their songs have appeared in “Showtime's critically acclaimed series Homeland, FOX's The Finder, and Nat Geo's Mountain Movers, as well as the video game Dead Route.” VSTRS, however, are going strong. Check them out!

And a big thanks to my brothers, Freddy Mercury, and Michigan for those early days.