If you haven’t already noticed, Grand Rapids has been experiencing somewhat of a renaissance of new and talented local acts lately. Last week I sat down with the up and coming band, Nick Arthur & The Habitat, to talk about their forthcoming debut album. We met in downtown Grand Rapids at the Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge – a basement hangout that reminded me of a time in my life when I was younger and more hip. And although I may have been a bit out of place, this was the perfect setting to meet an ambitious, young band gearing up for big things.
Coming onto the GR scene in the wake of some fantastic rock & roll bands like The Bangups and Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish (a trend that’s long overdue, if you ask me), they’ve showed up with their own style, ready to make moves. The band’s bluesy guitar lines and pop sensibilities, combined with the remarkably versatile voice of singer/guitarist Nick Arthur gives them their own unique rock & roll flavor, and people are definitely taking notice.
Studio time can be nearly impossible to afford for a new band, so Nick Arthur & the Habitat have rolled up their sleeves and taken a DIY approach on their debut. Luckily, the band has an engineer in their midst; bassist Caleb Denman recorded drums for the album at Crossroads Church (where he works as a sound engineer), while guitars and vocals were tracked back at Denman’s home studio. They’ve entrusted their friend, engineer Sam Balk, to handle mixing and mastering duties. Of course splitting things up this way has it’s ups and downs, but it definitely makes for a much more interesting process. Here’s part of my conversation with the guys:
KV: Are you guys finished tracking?
Nick: Yup. We just finished up last night at about 10:45. It’s a pretty crazy feeling, because tracking is always fun for like the first two hours, and then it becomes a chore. Especially when you’re the guitarist and the singer, and you’ve got to sing each song three times.
Scott: Everything that we’ve done so far is my first time doing everything. So as a whole, this is a big learning process and it’s tedious as hell. You’re doing take after take after take, but it’s really cool though.
Nick: It’s really fun for the first two hours!
KV: How are these new songs turning out?
Nick: We like to describe our music as kind of a bastardized blend of blues, soul and pop rock. But it’s so hard to classify it. The opening track of our album has harmonica and teles on it, so it kind of has that pop country sound to it… There’s a song called New Design, it’s the angriest song I’ve ever written. I wrote it after a nasty breakup out in Boston. It’s got this gritty, nasty guitar part – Scott’s got this chuggin’ beat on the drums. It’s like if Stevie Ray Vaugn and Kings of Leon had a kid.
Caleb: I just heard an interview with another band and they said something like, “We’re not a genre. We just listen to music and find something that we really like and make it ours.” We’re our own impression of stuff we really like.
Nick: I was brought up on Stevie Ray Vaugn, Muddy Waters, and Neil Young. Scott’s really into pop punk and so is Caleb.
I like to say that we’re “Blues-influenced Pop Rock”. And I think a lot of people, when they hear “pop” they think Justin Bieber, but the Rolling Stones were considered Pop at one time.
KV: I saw that you’re looking for another guitarist?
Nick: We did the trio thing for a long time. We did a couple tours as a trio. And I’m really big into a full, thick sound. The trio thing is sweet for a lot of different styles of music, but for the direction that I’m trying to take this band in… we want the sound to be really big. We want our sound to punch people in the face – in the right way! We want people to leave being like, “What the fuck just happened to us?”
“I typically write for two guitars. Lately in pop music, it’s not as much [about] the lyrics as it is about the melody and rhythm and the hook. So why not have two hooks going on at the same time?”
I left the coffee shop feeling like I had just talked to a band with the potential to make a name for their selves. The three of them each seemed driven and genuinely excited to be making music (and maybe if you know what you’re doing on the guitar you can try to get in on the action). Nick Arthur & The Habitat are hoping for a summer release date. You can catch them live on June 11th at Quinn & Tuites.
Follow the links below to find all things about Nick Arthur & The Habitat.