Most jam bands flaunting funky guitar riffs and soulful saxophone solos don’t feature lyrics featuring inward exploration and Joseph Campbell references. But Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers fill this hole in your musical palate you didn’t even know you had.
Producer and bassist Kevin Pritchard heard Hertler through Bigger Brush Media’s Quilted Attic session series in Lansing, where the singer lives. From there, the project took off. Their first album, 2011's On Being, features plenty of banjo and fingerpicking, resembling Hertler’s early solo EPs. It’s obvious the group was just getting its sea legs in terms of crafting the funk-pop sound they finally settled on.
On 2014’s Terra Incognita, the outfit solidified its acoustic-rooted, electric-accented, boogie-jam focus. Standout tracks like “The Garden” and “Future Talk” talk about the necessity of living in the moment and being devoted to those you care about. For the brand new Pluto, electronica has crept into the Rainbow Seekers' sound, but Hertler’s lyricism is still evident on the singles “Lonely” and “Crimson Line."
Hertler’s lyrics come across like Henry David Thoreau meets Passion Pit with their fusing of natural influences and pop rhythm and meter. “Crimson Line” from Pluto is a masterful display of Hertler’s profound connection to the Earth and doesn’t seem like it belongs in a synth-based track. The opening lines, “As staccato mountains rise to meet their morning form / Their peaks ignited while the sun reaches on overboard,” conveyed through Hertler’s soft but funky falsetto, could make a suburbanite worship the natural Earth.
Every Rainbow Seekers show is full of flowery sets, some form of outlandish costume -- multi-colored feather capes and grandpa sweaters -- and good vibes all around. The Rainbow Seekers also like to dip into energy-filled covers, with the Ghostbusters theme sneaking its way into a setlist every now and then.
The Rainbow Seekers will play back-to-back gigs at The Blind Pig Thursday, March 30 and Friday, March 31 to celebrate the release of Pluto.
In an email interview with Pulp, Hertler spoke about his songwriting process, Pluto, and who he would like to grab lunch with.
Stef Chura's debut studio album, Messes, is a guided trip through her metamorphosis as an artist, from bedroom folkie to budding indie-rock star. Some tracks reflect the image of Chura recording her earlier lo-fi cassettes, while others cast you into a dimly-lit house show in Ypsi. But “Slow Motion” and “Faded Heart” are tighter and more powerful than her earlier works and have the potential to shoot Chura into bigger venues, such as her recently announced spot on Detroit’s Mo Pop Music Festival lineup at the end of July.
Messes, which came out January 27 on Urinal Cake Records, is a culmination of Chura’s best songs over many years of performing and writing, which is why it sounds so diverse. The LP’s album art -- a collage of liquid makeup, sprinkles, spiderwebs, and a waffle -- is testimony to the album’s capacity to switch from “fingerpicky” (an adjective Chura chose to tag her album on her Bandcamp page, such as the Joni Mitchell-goes-electric "Human Being," to uptempo alternative jams, such as "Spotted Gold."
Her emotive, slurring vocals and introspective lyrics reflect classic poetic influences infused with '90s punk movements such as Riot Grrl. Lines like “You'll be looking at a depression in the sand / At the silhouette of an unfolded hand” from “Slow Motion” sound as if they came from the pen of Walt Whitman, while “Spotted Gold” has a lyric -- “You've been reckless for so long / You've been reckless on a marathon / But if you wanted to walk away / You can do that” -- that evokes Bikini Kill.
We talked to Chura about her LP, the influence of the Ann Arbor-Ypsi music scene on the now Detroit-based artist, getting kicked out of boarding school, and more. You can also stream Messes in its entirety.