Grand Ledge bluesy funk rock band debuts new album, “Wherever We Land”
Story by Sarah Spohn, WLNZ 89.7
Everything you ever loved about ’90s music is back, and better than ever. I’m not talking about the sugary pop teenagers like Brittney or Christina, I mean the grunge — the good stuff. The songs that were in their prime during the time, when alternative music made waves on the mainstream airwaves. You know, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Dave Matthews Band, the list goes on. So get in your time machine, and add Grand Ledge’s own Off The Ledge to that nostalgic ’90s list of great bands.
Self described as a bluesy funk rock band, Off The Ledge is comprised of Matthew Shannon (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Tab Wakley (lead guitar and backing vocals), Chip Herbert (drums), and Steve Langlois (bass).
Off the Ledge is no stranger to WLNZ. The band has performed on the Grand River Radio Diner and has filmed a session for the new, upcoming televised series, The Grand River Studio Sessions. Stay tuned for those! We recently spoke with Off the Ledge, just days before their big “Wherever We Land” album release show at Lansing’s Mac’s Bar.
WLNZ: Off The Ledge, first off the bat, your name has got to be a word play on the small town of Grand Ledge, yes? Are you all from there?
Off the Ledge (OTL): The founding members of the band were from Grand Ledge and we wanted to come up with a band name that paid some sort of homage to our Michigan roots. And Off The Ledge was the first idea we came up with that wasn’t completely cheesy sounding, so we stuck with that.
You’ve described your band’s sound as bluesy funk rock, heavily influenced by Dave Matthews Band and Jack White. When you write songs, is that a conscious influence? Do you notice the songs resembling those by the aforementioned artists? Or are those artists just your musical heroes?
OTL: Those are totally unconscious influences we don’t set out to sound like any particular artist ever. We simply have strong roots in blues-based rock and funky alternative, so those sounds come out in several of the songs on our album. We all have so many different musical heroes and yes, Dave Matthews and Led Zeppelin or Jack White are large influences on the guitar work on the album.
Off The Ledge is comprised of four people with a wide variety of musical backgrounds getting together to make music.The album tells that story from the bluegrass folk inspired “Who You Are” to “Asylum,” which is our homage to the ‘90s grunge bands we grew up with. When you listen to “Dragonfly” and “Masquerade,” it is easy to hear the strong Dave Mathews influence in the bands’ writing. “Overhaul” has an influence of Led Zeppelin that is undeniable.
All the members of the band have some sort of formal music training ranging from band and choir experience to having actual music degrees so that plays in a role in the way we write and sound as well.
This is your first debut album from Off the Ledge, titled “Wherever We Land.” But you all have been in bands before, right? How did Off the Ledge come to be?
OTL: Matthew and Tab were friends in high school and Matthew used to open for Tab’s band Falling Forward back in those days, but Matthew and Tab had never jammed together until recent years when Tab was teaching a children’s music class at a local music store. He asked Matt to join him as his sidekick for this adventure and upon getting together and playing some music we concluded that we would complement each other very nicely in a band.
I read that you recorded with Ryan Wert from Elm Street Recording Studio. I’ve met Ryan before. He’s a great guy. What was it like to work with him in the studio? How long did it take to record “Wherever We Land?”
OTL: Working with Ryan at Elm Street Studios was a blast and a great experience for all of us. Ryan does high-quality professional work at an affordable price. Going to his studio is like walking into a big-time record label studio; set up with soundproof rooms and a lot of impressive high-end equipment. It definitely gives you the feeling of being a real band –recording and a real studio, which is exactly what it is and the finished product reflects that.
Ryan is about the easiest guy in the world to get along with and although he doesn’t necessarily fancy himself a producer, I think he does a really good job leading a band down the right path and suggesting re-doing a track for the sake of improving the overall quality of the end product and not inserting his own personal tastes along the way. He tries to keep the project true to what the band wants it to sound like, but helps them do it the best they can and he isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re doing something poorly. Ryan has become a good personal friend of the band and has also invited us to do stuff like his annual Art Attack festival that he puts on in Reo Town. We can’t say enough good things about Ryan.
Given the name of the debut record, “Wherever We Land,” it sounds like your band is just about game for anything. I recently saw you at the Waterfront Bar & Grill at the City Market. Your setlist, despite being hours long, kept rockin’ all night… definitely full of surprises. I remember a Katy Perry cover, along with one from the Blues Traveler and some reminiscing ‘90s songs. You all even invited a harmonica player up to play with you guys. How do you all approach music, and live shows? Is it just ‘anything goes?’
OTL: It totally depends on the show we’ve done lots of original shows where we split time up with other bands and play a half hour to 45 minutes of original music. We also have done four hour cover gigs and other various gigs with nontraditional instrumentation. For example, we played at the Reo Town pub and other places where we have done unplugged gigs.We have done other similar stripped-down, less rock ‘n’ roll versions of our songs.
We definitely like to mix it up and do songs from all areas and all genres and sometimes we take songs and play them in the genre completely opposite of what they normally are played in. We love to jam and improvise even though I wouldn’t call us a jam band by the traditional sense of the phrase. We do take risks and experiment and improvise in our live shows. Sometimes we even make up songs on the spot just for the fun of it. A new thing that we’re getting into is inviting guest musicians to sit in with us. There’s something fun just spontaneously making music with people — you never know what’s going to happen and that’s kind of what our albums all about. “Wherever we Land means” we’re just going to see where this whole project takes us and wherever we land we’re going to have fun doing it.
What can concert-goers expect at your record release show at Mac’s Bar this Saturday, August 23?
OTL: We’re gonna play some rowdy rock ‘n roll music and throw in some funky danceable covers. The show should be pretty packed out and we should have quite the active crowd. We have also a few special things planned for the evening but don’t typically happen at our shows. Also the other bands that are playing with us are all phenomenally talented and it’s a lineup that I’m very proud to invite people to come enjoy because all the bands are great!
This record release show is all ages. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. The show is at 7 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.macsbar.com/
To stay in the loop of Off The Ledge, you can find more about the band, their music and upcoming shows here: