All Things Summer Art Fair

July 16, 2013

Get to Know Your Captain, Ivory

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Written by: iSPY Team
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Captain Ivory_group shot

We caught up with one of our featured artists at this year’s Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair iSPY Magazine Stage, Captain Ivory. Get to know this up and coming band on the move in SE Michigan!

Tell us a little about your band. How did you guys get together? How long ago did you form?
Well, to start, Jayson and I grew up in a small suburb of Detroit where music was not as prevalent in the town as one would expect. Detroit Rock City stays primarily in Detroit if you know what I’m saying. We began writing music together because we found out we had a shared love for Rock ‘n’ Roll. We moved up to Mt. Pleasant together to attend Central Michigan University, but later realized that the town has absolutely no music scene, which caused us to develop cabin fever and eventually ended up back home.

Robbie and I attended a study abroad trip together through Eastern Michigan University. I was there to learn about art and history and Robbie was studying Italian films, but inevitably took the full trip next year. I ended up drinking fine wine and chasing girls, but I learned a little bit too. When Robbie returned from the trip we got in touch and traveled to Nashville for a long weekend trip. We played verbal ping-pong with what we wanted in a band and eventually brought Jayson into the mix because of his phenomenal voice .I arranged a meeting for them to meet and everything went swimmingly. The two bonded immediately on a music level. What Jayson lacks, Robbie excels and vice versa.
Alex was Robbie’s silent roommate during the summer of 2012, which is when we formed. He had his own little gig playing cover songs with a pretty good band. It turns out he can play almost any instrument he touches so we asked him if he wanted to jam with us. He asked what instrument and we told him bass, but we needed a drummer in the meantime. For about a month we played without a bass player. Our gigs were pretty small. We played like family parties and barbecues and stuff like that. After a month of having ½ of a rhythm section, we realized its hard to play with no bass. That’s where Justin came into play.

Justin was the drummer for a band called White Shag. They are a fairly popular Detroit three piece or something like that. I don’t really follow them personally. Not really my bag. Justin was looking for a band to play with and we were close. It worked out perfectly. He was only a block or so away from our practice space and he had a great kit to begin with. It turned out that he had the skill to back it up. Interestingly enough, we found him on craigslist. He is not a murderer. Thankfully.

Captain Ivory from gbs detroit on Vimeo.

Who all is in the band and what all do they do?

I [Steve] am the piano and organ player for the band. I also play some percussion and scribble some lyrics down here and there. Robbie is mainly lead guitar, lap guitar, and backing vocals. He and Jayson will switch back and forth in their responsibilities on the guitar though. He is also the marketing guy. If it wasn’t for this magnificent man we would have nothing to show for our band. The rest of the band, minus Justin, are mentally incapable of following up on our social networking prowess. Alex is the bass player and he contributes backing vocals. As I said earlier, he played on the drums at the start of this endeavor. Jayson is the lead singer and, usually, rhythm guitarist, but as I said he and Robbie will switch the duties around occasionally. He also throws some lyrics around as well. Justin is the drummer and contributes a great deal to the marketing aspect of things as well.

Together, we have a very collective agreement on how things work. We each have our role and we do that role well. Some of us have past experience and some do not. What one of us lacks the other can assist and vice versa. It’s a great brotherhood of friends from different backgrounds who came together to have some fun and do what we love to do in life.
Did you always know that you wanted to create music? When did you get started making music/what was your musical background?

I can’t speak for the rest of the band. Well, I probably could, but I will leave that for another time. My father was a drummer back in the 80’s for some popular Detroit bands. He played at some pretty notable venues [Blondie’s, Harpo’s, St. Andrew’s Hall] and he established himself throughout southeast Michigan, but he handed it in for family life. Honorable personal decision. Anyways, I used to sit on his lap and play the drums with him in my spare time while I was a plumber by day. I guess I developed a solid sense of rhythm through these experiences. I remember listening to old records with fairly simple drum beats and just playing along. I could not reach the bass pedals or the hi-hat so my pops would control the floor area. This process went on from about age 3-6 and then I got into sports until I was about 17. Inevitably, because of my interest in plumbing and engineering I pursued my early dreams of plumbing and pipe fitting. Although I was always into music and I was always dissecting songs instead of just hearing it, I was actually plumbing for 1-877-DRPIPES with my headphones on. What I mean by that is fairly simple. While studying music as I plumbed pipes and unclogged drains, I'd find out where the notable records were made, who produced the record, who played what instrument, what other projects have the musicians been apart of, what equipment they used . . . I became obsessed with music and realized that perhaps being a plumber wasn't my calling. When I was 17 I began to play guitar. I just learned the basics [chords, notes, scales]. It was a great experience to develop my ear and thankfully I had a previous training sense of rhythm. After about a year of playing the guitar, I began to write songs. Some of the songs were pretty good, but a majority of them were atrocious. Coincidentally, this process enabled me to encounter two of my favorite my future endeavors: piano and writing. I would use the piano to figure out melodies and then later to actually write songs. There was something about the piano being laid out in front of me that connected with me. As a child I read a lot and used to read the lyrics to older songs to guess what the songs were about. Just a childhood hobby. Kind of dumb. Eventually, this lead to my trek to musical nirvana. I discovered the blues, rhythm & blues, soul, jazz and how they lead to rock ‘n’ roll. It was a beautiful experience that made me the player I am today. Eventually I left my well paying job as a plumber at drpipes.com and pursued music full time. Don't get me wrong, I still love plumbing to this day and in a lot of ways, I am still a plumber at heart. But music is my calling and I know that now.

Answered by Captain Ivory’s lead singer and co-guitarist, Jayson Traver
Explain your songwriting process. Does just one person write the songs? Is it a collaborative effort? Does the music or lyrics usually come first? What inspires you?
We don’t really have a set process as far as songwriting goes. I don’t like having a definite approach to the matter, as I feel that it can be restrictive at times. In some cases though, a riff or melody will work its way into my consciousness. I then walk around like a crazy person humming it until it’s tattooed into my brain. Afterwords, I generally make my way to the six track recorder in my room where I hash out the skeleton of the song. If I think the rest of the guys will like it, I’ll bring that idea to practice. It is there where we will jam on it for a while so each member can present some ideas until we find a sound that we can commit to. We also make it a point to come up with a couple of off the cuff jams at the beginning of every practice, usually for the sake of warming up. Quite a few of these jams however have progressed over time into full fledged songs. So everyone is involved in the songwriting process to some extent, depending on the song. We have all, individually, planted the seeds at one time or another, but only together have we sewed them. We are very democratic that way.

The music usually presents itself first and foremost. I prefer it that way, because the melody and key tonality help to lead the direction of the lyrics. Steve and I will generally listen to the instrumental version of a proposed song and then discuss how the song makes us feel or what it makes us think of. In the end, I think all songwriters are slaves to the songs themselves. Some lyrical ideas just fit, while others tend to feel a bit too forced. We usually draw inspiration from personal experiences, friends experiences, politics, and/or philosophies. As the singer, I also have to account for the the flow of the words themselves, or phrasing. I believe that the phrasing can be the difference between a sub par song and a great song. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it and when.

Who are some musical acts that you look up to that may have an influence on your music?
As a band, we draw from a wide variety of influences. We all share a passion for blues, classic rock, singer songwriter, jazz, southern rock, metal, funk, grunge, reggae, R&B, art rock, progressive rock, and indie rock music. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Van Morrison, the Doors, the Mars Volta, Neil Young, Soundgarden, James Brown, Les Paul, Chet Baker, Beck, Queens of the Stone Age, the Arctic Monkeys, Jimi Hendrix, My Morning Jacket, Alice in Chains, the Strokes, Jethro Tull, and Ray Lamontagne have really inspired me personally. We all have quite eclectic tastes.

Answered by Captain Ivory’s lead guitarist, Robbie Bolog
Where have you guys played thus far?
From the very beginning our motto has been “go big or go home.” Not only is this reflected in the music, but also our tour schedule over the past year. We’re not quite at the point of touring full time, but we’ve been able to play a ton of cities around Michigan, and have started developing a great following in Indianapolis. Some notable opportunities include partnering with Livenation Detroit for shows at the Shelter in Detroit, and our single-release party at St. Andrew’s Hall at the end of July, multiple visits to the famed Rathskeller restaurant in Indianapolis, kicking off this year’s Honky Tonk Throwdown IV in Detroit, and playing this year’s Ton Up Motorcycle festival in Indianapolis. We were also one of 20 bands chosen for the finals of a contest to open for Bon Jovi at Ford Field. While we didn’t win, we were humbled by the level of support we received from our fans. We have some of the coolest fans around!

What is on the horizon for your band? What are some of your upcoming future goals?
Our immediate focus is a big single release party we’re throwing with Livenation at St. Andrew’s hall in Detroit on July 26th. Tickets are free on our website, CaptainIvory.com, and we’ll be giving away the two singles for free to everyone who attends the show.

The singles will be our first two fully produced songs, recorded at the fantastic GBS Studios in Detroit. They’ll be up on iTunes, Spotify, and all of the other places music is found these days, and we’re excited to get some new material out there!

The other big show this summer is in Indianapolis, playing with the Nashville-based rock band, Modoc. That show is sort of the culmination of our continued involvement in Indianapolis, since our first visit back in December. We’ve had the chance to make some really great friendships and are excited to be part of such a great show.

We’re working towards touring full time as soon as possible, and are putting together a week long tour in October that will take us to some new areas around the midwest. Part of that tour will be playing down in Nashville, and I’m hoping the rest of the guys fall in love with the city like I have. Many people don’t realize how great the rock n’ roll scene is down there, and we’re discussing shifting the Captain Ivory camp down to Nashville sometime next year. Great stuff ahead!

What inspired your band name?
Picking a band name is probably the hardest part of starting a band these days. The sheer volume of bands out there has made it virtually impossible to find something that’s original but still memorable. That said, somehow Captain Ivory came up in conversation one day and we sort of just ran with it. The name lead to a pretty cool logo design, and has been well received by most folks. I think it’s easy for people to remember, but is still unique enough to make you stop and give it a second look. That second look can make or break a band these days, so it’s served us well.

Answered by Captain Ivory’s Drummer, Justin Leiter
What are you looking forward to most about playing at the art fair?
I’ve been going to the art fair ever since I was a little kid. I remember seeing live music then, and it blew me away. So this really hits home for me. Having the chance to contribute to the art fair now, and maybe inspire someone, really brings it full circle.

What music have you released so far and where can fans find/buy it?
We have a live EP for sale now, that we recorded in Detroit through Groovebox Studios. You can purchase that through our website, captainivory.com or at our shows. We also partnered with Groovebox Studios again to record two new singles “Six Minutes to Midnight” and “False Remedy”, that we’ll be releasing July 26th. Our single release show will be held at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit and is being put on by Livenation. Tickets to that show are FREE! which you can order through our website. Those two singles will be available on iTunes, Spotify, and all of the other music services by the end of July.

Answered by Captain Ivory’s bassist, Alex Patten
What’s one hobby that you have or something you like to do that may surprise fans?
We here at Captain Ivory have a multitude of special talents that you wouldn’t necessarily know about from watching us on stage. ? of the band can juggle pretty well. Sometimes during practice we will take a big bag of tennis balls and take a 5 min juggling break.
We have accomplished cooks, film editors, salesmen, athletes, you name it. Oh yeah we play music too.

Anything else you’d like to tell fans or anything we forgot to ask?
Yes I play a bass ukulele. No I didn’t build it myself. Yes you may touch the strings.

About the Author

iSPY Team
iSPY Team
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