Bad things sometimes happen to good people.
And sometimes good people get together and do something about it. That's the focus of the Home Grown Music Fest, a musical charity benefit for local band, 'Sprout', which recently had all their stage equipment stolen for the second time in a relatively short period of time.
"It was just a feeling that I...not I, WE must do something about it as a community of musicians," said Padraic Ingle an organizer of the benefit.
"At first I didn't know what to think, and then I thought I would help out in anyway that I can," said Mike Wardynski, co-organizer.
And help out they did, by organizing the Home Grown Music Fest presented by Graff Chevrolet, a line-up of ten solid bands from the area coming together for a good cause at the Empire Club in Bay City January 12.
Sprout is a jam-band whose music manages the feat of soaring to elegiac heights and reaching to the lowest of lows without coming off as somber or banal. There is a complete honesty behind all their music, perhaps a leftover from the Grunge era, where vocals like theirs wouldn't seem at all out of place.
The band consists of 4 members: Aarron, Steve, Matt and Doppel. Steve, the drummer, presents as an unassuming guy, a guy you could go to the bar with, get a beer, and never end up in an argument.
But then, drummers are usually the peacemakers in any band.
Matt, the bass player, is an earnest fellow, competent and friendly. Doppel plays keys for the band. He's a jocular, brash sort of guy, the type of guy you can't help but like.
And then there's Aarron. Aarron is the talkative, yet intense, vocalist and lead guitarist for Sprout. He comes off as pragmatic and serious, a man who's seen the light through his band's travails, and now approaches things with purpose and quiet dignity. I caught up with Sprout and in a series of interviews.
We talked about the past, the present, cover bands...and karma.
JT: Describe how you felt when you first found out your gear was stolen.
Steve: we lost the PA and all the lighting, and a bunch of stuff we'd been working on gathering for a while...initially, disbelief, y'know, how does this happen again? It was hard to believe, just ridiculous.
Doppel: (sarcastic laughing) ha...ha...ha...a lot of 4 letter words come to mind, man. I'm hoping that karma will catch up to those guys.
Matt: I thought it was somebody messing with us...some kind of joke. But then when we saw the busted lock, we didn't know what to think.
Aarron: I was really...kinda' just in shock. 'Oh, the gear just got stolen again.' It doesn't hit home until you play a show. Luckily we had our instruments and amps. Our next show was in Grand Rapids, and they had a PA and light system, so we didn't need it.
JT: And this was the second time...
Matt: Yeah. Luckily our instruments weren't in there. Still it was 10-15 grand in crap. Karma will come for whoever took it and bite them in the ass.
Aarron: Both times we lost, as much in value, except everything is new. We don't...get paid...everybody thinks 'Oh, you're a musician, you live the easy life'', but we don't get paid. I have a boy (a child screams in the background)...and we put everything into the equipment.
JT: That's difficult, to lose everything again.
Aarron: Every time we start to get to a good place, we get kicked down again. So we lost all of that. The more we've gone (on) the tighter we've gotten. [pause] Then it all gets taken. [pause] We'll keep going and getting strong.
JT: So...could you sum up 2007 for Sprout in a few sentences?
Steve: Overall it was a good year. We did some good networking with other jam bands in Michigan, like Covert Ops and Ultraviolet Hippo, just to name a few. We played a lot of shows and some great festivals. The album got pushed back, but maybe we're just getting picky
Aarron: Well, ah...we did a Pink Floyd Show. Still haven't been able to get our album out. We're a live show band; you're going to get a good show, a new show every time. A lot of people label us a hippie band, and then come out to see us; the proof is in the pudding...they shouldn't speak until they taste the pudding, because the pudding is good. We're music lovers, we write positive music.
Doppel: Oh man....2007 was a great year, we met a lot of awesome bands. We've been together 6 or 7 years and now we're meeting a lot of great musicians in Michigan.
Matt: We should've had the album done.
JT: What's up with the album?
Matt: The guy that was working on it closed up shop and moved out west. He had a studio in Coleman. There's still a little mixing to be done.
JT: Any projected release date?
Matt: Uhmmm, February. Around Valentine's day. [sarcasm] That would be 'lovely'.
JT: Where do you see Sprout in 2008?
Steve: [laughs] Probably still in Saginaw, doing the same thing. The album will come out, and hopefully this will propel us to a new level in our career and draw attention from a music label. I've thought of moving, musically its not the best area for an original band, but in terms of friends, this is home, and we have a lot of great friends here.
Matt: Uhmmm, playing everywhere and anywhere that wants us. Hopefully tour and make millions of dollars.
JT: That's optimistic.
Matt: Yeah. We're going to be the next hot MTV band. [sarcasm] Yeah, RIGHT.
Doppel: Getting back on the horse...getting all our gear back and doing shows. 'Whatever doesn't kill us, makes us stronger'.
JT: I've heard that before.
Doppel: I think its true...just a second, the nurse is here to check on the baby...
And Doppel goes on to tell me that he's still at the hospital, that he and his girlfriend just had a baby, Jonas. He sounds flush with the excitement of new fatherhood, and all the lack of sleep and exhaustion that this entails.
Doppel: Yeah, my girlfriend, she's a trooper. She had contractions six minutes apart before the New Years show we did, and she *still* made it to part of the show. We were the first people on the ward at covenant, got there at about five a.m., but with the 12 hours of labor...we didn't have the first baby in Saginaw in 2008.
JT: 12 hours? She IS a trooper!
JT: Aarron? Where do you see Sprout in 2008?
Aarron: Hopefully with a brand new P.A.! [laughs]. ...and well into a second album.
JT: You don't have your first album out yet...right?
Aarron: Not yet. We will. Its taken a lot longer than I'd hoped, but it will be out, really really soon. You don't want to release something just to release it, but I just really want it out. It's ready to go.
JT: What's the album called?
Aarron: "When the Silence Breaks". It's the last lyrics on the album.
JT: Is it an instrumental?
Aarron: No, no, it's just the last lyrics on the last song on the album. Also, part of the meaning of it is just...you know...finally getting the album out.
JT: I spoke with Doppel about doing covers, and he said, "No, Aarron would go crazy."
Aarron: To me--as a musician, people want to hear the same songs. For me to be happy, I have to play music I like. I do a solo thing; I do some covers, more than I would with Sprout. We're under appreciated for covers--
JT: Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating for more covers or cover bands--
Aarron: No, no. We do 'Lets Get It On', we do 'Rappers Delight', the Doors, and we do a lot of popular cover songs. We do it to get people's attention.
JT: With all the adversity that Sprout has faced, I've noticed a lot of harmony between the band mates. You all are on the same page. Do you think it's brought anything to the music?
Aarron: We've persevered and it's definitely brought us tighter as a band. It's probably why we've had so many members. Sometimes people can't hang. Like when Brian left. We're 4 pieces now, before we were...scattered. We all had way different, conflicting ideas. We didn't have a PA, weren't trying to get a PA, and weren't getting anywhere. As a 4 piece we all knew what we wanted to do. Lets get a PA. Lets think about the show. We applied sense...
JT: You applied business sense...
Aarron: We didn't really have anyone to tell us what to do, or how to do it. We weren't responsible.
JT: And now you are.
Aarron: Yes. It's an ongoing thing that never stops. We're humble. We network with other bands. There's nothing better than making friends in the music world, and that's how things happen. And there are great people, because they're just like us. Of course, there are some bad people, too, just like anything. [pause] I'd just like to find out who did it. Maybe they did it the last time. Maybe we could get some stuff back.
JT: How would you characterize Sprout's sound and philosophy?
Doppel: We all really love music and want to play it for the rest of our lives together. We have fun and it shows in our music.
JT: And how is that different from the cover bands that inundate the area?
Doppel: We definitely focus on our original music and our original songs. I mean...you always get some guy that screams out 'FREEBIRD', and we try to incorporate covers we like from time to time, but we're an original band and we play originals. Sure, we don't get as much money as we want, or as many shows as we want but...
JT: It's your commitment
Doppel: Right. Besides, [pauses] Aarron would freak out. We like writing and performing originals.
Steve: Our music is something a casual fan hasn't heard before. A lot of it's due to Aaron's writing style, the way he writes and arranges. We're all really deeply connected to music, and if they're an open-minded music go-er, we can enthrall them.
JT: Describe how you felt when you first heard a benefit for Sprout was being organized.
Aarron: well...ah...I kind of figured people would do it.
JT: Oh yeah?
Aarron: Not to sound...we just have good friends and I kind of figured people would band together and do that. We come to their shows, they come to ours. There's a tight music community in the area now.
Matt: It's amazing that Mick and Mike arranged something like that so soon. We've got good camaraderie with the bands around us, and its great they don't want to see that crap go down. People care about us and there is a lot of love...which is good. We'd do the same for anyone, and, as it turns out, they'd do it for us.
Steve: We love the friends that we have, grateful to have the abundance of great friends we have. It made me feel (when we lost our gear) ''is this a song we should give up?' but after seeing the response of our friends, it gives us a sense of purpose to us, to our friends, to the Sprout 'family'.
Doppel: Blown away by how much Mike has done. It shows how many great friends we have, all the bands that have come together, and the camaraderie. It's a good feeling to know our friends are there for us.
JT: I've heard that you like to help out bands just starting out.
Doppel: Yeah, we split shows and things like that, you've gotta'...you've gotta' help out.
JT: Is there anything you'd like to say to or about the bands that will be playing the Home Grown Music Fest?
Doppel: I'd like to do both, actually. I'm just grateful that they're stepping up, and I'm blown away. Anyone who pays five dollars for the show is getting an insane amount of awesome musicians for that price. Any one of those bands could charge five times that amount for just themselves.
Steve: Its absolutely wonderful. A lot of great friends and great bands. It amazes me how much talent there is in the area, and at the same time, usually in bands there's some sort of rivalry between bands, but here, everyone is happy to watch everyone else as much the other. It's a great experience.
Matt: Uhh...There's not enough thanks and gratitude that can be given to everybody for their love and support. There's not enough gratitude that can be given. [pause] It's freakin' awesome!
Aarron: I know that there are a lot of good bands. You don't want to miss a minute of it. A huge range of music, a full course meal of music. I'm happy and just want to say, on behalf of Sprout, 'Thank You'.
JT: Oh...one last thing...do you believe in karma?
Doppel: I suppose...
Aarron: Ahmmm...yeah. What goes around comes around. I don't know why it came around to us. Maybe something good will come out of it in the long run.
Steve: I definitely believe in karma, but at the same time, it makes me wonder...were we doing something we weren't supposed to be doing for this to originally to have happened to us again? I don't know.
Matt: Somewhat. What goes around, comes around...of course, that wouldn't make any sense as to why our trailer got stolen in the first place. Sometimes it's hard to fathom why bad things happen to good people. Sometimes its hard to understand how something good can come out of hardship, how the total effect of a person's actions and conduct can determine someone's destiny.
But its nice to see a group of local musicians take a cause to heart. Maybe something good can come from this band's adversity.
The Home Grown Music Fest will occur January 12, 2008 at The Empire Club, 1201 Washington Avenue. Doors open at 3 p.m. Tickets are $5.00 before the show or $7.00 at the door. Call 989-324-0181. Tickets are also available at Graff Chevrolet on Wilder Road in Bay City and the Saginaw location of Guitar Center.
9th February, 2024