The Blind Pig isn’t known for being a quiet venue, yet on a Wednesday night in early November, the normally loud, boisterous venue is dead silent.
Actually, it was just as wild as ever until a moment earlier when the opener, Kylee Phillips, a young woman with a powerful voice, told the crowd that the Gravity Club was finally coming on stage. Through two warm-up acts, both very talented, the crowd has drank, shouted at one another over the music, and laughed noisily. But this news has finally shut them up, if only for a moment.
As everyone waits in quiet anticipation, the band climbs onstage. After a brief set-up, they start in with their introduction, sort of the indie folk equivalent of an overture. The sound of their instruments melds together in a gorgeous harmony that sets the bar for the rest of the night; the smooth soprano sax somehow blends seamlessly with the violin’s melody with the deep, sweet undercurrent of bass and guitar flowing beneath it all. The crowd exhales.
But fewer than 24 hours earlier, when SHIFT checked in with the Gravity Club from their final practice before the concert, things weren’t quite as polished. Lovely sounds emit from a brightly lit practice room in the Music School. Then they stop. Then start again. Then stop. Bassist Karl Heitman starts playing, then Avery Bruni joins him on violin. Everything is great. Guitarist and singer Jake LeMond comes in after a moment, joined by Joe May on sax. Their drummer, Todd Watts, is out of town. It seems like they’re close to something great. But after a minute, they cut it off. That’s perfectionism for you. “We’re trying to combine all our songs and instruments into one,” they explained. Sounds easy, right?
While any last-minute practice before a big show is hectic, to say the least, the band seems remarkably composed. But there’s a sense of anticipation in the air, combined with both nervousness and exhaustion. “I’ve been dying,” Bruni said. After all, they did just finish editing their album. Bruni, who did all the editing over the course of many a late night, wants a two-week break.
But this album, “A Faint Impression,” has been a long time coming. After playing together for years, recording several tracks for Soundcloud, and recording a music video with SHIFT last winter, the Gravity Club was finally ready to take the next step. In early 2015 they made an informal agreement with Empty Mug Records, the new university organization dedicated to promoting local music. Though nothing was cut and dry, they decided to take the leap and start recording. “Basically we were operating on the honor system for six months,” May explained. But still, it was helpful to have a distinct goal to work towards. “We set the release date before we were even done,” he added. “Our band functions on deadlines.”
The band continued recording throughout this fall, and their commitment finally paid off when they officially signed with Empty Mug in late September. To be precise, on the “day of the supermoon,” as the band helpfully pointed out. Now that the partnership is on paper, Empty Mug provides them with support, publicity--the whole shebang. They connected the band with album artwork and printed the album itself, along with merchandise and promotional materials.
When SHIFT sees them at this final practice, the Gravity Club hasn’t even seen a physical copy of their own album yet. “I’ve been in bands since I was 17,” LeMond said. “And I’ve never released anything.”
But along with this excitement comes a whole new level of expectation and uncertainty. Focused on the next day’s concert, the band expressed both confidence and misgivings. This is their first headline show--they are the main event at a major venue, something every band dreams of. Yet at that point, they have no idea how many people will show up on a cold Wednesday night to come see them. The excitement was prolonged despite the uncertainty of the evening. “We’re gonna sound the best we’ve ever sounded,” LeMond said. “This is kind of a big show for us.”
Flash forward a night, back to the Blind Pig, and these worries dissipate. The turnout is great, and the band, as they hoped, really does sound as good as it ever has. It was an unforgettable live debut that speaks well for the success of the album.
But the question remains: what next? After working towards a distant, concrete goal for so long, what happens once it has been achieved? “I’m going to Disneyworld,” Heitman joked. “Actually, we’re probably just gonna go to bed.” After all, with all the whirlwind of the past few weeks, anyone would need a break.
At the same time though, there is more pressure than ever to push the album while it is still fresh in people’s minds. “Because we’ve just released it, it’s almost like there’s a deadline to promote it,” May explained. The group needs to take advantage of the momentum they have now to get more exposure online, play more live shows, and get more airtime on local radio.
The end goal is simple for now: getting their music to reach as many people as possible and hoping that it will have a desirable impact. As the guys have watched their friends’ high school and college bands fall apart, they’ve become more convinced than ever of their own commitment to music. “This isn’t just about us getting together and hanging out,” May said. “We’re motivated and goal-oriented; we really want to make something of ourselves through the Gravity Club.”
This has always been a serious venture, one that they hope will help them develop careers in this rewarding, tough field they love. “So hopefully, this album will open doors,” LeMond said. And if it doesn’t? He laughs. “Then... at least we can use it to pick the lock.”