If you look up Conklin, Mich., on Google Maps, you’ll see a post office, Fenian’s Irish Pub and not a whole lot else. Tucked between some utilitarian-looking shops and a dusty grain elevator, Fenian’s isn’t really where you’d peg a celebrated West Michigan synth-pop group to have come to life.
But sure as you’re born, it’s where Matthew Forbush and Dan Hurst began their foray into Alexis.
“We were both working in the area at the time and were frequenting the pub quite, quite regularly,” Forbush said. “We had both had been in different musical projects and were looking to tackle something fresh.”
Forbush, a self-professed megafan of glam and female-fronted ’80s groups, and Hurst, a classical and jazz-minded director of music for a church in Muskegon with a soft spot for “technical nerd metal, hip hop and a little dubstep,” started writing songs and released their first album, The Night, in 2010. That album was followed by Goldstar in 2011.
The duo's first show, Forbush said, was at an art gallery event in Grand Rapids called Destination 1111, which he lined up through a friend in charge of booking.
“The space was perfect for us, since it was an open gallery vibe and I had plenty of space to run around and interact with people passing through,” Forbush said.
If you’ve seen Alexis perform, you’ve experienced the duo’s ebullient stage presence. Forbush, sassy as all hell, dances from corner to corner, with Hurst holding it down behind a tower of synthesizers and his signature Korg DW 8000.
Since then, Alexis has shared the stage with some big names, including Future Islands, Chrome Sparks and the B-52’s. While it’s easy to get caught up in the hype, Forbush said, the most meaningful experiences for the band have been the friendships and relationships they’ve formed.
“Seeing the web of connections between people as you branch further and further out really opens your eyes to how small the world can actually be,” Forbush said. “There really aren’t so many degrees of separation.”
Next month, Alexis will release its third album, Love or Temptation, recorded at River City Studios in Grand Rapids. While previous albums were recorded at Alexis’ home studio and mastered at River City, Forbush and Hurst tackled more of the process in the professional studio this time around.
“We put basic tracks down at our studio but did all vocals, mixing, production and mastering at River City,” Forbush said. “There's just no comparison when it comes to having access to all of those high end microphones and effects. Austin Ruhstorfer and Roy Wallace have gone above and beyond to make sure we have a super high quality product.”
Alexis will play a Love or Temptation release party at Founders on Sept. 20 with Tunde Olaniran, Andre Obin and Millie and Jam. Tickets to the show are $5.
For more information on what Alexis is up to, check out musicofalexis.com.
LOCAL MUSIC NEWS
Earthwork Harvest Gathering, the yearly ritual hosted by the Earthwork Music label, will be held Sept. 19-21 in Lake City. Now in its 13th year, the event hosts around 2,500 people with more than 90 bands scheduled to play on four stages over the weekend, including Red Tail Ring, The Crane Wives, The Go Rounds, Moxieville, The Cornfed Girls and more. Tickets are $50 for kids 13-17 and $80 for adults. There’s free parking, camping and showers, so that rules. There’s also tons of workshops, handmade art and “meditation circles” (sounds heady). All in all, a pretty great time to hang out on a 181-acre working farm and soak in Michigan’s artisanal goodies.
Grand Rapids hardcore outfit Odd Dates kicks off its fall tour across the country on Sept. 4 at Satellite Records in Kalamazoo, with special guests Alex Young and Hey! Rabbit.
Hank Mowery & The Hawktones, the rootsy Grand Rapids blues-rock group that’s been active on the regional blues circuit since the ’90s, will play Founders on Sept. 6 with special guests Lynwood Slim. Check it out to channel some Stevie Ray Vaughan vibes.
Fresh off a national tour, Fly Paper, Kalamazoo’s four-piece blues/folk aficionados, will be bringing their catchy shtick to Bell's Eccentric Cafe on Sept. 19.
A healthy dose of world music always does the soul good. The Michigan Irish Music Festival comes to Muskegon on Sept. 12-14, featuring headliner Gaelic Storm. Fun fact - Gaelic Storm played the steerage band in Titanic - righteous! For ticket information visit michiganirish.org.