Thursday, 27 September 2018 11:32

Over and Out: Grand Rapids electronic-pop duo AØK celebrates the end with one last party

Written by  Eric Mitts
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There’s no easy way to say goodbye. Whether in a relationship, a job or a band, most people can’t find that perfect time to call it quits. 

But in life and music, there’s a secret to exiting on a high note: Always leave them wanting more. 

And that’s exactly what local indie-dance duo AØK intend to do when releasing a new four-song EP, WAVES, at its final show on Oct. 20 at The Pyramid Scheme.

“We’re really proud of these new songs,” AØK guitarist/producer/multi-instrumentalist Kyle Sullivan told Revue. “It’s a way for us to say thank you to everyone that’s helped us along the way and have one more party.”

Sullivan started AØK in 2011 with vocalist Angela Teeple, a.k.a. Angela B. The pair have known each other since attending Traverse City High School back in 2000, but didn’t start playing music together until shortly after college. 

They paid their dues gigging around in a local funk/rock cover band for a few years before writing their own music and exploring what would become AØK.

“It kind of started as an experiment,” Teeple said. “We had never written music together or played with electronic sounds or instruments.”

By the end of 2012, AØK had released its first EP, the five-song party-starting record Tracks. Issued by local Grand Rapids record label Hot Capicola Records, Tracks put AØK on the musical map, and the path to success.

It also brought the duo together with its now longtime friend, manager and Hot Capicola owner Luke Schmidt, who helped the band get its footing in the local music scene.

“For as many venues as there are and opportunities up for grabs, you definitely need to build relationships with people in order to be considered, or even included in the conversation,” Teeple said about AØK finding its place in the GR music community.

After a shaky start with some sparsely attended shows, the band went on to win an ArtPrize music award and book notable gigs, including an opening slot for Canadian indie-pop favorites Tegan & Sara at Frederik Meijer Gardens last summer.

“Starting out, there are so many random gigs, but you start to learn which ones make sense,” Sullivan said. “One of the coolest things has been doing shows with (Flint-based musician/activist) Tunde Olaniran and getting to know him. We are huge fans, so having him support us has been amazing.”

The duo recorded WAVES earlier this year between Grand Rapids and Detroit, including work at Sullivan’s house in Eastown, Planet Sunday Studios in Rockford, and Assemble Sound’s recording studio inside a historic 1872 church in Detroit.

“We got to experience the full beauty of the building during sessions in the coldest week of January when all the pipes were frozen and we had to fight over space heaters,” Sullivan said. “It was awesome!”

Like the band’s previous efforts, the duo wrote all the songs on WAVES, with Sullivan acting as producer. Olaniran helped co-write a couple of the tracks, while producer Jon Zott co-produced, mixed and mastered. Bryan Pope of Detroit indie-rock duo JR JR also added some keyboards and additional production.

“With our first EP, I think we were just scratching the surface and defining our sound,” Teeple said. “This second EP, which had been slowly written over the last few years, is more personal, more meticulous.” 

Influenced early on by artists as different as Prince, Santigold, The Black Keys and Led Zeppelin, both Sullivan and Teeple grew up listening to a lot of blues and rock. 

“But when we first started writing, we were paying more attention to electronic pop and some of the unique sounds and feelings we could stir up,” Teeple said of the band’s sound, which mixes R&B vocals with 808 beats, experimental synths and loud guitars. “It just felt exciting.”

The duo describes the new EP as a little darker than its other material, although still capturing the same level of riff-driven intensity.

“The songs we selected for the EP all have a similar mood to them,” Sullivan said. “They don’t always have a propulsive beat; parts can be more contemplative. There’s definitely a more pronounced low end to the songs that we haven’t had before.  It’s like a late-night drive, or hanging after a night out, but wanting to continue the feeling.”

While the band hasn’t completely ruled out revisiting AØK in the future, the duo currently is devoting more time to their hectic work lives and families. 

Sullivan will keep busy producing and performing alongside his wife Angie in the Irish rock family band The Wild Sullys, and the duo Heartwell. Teeple, meanwhile, will explore other creative outlets.

“We are (still) close friends,” Sullivan said as AØK comes to an end. “Angela stood in my wedding and we hang out a lot outside of music with our families. The time we’ve spent driving to gigs or to record, we’ve really talked through anything.” 


AØK – WAVES EP Release
and Farewell Show
Wsg. Lady Ace Boogie, Lipstick Jodi, Bevlove
The Pyramid Scheme,
68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Oct. 20, 8 p.m., $10

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