As summertime comes to an end, August has just arrived.
The new Grand Rapids band made its debut in June at Creston Brewery with an album release. The band’s name and music alike are inspired by the transition from summer to fall, moving through different periods of life.
While dealing with those changes together, the bandmates said they just want to be happy with what they produce and continue to put on awesome shows. The five members of the band — Olivia Vargas, Bailey Budnik, Theresa Redmond, Michael Pierce and William Wright — are all past and present Aquinas College students who found one another through a shared love and passion for music.
The bandmates couldn’t get along better, producing just as much laughter as they do fun soul-pop tunes. They’re all good friends who share a love of performing music as well as a cookbook, which they call the “flavor bible.”
They came together through jazz camps, the lounge in the Art and Music Center on campus, being roommates, and band and choir classes. When the band started two years ago, its original name was Tabula Rasa.
It’s a Latin phrase meaning “blank slate,” as many of the band’s songs were inspired by growing, changing and starting a new period of life.
However, while it was a great name with a great meaning, they realized people had trouble remembering it. So Vargas came up with August last year, and the group loved it.
“Other than being more marketable, August is the end of summer and the beginning of fall. It’s a transitional period, and a lot of songs are about that change and growing, so we went in that direction,” Vargas said.
She adds that it was a “very nostalgic month” for her and always has been. With a new name, the band set out to create a great album.
Just like the name, classifying exactly what the band makes was difficult. They eventually settled on the concept of “soul-pop.” While all members favor different styles of music — from indie to metal to classical — those differences come together to create an eclectic soul-pop fusion.
“The thing is, a lot of us come from different backgrounds and have different styles and like different genres,” Vargas said. “Even if it is a bunch of different things, it mixes together really well.”
Vargas writes the vocals for the band, then works with other members on instrumentals and background vocals. They’ve called themselves “perfectionists” when it comes to working on their songs, in and out of the studio.
After two years, one spent in the studio, August now has an album, Bloom, produced by River City Studios LLC. The album features 11 original songs, with the underlying theme of growth. The band ended up being extremely lucky, having a friend, Koty Schoenberg, at River City to work with them throughout the year.
“At River City, it’s really comfortable. To work with someone you’re friends with and you’re comfortable with is so cool,” Vargas said. “We were real perfectionists about it, honestly. It took us a whole year to record it. He dealt with our perfectionist tendencies really well and he’s really patient.”
Working with a friend took a lot of stress off their shoulders, allowing the band to focus on just making great music. Plus, working slowly on the album is a solid learning experience.
“I think every time you do something, like making two different albums, it isn’t going to be the same thing. Doing it the first time is going to school on it, and the second time is actually doing it,” Budnik said.
For now, you can catch August touring the west and northern parts of Michigan. One event the band is particularly excited to perform at is the Willowsong Festival in Sidney on August 24. The members hope to “make it” in the music world, but all with different end goals.
For Vargas, she has long dreamed of performing at the Frederik Meijer Gardens or the Arc in Ann Arbor. For Budnik and Pierce, they both hope to perform at the House of Blues in Chicago, but for now Budnik would love to play at Bell’s Brewery. Wright hopes to someday play in the Bottom Lounge in Chicago. Redmond is aiming for something a little bigger, saying “anywhere in New York really” will do it for her.
When asked what the band’s overall goal is, Vargas put it simply: “To be successful, which has a lot of different meanings. Make money, make good music, make something you’re really proud of.”
Aug. 5: Tip Top Residency, Grand Rapids
Aug. 10: The Livery, Benton Harbor
Aug. 12: Tip Top Residency, Grand Rapids
Aug. 17: The Workshop, Traverse City
Aug. 24: Willowsong Festival, Sidney
Aug. 26: Tip Top Residency, Grand Rapids