Shearwater wsg Death Vessel, Jesca Hoop
The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids
March 28, 8 p.m.
For Jonathan Meiburg, lead singer and songwriter for Shearwater, choosing a career as a rock musician over a lifelong commitment to academia has paid off. While he may look the part of someone who holds a master's degree in geography and specializes in ornithology (the study of birds), Meiburg's truest passion is for music.
"I turned in my master's thesis the same day I left for my first European tour, and I spent six years on a two-year degree because I kept spending my student loan money on traveling," said Meiburg, who is now a member of two bands, Shearwater and Okkervil River.
The decision to continue his musical career wasn't as much of a risk, according to Meiburg.
"Academia isn't any more certain as a career path than rock and roll. It's actually more stable than academia."
But his love for birds did crossover to Shearwater, which gets the name from a tribe of sea birds known for migrating long distances. The band began in 1999, shortly after Meiburg and collaborator Will Sheff founded Okkervil River. The group's 2001 debut album, Dissolving Room, grew out of an attempt to make a record in a day using a four track tape recorder. After nine albums, the band has toured with more than a few artists that inspire them.
"Touring is a very strange way to live, and it makes the world seem temporary because everything you see is basically gone in five minutes," Meiburg said. "You're most stable when you are performing. It's like that movie Groundhog Day, we wake up and do the same thing all over again."
The camaraderie between touring bands is chronicled in 2013's Fellow Travelers, consisting solely of cover songs borrowed from the repertoire of artists they have toured with.
The collaborative spirit present on the album carries over to live shows, where Jesca Hoop, one of the artists covered on the album, opens and sings backup with the band.
Curerntly on tour, Shearwater will play at The Pyramid Scheme for the first time, a venue which should be a perfect fit.
"Theatres dampen the energy," Meiburg said. "I like venues where people are free to enjoy the show however they want to."