Turn It Down: A Survey of Lansing's musical landscape
|By Rich Tupica|
Small Houses’ debut album “Our Dusking Sound” combines delicate vocal melodies with indie-folk guitars and a poetic lyric sheet that echoes the life and interests of its sole songwriter, Jeremy Quentin.
The record will be released Saturday, Feb. 27 at (Scene) Metrospace in East Lansing.
The album’s title track opens the record with a huge, indie-folk explosion and gallops along gracefully with the help of an array of local musicians, including Donny Brown, drummer for the Verve Pipe.
Other tracks on “Our Dusking Sound,” which will be released by Good Time Gang Records, are stripped-down, acoustic folk tunes that span from upbeat and lyrically playful to minimal and melancholy.
Quentin, 22, is a former member of the Lansing group Head and Toe, who recently parted ways after Quentin and his band mate, violinist Brett McDowell, both moved out of state.
Quentin landed at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he spends his weekdays in class and weekends playing shows. While Quentin may be in a larger city, he said it’s hard to compare it to the tight music community in Lansing.
“It’s hard for me to leave Lansing where I had so much, where I could work with all the venues and artists,” he said. “Every folk musician in Michigan I knew. Those are the kids I’d hang out with and play shows with all the time. When I came out here, I just didn’t have that.”
Music has been a huge part of his life since he was 5 years old, when he was growing up in Flint, where he began studying classical piano. By age 12, Quentin said he was getting into punk bands like Rancid, Black Flag and Operation Ivy.
Even in his punk days, acoustic songwriters were still prevalent in his life.
“All the time that I liked punk, still my favorite albums of all time were Paul Simon records,” Quentin recalled. “Then I started playing the guitar when I was 17 years old, I got an acoustic guitar, and it’s just what came out. There was always Paul Simon, James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Neil Young — I always had those albums.”
Another side of Quentin’s landscape is musicals.
“When I was younger I was really into ‘Newsies,’ ‘Cats’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera,’“ he said. “When I lived in downtown Flint I’d go to this small theater. I’d either spend my weekends at the punk club or just behind it at this small, local theater seeing whatever local presentation they had going on there.”
Along with Broadway and folk, Quentin said his music is inspired by classic poets and playwrights.
“There is a big Shakespearian influence in the lyrics,” he said. “Especially neo-romantics, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth — people who inspired theater. So there is that, plus an influence of my favorite Michigan folk groups.”
“Our Dusking Sound” features production work by local musician and Lower Peninsula Records owner John Krohn, who engineered and co-produced the album.
“We have recorded three albums together now. This album was a colloboration between John and I. It wasn’t going to be that originally, but it turned into that.”
Quentin said Michigan will always be his home.
“You see a lot of kids going to New York City, San Francisco, Austin, or wherever — I think a lot of them, especially myself, will reject every place and realize Michigan is where they wanted to be all along.”