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July 2016 - The Red Sea Pedestrians

Pedestrians Travel the Globe in a Sea of Music

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Sarah Spohn

Red Sea PedestriansMandolins, guitars, banjos, clarinets, keyboards, bass, cellos,, violins, and drums. It might sound like an entire music store, but it’s actually Kalamazoo’s own melting pot of worldly influences from six separate musicians.

Together, they form The Red Sea Pedestrians: Ian Gorman (mandolin, guitar, banjo, bass, vocals), Rachel Gorman (clarinet, vocals), Bill Caskey (guitar, keyboards, bass, vocal), Cori Somers (violin, vocal), Cori Somers (violin, vocal). Named after the Monty Python piece, “The Life of Brian,” the band is a unique blend of serious musicianship and quirky playfulness.

“The name also reflects to our musical wanderings. We love to explore and combine different genres, often from different cultures so it in that sense we’re always traveling as well,” Ian said.

The Red Sea Pedestrians just celebrated their tenth anniversary being together, and that’s meant a lot of different sounds over the years. RSP member Ian Gorman (guitar, banjo, mandolin, keys, vocals, recording engineer) discussed the group’s sound.

“It’s really a culmination of many different songwriters with very eclectic tastes,” Ian said. “We’re striving to create something that is unique, so it’s deliberately hard to pin down at times. Because of the instrumentation (featuring clarinet and violin as lead melodic instruments much of the time), one foot is usually in the realm of Klezmer/Gypsy/Jazz, but the interesting thing is that our other foot can travel anywhere: rock, pop, American folk, classical, you name it.”

Having released their fourth studio album, Through the Eyes of Osiris, Red Sea Pedestrians have already received positive reception and airplay on the radio waves. The band is proud of the new material, risks and all.

“I know we took some chances on the new record, and pushed ourselves into some new territory sonically,” Ian said, “but I think our fans are the kind to respect chance-taking and will hopefully be as into it as we are.”

The Pedestrians mainly met on the campus of Western Michigan University.

Red Sea Pedestrians“Rachel, Ben and I all took recording classes and worked at the studio,” Ian said. “Mike, Bill and Cori played music with studio director John Campos. We’ve all known each other for years through the scene, and naturally just started to play music together in different configurations throughout the years. When you’re deep into the recording studio world, you end up working with all kinds of people all the time on different projects, so we all knew each other well before formally playing in a band together.”

Utilizing that recording studio experience within the own band’s mastering and mixing allows plenty of room for creative expression with Red Sea Pedestrians material. “We love the studio,” Ian said, “and have worked hard over the decades to build the skills to realize our own creative visions ourselves. Not only is doing something yourself often the best way to get what you want, but it’s terribly fun.”

Ian spoke about the band’s recording process. “It was important to us to center the tunes around the live six-piece band sound, but we are also big fans of studio production, overdubs, effects, etc., so the sky was the limit in terms of creative ideas.”

“However, as often as production means adding things, sometimes production means NOT adding things. It’s good to keep contrast in mind. So there some songs on Osiris that are very built up and layered, and others that are basically the six of us playing together like we do live.”

While Ian grew up on classic albums and singer-songwriter legends like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, and Janis Joplin, every band member brings along something different. Ian recalled some of his earliest music memories.

“Instead of ghost stories, like a typical kid, I had ‘Paul is Dead.’ I remember, very young, putting on ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ late at night, and getting all by the ‘I buried Paul’ hidden deep in the fade out.”

Just as The Red Sea Pedestrians bring a variety of musical influences like American roots, rock, klezmer, gypsy, classical, jazz, as a collective vibe to the band, they’re also part of a larger Michigan network of musicians. The band is a member of the Earthwork Music Collective, a network of independent musicians valuing environmentalism, social justice, activism, community and creativity.

See Through the Eyes of Osiris Album CoverIan has been involved with the collective for over a decade. He spoke about the relationship. “As a recording engineer, I’ve had the pleasure of working on many Earthwork releases over the years,” he said. “This is a collection of prolific and wildly creative musicians that I’ve looked up to for a long time, and getting to work with (and eventually become close friends with) many of them is an incredible gift. Especially working in the studio with people you admire, where you’re given a very rare window into their creative process. I’ve learned so much!”

With the band’s home base in Kalamazoo, they’ve been able to play at some ideal Michigan music festivals including Cooper’s Glenn, Wheatland, Blissfest, Hoxeyville, and the Buttermilk Jamboree. Performing live at a variety of venues is perhaps one of the band’s favorite parts.

It’s Michigan music festivals, the collaborative Earthwork Collective and community that makes this “self-contained variety show” happy to be a part of the mitten state. “We can play a lot of different kinds of shows, to a lot of different kinds of audiences,” Ian said. “Sometimes it’s a rollicking late-night dance party. Sometime’s it a picnic-blanket style, kids-running-around outdoor concert-in-the-park. Sometimes it’s an intimate show to a seated, listening crowd. Really, we feed off the audience and the venue, and that dictates what the experience is like.”


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