Meet Michigan Left−a self-proclaimed psychedelic, garage, indie-rock band out of Southeast Michigan, and right here at UM-Dearborn.
The band is made up of Josh Slater on vocals/guitar, Joe Loudon on guitar, Josiah Rhome on keyboard/guitar, Josh Scott on drums, and Ethan Garcia on bass.
Josh Slater, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, has been playing guitar since he was eight. “I always wanted to have a band, man,” he said in a stereotypical surfer-dude accent. He’d plug his guitar into his Rocksmith video game and “jam it out.”
Realizing how much he loved it, Slater started demoing songs on his computer, and he asked Joe Loudon, a childhood friend, to get involved.
The two met Josiah Rhome in a History of Jazz class. Before their original drummer Seth Huff left for college, he introduced them to Josh Scott. They fell in love with Scott the first time they hung out with him.
Then the guys met Ethan Garcia through Garcia’s older brother.
Garcia had been playing bass for his church, but soon realized he wanted to do more with it. He had also been a fan of Michigan Left, so when they asked him to join, he was stoked.
Slater then taught Rhome some keyboarding basics, and now, according to Slater, Rhome is better than him. “We had a training sesh for a while, we worked on some stuff,” Slater said. “And sure enough, he kicks ass.”
Loudon got interested in guitar by watching “Drake and Josh,” and started having his brother teach him the basics. By the time he was in eighth grade, he started to practice on a more regular basis and Slater would help him out. “Basically everything I know was taught to me by my brother or Josh [Slater],” Loudon said.
Scott grew up surrounded by music−his dad was a rapper and was signed to a record label back in the day. “We obviously had instruments all over the house,” Scott said. “One day [my dad] had me sit in his lap and try to play drums, and I instantly fell in love.”
His lifelong practice shows−Slater called Scott “the prodigy of the band,” and Garcia said that he “blows [his] mind.”
“He integrates so much flavor that we could never integrate if it was up to us,” Slater added.
Their name, Michigan Left, came after much deliberation of other names. “It just kind of came to me randomly,” Slater said. “It was post-driver’s ed, as you can imagine.”
The guys ensured that it is not a political statement, as many people assume. “Some people are like, ‘yea dude, for the people, right?’” Slater said. “We’re just kind of apolitical.”
Writing their own lyrics and creating their own instrumentals, the guys each put their own stamp on every song they play. Slater writes most of the lyrics, which the guys are okay with, partly because some of them don’t actually know the lyrics. “Probably should,” Garcia said with a laugh.
“They’re being nice and just saying that I’m a possessive ass,” Slater responded.
“Josh [Slater] will write most of the material just because he writes riffs and lyrics at an ungodly speed,” Loudon said. Scott will do most of his own drumming work, and Garcia will work in some bass lines.
“But organically,” Loudon said. “It comes from Josh Slater.”
Their music is on iTunes and Spotify, and they credit their friend Richard Rich for assisting with the mixing and helping them get to where they are today. “Richie’s been a great mentor. He was doing us a huge solid,” Slater said.
“We still owe him a good amount [of money],” Scott added with a laugh. Another friend, Sam Lyon, helps them with the overall production.
“He’ll make [the music] butter on toast,” Garcia said. “It’s incredible.”
On April 3rd, Michigan Left played at PJ’s Lager House in Detroit. Joking with each other as they set up their equipment, Slater greeted the crowd with a smile in front of blue and purple string lights and started up the set.
“We are Michigan Left, and we’re here to entertain you.”
Playing some singles as well as songs from their latest album Nothing is to Color, the audience cheered and whistled after every song, and after one song, someone screamed, “encore!”
Throughout the performance, Garcia never stopped smiling. At one point, Loudon jumped what seemed like three feet in the air, and Slater sang like no one was watching. Rhome seemed lost in his own world as he rocked the keyboard and guitar, and Scott’s personality spilled into the beat.
As a group, they said they hope to connect, love and inspire. “We want to share joy with others and show them that hope and creativity are the way forward as human beings,” Slater said. “I just want to connect with as many people as I can.”
“While I’m on stage, I like to put on something that they’ve never heard before,” Garcia said. “Kind of give them life, like a groove. Something memorable.”
Then he added, “even if there’s two people in the crowd, I’m still going to have fun, and I hope they have fun, too.”
When you go to a show, Rhome said, you usually aren’t there for the opening acts, and right now, they’re at that level. “Every time you’re watching an opening act, you’re thinking, ‘are these people worth my time?’” Rhome said. “We want to be worth everyone’s time.”
As they aim to connect with, love and inspire their audience, the connection between the guys is obvious. Scott described them as brothers, which explains how they finish each other’s sentences so often, and Loudon said that being friends makes it easier to work together, even when there’s a disagreement.
“I think we’ve grown a lot in that process. We’re getting better,” Slater said. “I hope I’m getting better!”
Playing together as the group they are now since early 2018, the guys have become close, both as bandmates and as friends. “We got Mexican food last night,” Garcia said with a smile.
“That’s not Mexican, it’s Qdoba,” Scott said. “It’s fast food-exican,” Slater responded, and the band laughed.
They’ve even come up with a family tree of sorts−according to them, Slater is the dad, Loudon is the mom/mailman, Garcia is the son, Rhome is the hipster-grandpa, and Scott is the “punk daughter that doesn’t want to admit she wants to be there.” Slater said they’re like a “warm ‘Full House’ family sitcom.”
While they may be a happy family, their music interests don’t always line up. Ty Segall is someone the guys enjoy listening to, with the exception of jazz-and-Samba-inspired Scott, who wouldn’t stop shaking his head as the group discussed musical inspirations. Garcia also sometimes needs time to warm up to what the others are listening to.
“When Josh [Slater] said this is the general direction we want to go in, I was just like ‘how far do I want to go to be in this band?’” Garcia said, and the band laughed. “Then it led to the point where I was like, ‘I kind of do like this!’”
They also took inspiration from Coldplay for Nothing is to Color, an album that sounds like something that would be played in an Urban Outfitters or a specialty coffee shop.
“That’s the goal,” Garcia said with a laugh. “We all quit the band when we get into Urban Outfitters!”
The album also has some striking album art designed by Rhome, which he described simply as a “rainbow wormhole”−a description which fits the overall aesthetic of the group.
Even if their music tastes and personalities slightly differ, they all agreed on one thing−their future goals. In ten years, they all hope to have families and be surrounded by people they love. However, they agree that money would be nice, too.
“One million dollars,” Rhome said with a laugh.
“I want every dollar printed in the U.S.,” Slater added.
For now, though, they all love being a part of Michigan Left, even with their busy schedules.
“It’s a lot of time to be a part of this band,” Garcia said. “I’m just starting college and everything is stressful, and everyone’s like, ‘if you’re stressed just get rid of another thing.’” Then with a sigh, he said, “but I love it so much.”
“Music has really been my life’s pursuit,” Slater said. “I don’t think that part of me will ever stop.”
They also hope to keep playing together after college. One of Scott’s three long-term goals include making music his main source of income, and the guys said they’re going to keep playing until something stops them.
“I think we’d rather crash and burn than fizzle out,” Loudon said.
“I think that’s definitely the case,” Slater added. “We’re sprinting until we hit a brick wall.”