Featured Artist of the Month
I’m not alone in believing that music is a great connector. Sitting in the audience, or my car listening to soulful instrumentals or lyrics that speak to me is something I’m truly thankful for.
This month’s LowellArts Featured Artist, August (the band) has me thinking about connections. For the most part this five-piece soul-pop band started in the music department at Aquinas College. That makes sense, a bunch of talented students coming together to play. What’s remarkable and gives August something exceptional is the relationship that these five people have. They each prefer different styles of music, from classical to indie to metal. Yet, they come together and create their own unique and amazing sound. You need to check them out. Bloom, their debut album released in 2019 earned two nominations for WYCE Jammy Awards. They didn’t stop there.
August is Olivia Vargas on lead vocals and keys, Marissa Peak singing backing vocals, William Wright on bass, Michael Pierce on guitar and Bailey Budnik on drums. They pay the bills by directing choir, music therapy sessions, selling real estate, teaching middle school band, and accounting among other things. They appreciate each other, like to laugh together, and still get the job done. As a fan of music, I often wonder how it all comes together. Here’s some of how they answered the question, “could you describe what each of you brings to the band?”
Bailey – Besides drumming, Bailey brings contagious excitement and comic relief. William shared that Bailey has an uncanny ability to connect to people.” Bailey also brings audio and tech knowledge to the group. He mixed and mastered their sophomore album, Through the Looking Glass released in 2022.
Olivia – The band leader. Michael described her as “everything in this band! She writes most of the songs and lyrics … handles all the business.” William added, “I think we all have to be a little vulnerable in the process of making music, but Olivia has to be the most vulnerable. Almost all of our songs are textually part of her which is scary for me to think about.”
Marissa – The newest member of the band. Michael appreciates the emotion she brings to the stage,” along with “soulful riffs and great tone!” More than one band member noted her sense of positivity. Bailey mentioned, “great soaring harmonies”.
William – Brings energy to the stage, that and honest feedback. Marissa summed it up by sharing, “Will is the quiet observer … great at pointing out small details that can make our balance and sound that much better.”
Michael – On guitar. “He is passionate about pushing us to grow in whatever we create.” Olivia shared, “Michael is the Jack of all trades and the man of ideas.” Bailey credits Michael with bringing “creative riffs and stank to our sound.”
Take time to listen to their music. One of my favorites and also one of Michael’s who enjoys the more “in your face … rock and roll” tunes, is “Pretend” from Chaos and Comfort, (2020). It starts with the drums, simple and effective. This song begs to be danced to. Shoulders start moving. Further into it comes the chorus with surprising vocal treats. You really get a feel for the soul connection as Olivia lets go and offers up some intense vocals. August takes you on a trip both vocally and instrumentally.
I wondered about the energy on stage. Olivia shared, “I think the energy changes from show to show, but we are always just grateful to be on stage making music. If you ever watch us, you know the rhythm section is where all the fun is happening. Most likely you will find William and Bailey dancing around and making jokes in the back. Maybe you’ll catch Michael whipping his hair around in a guitar solo or Marissa and I locking eyes to catch secret cues. For me, the feeling of playing to a crowd who are really listening and enjoying is unbeatable. I live for that energy and count the days until I can feel it next.”
Three of them have been playing together since 2017, when Olivia shared she talked Bailey, William, and a couple others into playing at her junior recital. “I consider that recital … to be our first performance as a band. I have some video from that concert, and it makes me both embarrassed and proud to watch. We were so young and still finding our voices on our instruments.” Michael joined the band in the summer of 2018. (Bailey, Michael, and Olivia also played in a band called Conrad Shock & the Noise throughout college.) Marissa Peak joined August in the spring of 2020.
This is a band that offers up lyrics that you’ll want to pay attention to. Their groove (is that the right word?) is difficult to sit still to - it’s made for dancing! They are excited to be out playing gigs. You can catch August touring the west and northern parts of Michigan.