Published on December 5th, 2019 | by Marilyn Reles0
Bouncing Off Boundaries With Virtual Rock Band – Ink To Spill
Ink To Spill is an American, coast to coast, virtual rock band. They are almost never in the same place and yet they’ve been highly prolific creating content. Gus Reeves, the face and voice of ITS drives sound from his Music Box on Vashon Island, west of Seattle, delivering soulful vocals and innovative guitar. Ernie Adams drums and percussion deliver a signature sound developed over the years from his world travels with Jazz legends and his University of Illinois at Chicago Professorship. Ryan Behling’s vocals are the sorbet that breaks up their sound whether exploring ‘Eclecticity’ or joining Gus on duets. C’Quil’s (Bob’s) restless mind inspires the melodies and harmonies through demonstrative lyrics. Together, they explore an eclectic sound that bounces off all the boundaries within the alternative rock space, leaving no stone unturned as they examine all aspects of this world.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the band to discuss the inspiration behind their music as well as what keeps them playing together despite the distance! You can listen to their latest track Raging Hormones here.
The name ‘Ink to Spill’ intrigues me – my interpretation is that you’ve got a lot of unsaid words and/or unsung songs that you need to get out into the world. Tell us about your interpretation of the name and how it came about.
Ernie: I interpret the title in the same way. Bob Sauer is quite prolific when it comes to writing lyrics.
C’Quil: It came from a song I wrote about the changing environment in America in early 2017. I was flying home from Chicago after having just spent some time at my music mentor’s daughter’s 21st birthday party with Gus and Ernie. I’m generally a quiet guy and this song was this vehicle that was sort of like ,’Yes, I’m a quiet guy, my tongue doesn’t control me, yet I’ve got a lot to say’. I shared the lyrics with our friend Jim and his immediate reaction was ‘that should be the name of your band’. I responded that I was thinking the same. We had already trademarked ‘The Quills’, but ‘Ink To Spill’ stood out and felt a bit more action-oriented and to the point.
Each track you produce is conceptual; is this intentional and if so, do you find yourselves to be natural storytellers?
C’Quil: For me, what seems the most natural part about it is how Gus flows the lyrics into song. It’s like we have some synapse connection from 3,000 miles away. Like I said, I was the quiet guy in the family, so my story telling had to get done in writing courses. So, chalk one up for public education! It’s true, Raging Hormones was 100% conceptual, intentionally. On the other hand, Blooming in New Orleans stitches together scenes that were very real from my many days and nights in the Big Easy throughout my life and the main story line was a real event with my friend’s fiance. The only conceptual part was the level of temptation we built into the song to build some romantic tension into the vibe. We plan to launch Robes on Fire early next year which is derived straight from the headlines of the day, and unfortunately, is hardly conceptual at all.
Ernie: Yes, I consider our music conceptual. We are all natural story tellers. Bob tells stories with his incredibly vivid lyrics. Gus tells stories with his highly musical interpretations of our songs. And I feel that I naturally convey stories by the feelings the listeners get from my drum and percussion grooves.
Your songs are becoming more and more political; tell us about your decision to discuss the hard stuff and why you think it’s important.
Ernie: True listeners are searching for sincerity, depth and meaning in the world today. I think it’s crucial for serious musicians to discuss what’s important to themselves.
C’Quil: Maximum individual freedom and equality for all are probably the two strongest principles that attract people to this country. Whenever those principles come under assault, I think it needs to be pointed out. I try my best to lay out the story on those topics in a way to think about the situation without outright stating what anyone’s position should be. The fact that it’s within the music, gives space for it to either sink in over time or to be ignored while the listener focuses on what the guys are playing. Robes on Fire will kind of begin our more political journey and I’m pretty proud of the way these guys have arranged these songs to deliver the message in them in a way that makes it listenable.
Do you think that musicians have a social responsibility to be role models and why?
Gus: I think that musicians cannot help but be role models. It’s our job to inspire and shine light on certain thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Really great musicians often come across as modern day shamans. I think even those musicians who focus their light on the darkness are healers of the first order.
Ernie: I believe those that are aware, woke and responsible enough should be role models; or musical mentors, as I call them. It can help balance out the fluff, nonsense and institutionalized negative messages that fill our musical airwaves.
C’Quil: No, I don’t believe there’s a responsibility. That’s a choice for every individual to make at each stage of their life. Some music is there just to have fun. In our case, the news of the day generates material upon reflection and sometimes it creates a story line to get people thinking, hopefully talking.
You’ve witnessed the music industry go through decades of changes – what change affected you the most and why?
Gus: The combination between the tech advances that have enabled independent artists to record at an industry standard of quality and the juggernaut that is social media has put a lot of power into the artist’s hands. The challenge still remains however: how to be noticed. Before we strove to be noticed by labels who would then put us in front of the masses. Now we skip the label and strive to reach the masses on our own.
Ernie: When I was coming up in the 70’s, African-American music was powerful, innovative and proud (both emotionally and physically). Now those in control of what gets played look past the music and focus solely on the marketing aspect of the music. I miss the soulful, funky, grooves in African-American music. Worse yet, using music to push a destructive agenda to a certain young demographic is evil.
C’Quil: I’ll leave this one for Gus and Ernie since I’m relatively new to the industry.
How did you all meet one another? We’d love to know more about the story behind the origination of ‘Ink to Spill’.
C’Quil: I imagine we all have our own interpretation of events. I was writing a little for Akalibrio in Chicago just for grins and our friend, Jim, was encouraging me to keep sending songs, but at some point he realized he already had too much on his plate with his own writing. So, unbeknownst to me, he farmed out a song called HYD’N that I wanted a Fargo Blues sound on to Ryan and Gus. They nailed the demo and Ryan called me a few weeks later saying they had seen my lyrics and wanted to know if they could do an album with me. I agreed and we started doing more demos, but we never actually met until almost a year later in Vashon. We were too nervous at first to get rejected by Ernie, but we finally got the nerve to ask him to join and he’s brought so much talent and energy to the project ever since.
Ernie: It all goes back to meeting each other through Akalibrio, a powerhouse ‘Intellipop’, original music production company with world class musicians assembled and led by founder Jim Warner. He’s someone that we all know and with whom we all have the pleasure to work with in some capacity.
What are your Top 5 ‘Desert Island Albums’? In other words, if you were stuck on a deserted island, what 5 albums would you hope to have with you?
Talking Book – Stevie Wonder / Moanin – Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers / Deja Vu – CSNY / Rubber Soul – The Beatles / Kulanjan – Taj Mahal
1a) A Love Supreme by John Coltrane (1b. Ascension by John Coltrane)😉
- 20 All-Time Greatest Hits! by James Brown
- Band of Gypsies by Jimi Hendrix
- Legend by Bob Marley
- Sueño by Eddie Palmieri
C’Quil: Otis Redding’s ‘Greatest Hits’ / Johnny Lang’s ‘Wander This World’ / Phish’s ‘Hoist’ / Collective Soul’s ‘Seven Year Itch’ / Foo Fighter’s DVD of their concert in the Greek Colosseum, because the island I get marooned on will have a giant big screen.
You’ve just released your single “Raging Hormones” and you’re about to follow-up with another one on 12/12. Tell us about what’s to come!
Ernie: A song called Keys Awaiting is dropping on 12/12. After that, expect more heartfelt, soulful, need to express songs.
C’Quil: Keys Awaiting tells the story of Gus, Ryan and I getting together on Vashon for our first demo recording session. It was such a cool way to see these guys in their element as a novice to this whole thing. KA is a lighter tune driven by the juxtaposition of Ryan’s and Gus’s vocals, that ends with some soaring harmonies. When the new year gets going, some of the lyrical content will get more intense with Titles like Robes on Fire, Where Went Jose? and Chapter 12, which is a concept tune based on a chapter within a novel focused on an autistic character.
What is your favorite thing about today’s music industry and why?
Ernie: Using examples like The Roots, Snarky Puppy, Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington, pop music is finally getting back to more and more live musicians which gives more expression to each recording and performance.
Gus: I think my favorite thing about the industry lately is tied in to something the internet brought about. Having access to so many different kinds of music, listeners have been able to broaden their tastes. When I was in high school, you listened to hip hop or you listened to rock or you listened to country or you listened to pop. Those were the options for most of us. You had to choose one and it represented your personality. Nowadays when I ask a new acquaintance what kind of music they like, the answer is almost invariably, “I listen to everything.”
C’Quil: Instant accessibility to platforms people are using to listen to new and established artists. There’s so many people who want to help new artists, they just often don’t know where to look. We’ve been fortunate to find some great partners who are both patient and helpful.
If you could go on tour and hit any region of the world, where would you go and why?
Gus: Everywhere! Because I want to get more acquainted with the world at large and want it to get more acquainted with me. 🙂
Ernie: After being asked during another interview about how many countries in which I’ve played music, I realized that I’ve performed music in 49 countries. So, many of those countries have already been visited as a musician myself. One of the only other countries that interests me in which I have not played music would be the Philippines since it is the birthplace of my Mother. Also, Nigeria, which is probably the African origin of my father’s side of the family. Another reason why I’d like to perform in Nigeria is it’s musical rhythms. Nigerian slaves delivered it’s rich rhythmic music to Cuba during the slave trade. These rhythms eventually ended up in New Orleans, contributing to the creation of Jazz Music.
C’Quil – I love the ocean, so I was hoping Ernie could talk the cruise line he does his Jazz cruises with to start an Alt Rock Cruise and we do an Island Tour. First stop, Iceland….Tweet