GOSHEN — Graham Parsons may be ill.
It’s possibly what propels the vocalist-guitarist-keyboardist of Kalamazoo, Michigan-based quartet The Go Rounds to push on.
“We’re a band that’s sort of always moving forward, and I think our label in Mexico, the guy who manages that says we have a 'sickness' in that we’re constantly playing new material,” he said by phone. “We’ve gotten better about it, but maybe 2018, 2017, the end of that year, we were only playing songs that no one had ever heard before, ya know, mostly because it was more fun to us.”
Together since 2009, with the current lineup solidified since 2014, the group’s output is an auditory swirl.
Sweetly affected lyrical trails lead to manic wails over glistening guitar twang and Americana-pop-styled jaunty rhythms. Tunes can take on a slow-burn-to-charged folk feel, later bleeding out into psychedelic rock soundscapes with frenetic, yet controlled, treated vocals.
The group will perform Saturday at Vegetable Buddies in South Bend — their third appearance at the local venue — ahead of an April 5 U.S. release of the new 11-song, full-length album “Whatever You May Be.” The album was released abroad in November 2018 through the band’s independent Mexico City label Pedro Y El Lobo Records.
Parsons recalled the December 2016, four-day rhythm tracking of the album at Detroit’s High Bias Recordings. Production was later wrapped at Toledo, Ohio’s Dream Louder Music.
“We proceeded to go on an endless tour. We played, like, 140 shows in 2017. It kind of got shelved,” Parsons said of the album. “We recorded a ton of overdubs during that rhythm tracking session but then we just drove all around the country for the better part of 18 months, and then we came back.”
It’s a common scenario for many independent bands — recording occurs and releases are delayed for a variety of reasons, finances and hours in a day typically topping the list.
More than two years later, the time capsule of a recording is readied.
“It’s tough to stay current with limited resources; it’s one of the hardest things that we face is just both time and having the financial resources to document everything we’re doing because we work really quickly as a band,” Parsons said. “As a musical unit, we’re focused on the music; we’re not really — maybe to our detriment — we’re not focusing a lot of time on promotion and publicity and things like that. But again, we just don’t have the resources for that regardless.
“But these songs are songs we still play and they’re still at the core our live repertoire and they’ve changed. That’s one of the funniest things about it: I think we all feel like, ‘Ah, now I play this song this way, and it could’ve been better,’ but that’s not a healthy way to think about. It’s about how we were playing them then and they were still pretty fresh. You just have to trust that feeling you had in the moment — I think that’s the most important thing, to know it was meaningful to you. And maybe that’s not who you are now, and it may feel that way, but if you had that feeling in the moment, I think it’s worth honoring. People are gonna find that. People are going to feel that excitement you had at the time regardless if it was two years ago or not.”
Once in the studio, Parsons explained, the clock is ticking and dollars are tallied in what can seem like a flash.
“It’s one thing to carve out the time, to create the intentional space, and say, ‘OK. We’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna do it.’ What if you get in there and someone’s sick or whatever happens, then what?” he said. “Then you’re looking at you’re clock and seeing it as dollars and cents as opposed to, ‘This is my time to be creative. This is my time to really explore this thing that I love.’ It’s funny. It becomes this high-pressure scenario sometimes when you have limited resources. That’s a big barrier, for sure — just having the f------ money because whether it’s $500 a day or $50 an hour, whatever it is, that time goes by fast. Sometimes you can spend an hour just getting a particular sound you want.”
In The Go Rounds’ case, live performance and touring often take precedence over the studio — it’s how a majority of musicians are able to thrive.
And then there are group members’ lives away from their instruments.
Guitarist Mike Savina has a 6-year-old daughter. Drummer Adam Danis and bassist Drew Tyner are both engaged. Parsons organizes Allouez, Michigan, festival Farm Block, now in its 12th year.
The annual gathering of regional performers unites music with art, camping and camaraderie on the Keweenaw Peninsula, with past iterations featuring Goshen-born bands Lalo Cura and Kansas Bible Company.
“I guess the biggest impedance beyond financial success is just the desire to remain whole and sort of be — your responsibility to the rest of your life and to the rest of the people in your life,” he said. “There’s a saying, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’”
Parsons also heads the not-for-profit Dan Schmitt Gift of Music and Education Fund, a component of Farm Block providing musical instruments and lessons to children in need — no questions asked.
“That’s just how it is — we’re not going to make you write an essay or check into your parents’ income. Like, if you say you need it, we want to provide it for you,” he said of the initiative.
“… Dan was my closest friend growing up. We were in bands together throughout high school. The day before he was going to move down here to Kalamazoo — we were going to move in together, we had signed a lease, we had an apartment — he was struck by a logging truck and killed and he was only 20, I think. So that sort of altered my course because not only was he my best friend but he was a person that I filtered all my musical experiences through — all my learning, my introduction to music was through him. So that really changed why I was doing things and it still does. I still think about it every time I step onto the stage, and I think, there are plenty times throughout the stage of my career where I could take it or leave it, and not in a negative or dismissive way, but there’s a lot in life that I love to do and there’s a lot of places in the world I’d like to go, and maybe music is holding me back in a certain sense.
“So I’ve had to sort of come up against — I don’t want to call it a conflict — but asking myself sort of all the time, ‘Is this the path?’ And then I think about him and I think about another guy who I was in a band with, Greg Wright. He also passed really young so I think about him too and these people who didn’t really have a chance to finish their art, to really fully see through their musical path. Maybe they did and maybe it was the right time for them, or something. I gotta trust in that too.”
Self and band aside, Parsons wants to prop up others through the festival, perhaps passing his group’s “sickness” in the process.
“[With Farm Block] we’re also able to uplift area musicians too, and pay them well, use that money to pay musicians to share their skills with the next generation, which I kind of called 'creating a full-circle commitment to the arts,'” he said.
“I think that’s really important that youth have access to music education, but I think it’s equally important that professional musicians and artists have an outlet for passing on their knowledge and feeling like they’re valuable in a community.”
Geoff Lesar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 307.