Common Shiner
Gig Seeker Pro

Common Shiner

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States
Band Rock Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



""So Long..." Review"

So Long... is a great CD from Grand Rapids band Common Shiner (yes, named for the fish) -- although at first you might think you're listening to the Barenaked Ladies (not that that's a bad thing). The pop-rock vocals and music mix well together. There's no need to skip around, either; all the tracks are solid. "Bookstore Girl" boasts some clever lyrics. "Beautiful, Dangerous Blue" stands out with its vocals and excellent acoustic guitar. "Rachel's Song" is another gem. It's listed as the last track, but don't pop out the CD when it's finished. Wait about five minutes for a fun little surprise; it's worth it. Get a copy of the CD at Common Shiner's CD release party on Friday, June 23 at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids. The event starts at 7:30 p.m.

- K. Wall - Revue Magazine

""So Long..." Review 2"

GR's legacy of rootsy pop-rock bands comes and goes like the seasons. This spring, look for the emergence of Common Shiner, a jammy five-piece taking the Festival Stage June 4 and releasing their debut CD, So Long… at a free Rosa Parks Circle show June 23. By the album's second track, "Too Late," O.A.R. fans will fill with jubilation - with over an hour of music yet to come. DMB fans should start grooving along a few songs later as vocalist/guitarist Morgan Foster's voice sounds regularly reminiscent of Matthews' lower register. Guitarist/vocalist Andrew Huisjen will bring in the rest of the jamheads with his busy lead guitar-work, leaving just enough room for Foster's acoustic ballads to bring out the lighters.

- Eric Mitts - Recoil Magazine

"Common Shiner"

"The folk-rock approach of Grand Rapids' Common Shiner might most resemble the music of Barenaked Ladies but also plows new ground with distinctive tunes that 'highlight the beauty found in the common experience we all share.'" - Grand Rapids Press

""Viennas" Review"

With their first full-length, 'So Long...', Grand Rapids' Common Shiner got a little lost at sea traveling the oceans of modern pop-rock. 'Viennas,' their follow-up EP, does the opposite, venturing inland, or inward, as the band focuses on making some of those familiar streams sound better than ever. Vocalist/guitarist Morgan Foster has really adopted his own voice, both as a lyricist and vocalist, with witticisms to spare and surprising social commentary doubling as personal conflict resolution ('The Naturals,' 'No Melody'). Keyboardist/vocalist Michael James Brooks adds a nice change of pace with 'Recently,' while 'A Beautiful Disgrace' closes out on a most memorable note, flowing the band's best songwriting into an impressive jam. Hear it live at their release show August 10 at The Intersection.

- Eric Mitts, Recoil - Recoil Magazine

"Common Shiner strives for style, universal appeal"

Thursday, August 03, 2006

By Rachael Recker

The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS — Common Shiner takes the commonplace and makes it unique.

Whether it’s having fun, feeling spiritual or knowing bitterness, the Grand Rapids five-piece tries to reflect the human condition in its pop-glossed, folk-rock style of music.

“We wanted to write songs that relate to the human experience and relate to common people,” said Morgan Foster, lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter for Common Shiner.

Humor is part of the picture, too, such as singing about a sudden crush on a store clerk in the “Bookstore Girl” track.

“The goal is reflecting the beauty in the common experience. I would say that applies to most of our songs,” Foster said.

Celebrating shared experiences was Foster’s initial impetus in selecting the band’s name, in 2002, when the group was an acoustic duo of Foster and fellow Calvin College graduate Tim Haig.

Common Shiner — a type of minnow found far and wide — seemed to sum up the purpose and lyrical direction of the group, Foster said.

Foster said people often inquire about the group’s name, but he doesn’t push the fish angle that much.

“I say, ‘What do you think it means?’ And they say something, and I say, ‘That’s exactly what it means,’” he explained.

“It can mean a lot of different things, and I think that’s fantastic,” he said, noting that the name’s natural open-endedness also was attractive.

Open-endedness is a philosophy that preoccupies the group, which includes Calvin students or graduates Andrew Huisjen (electric guitar, vocals), Vijay Bangalore (drums), Zach Hache (bass) and Mike Brooks (keyboards, vocals).

Even though spirituality arises in Common Shiner’s lyrics, the group resists being pigeonholed as a Christian band.

“We definitely are Christians in a band, but I don’t define us as a Christian band,” Foster said. “The idea of being a Christian band these days has taken on a different meaning and has taken on a meaning I wish it didn’t.

The group’s lyrics and music simply don’t fit into a specific category, Foster emphasized. Talking about God in one song could be juxtaposed with drinking and smoking in a bar in the next.

“We’re not afraid to dabble in different genres and just allow different music we listen to to just influence our songwriting,” he said. “We can appeal to just about anybody. We’re not a niche-market kind of thing.”

First full-length CD

The band recently released its first professionally cut, full-length CD, “So Long …,” in late June. It is available via iTunes, and Schuler Books and Music. And the group will play Cincinnati’s Midpoint Music Festival in September.

“That’s what I’m most excited about right now,” Bangalore said of the indie music event.

Bangalore said he believes the band’s contribution to the Grand Rapids music scene rests in each member’s musical virtuosity as well as the honest and mature Common Shiner lyrics.

“Morgan’s lyrics are so accessible, and they have a pop sensibility to them that people can really latch on to.” - Grand Rapids Press

"Your Take"

This week we interviewed 22-year-old Holly VanRoekel, a social worker from Grandville (who, as it turns out, really, really likes the local band Common Shiner) about her tastes in pop culture.

What's in your CD player?

"So Long ..." by Common Shiner

What three albums would you want on a deserted island?

"Final Straw" by Snow Patrol, something by Dave Matthews, "So Long ..." by Common Shiner

What's the last movie you went to?

"I don't know. I haven't been to the movies in a while."

The last one you saw on DVD?

"'Hotel Rwanda'. It was pretty intense."

Favorite TV shows?

"Friends," "Grey's Anatomy," news programs

The last book you read?

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini

Favorite magazines?

Outside, an adventure-travel magazine

Favorite local restaurant?

Bombay Cuisine, 1420 Lake Drive SE

Favorite local bar?

McFadden's Restaurant and Saloon, 58 Ionia Ave. SW

What do you like best about Grand Rapids?

"They try to do the big-city feel, but it's not that overwhelming. It's easy to get across town."

What would you change?

"More nighttime activities. Stuff should stay open later. The bar scene's all right, but that's about all there is." - Grand Rapids Press

"Common Shiner (Interview)"

While they take their name from one of the most frequently found freshwater fish in the Midwest, Grand Rapids' Common Shiner has never just gone along with the current.

"When I first started writing music, I just wanted to write honestly, and I never really was trying to achieve a specific style," vocalist, acoustic guitarist and primary songwriter Morgan Foster told Recoil. "In fact, I often get frustrated with myself when I listen to music I really enjoy and I think, 'Man, Morgan, why can't you write songs like that?' But I can only write honestly, so that's what's come out so far."

Foster started Common Shiner in 2002 with former bassist/songwriter Tim Haig while the two attended Calvin College. There they later met the band's other current members, electric guitarist Andrew Huisjen, drummer Vijay Bangalore and keyboardist/vocalist Michael James Brooks.

"When I first started playing with Morgan more than four years ago, I thought it was just going to be something that I'd do here and there for fun," Huisjen said. "We'd get together and jam, maybe play a bit on campus at Calvin, and that'd be about it. I never thought we'd be playing gigs every weekend in GR and other parts of the state."

Since graduation, Haig has moved to Pittsburgh, but aside from losing a longtime band member, things have only continued to get bigger for Common Shiner.

Last summer they self-released their first full-length album, So Long... just as they prepared to play the Festival Stage. Foster said the band was in a stasis period at that point and they didn't know how much longer they would keep going as a band, but they continued to play music at every opportunity. Regular appearances at a wide-range of venues around Grand Rapids and elsewhere helped broaden their fan base and they're particularly proud of playing open mic nights at Jukes and occasionally playing three hour-long sets at The Black Rose.

"I think our strength lies in our accessibility," Bangalore said. "We can play smaller venues and not blow the listeners away with too much volume. I would also say that you don't have to know our songs to be able to enjoy them."

While they refrain from referring to themselves as sounding like anyone else, two bands almost always get tossed around when people try to describe Common Shiner's music: Barenaked Ladies and Dave Matthews Band.

"I think my voice has especially invited the Barenaked Ladies comparisons, but I like them, so that's cool with me," Foster said. "Dave Matthews is kind of an idol to me, so if people honestly think we sound even near as good as him, I take that as a huge compliment."

Rather than focus on those big name bands, Common Shiner takes even greater pride in the musical relationships the band has built with other bands and artists from around Grand Rapids, such as Bless You Boys, Happy Hour, Rebekah Rhys, Sweet Japonic, Rob Jordan, Adam Pringle, Jake Stevens and many others.

"For being such a small city, Grand Rapids has an unbelievable amount of quality art and music to offer," Brooks said. "The talent-per-square-inch is seriously higher here, and there's a lot of great stuff going on in the arts. What's unfortunate is that a lot of people take it for granted, or simply don't know about it."

"You've got Division [Avenue] with all of its art shops, Ionia and all of its bars and venues, and you've got all of the colleges that foster a unique and fresh environment," Bangalore elaborated. "And having lived in Eastown for the past two years, you can add Kava House, Smitty's and Wolfgang's to the list as well."

Having experienced more by playing live over the last year, Common Shiner felt it was time for the band to return to the studio and record a few more songs so that So Long... wasn't their only offering on CD.

"We really recorded that before we started gigging around town, and it kind of felt like we ought to lay down pretty much everything we could since we didn't know if we'd be recording again any time soon," Huisjen explained. "The new EP ("Viennas") is a much more focused effort – these particular songs fit really well together. The first CD was kind of a compilation of all kinds of different stuff that we had played at one time or another, whereas the stuff on the new EP fits together more under one musical theme – it definitely shows more distinctly what Common Shiner really sounds like."

Budget and time constraints came into play while working in the studio this time, so choosing quality over quantity, the band settled on an EP for their follow-up release.

"We're starving artists in an almost-literal sense sometimes, and we just didn't have the money for a full-length this time around," Brooks said. "We could've waited a bit and done another full-length, but there were enough fans out there who really wanted recordings of these songs as soon as they could get them."

Common Shiner plans to get these new songs to fans ASAP and has a huge CD release show planned for the "Viennas" EP Aug. 10 at The Intersection in Grand Rapids. Adam Pringle will join the band and release his new CD that night as well. The event will mean even more to the band as it will mark one of the last few shows they'll play in Grand Rapids before relocating to Chicago this fall.

"I think we're all just at a point that we feel like it's time for us to take a next step and get serious about this," Foster said. "Moving for the purpose of being in a band is a big deal, and I think this will really focus us and hopefully take us to another level and maybe several levels after that."

While not necessarily hoping to get signed, the band thinks the move might make that step a more realistic possibility and feel that the "Viennas" EP will definitely help them get their foot in the door as well.

"We hope 'Viennas' will sound more than convincing to labels," Bangalore said. "We are really going the extra mile so listeners don't have to imagine what the disc would sound like if we had spent more money on it."

Since they'll still be close to Grand Rapids, Common Shiner plans to treat Chicago as a new home base for exploring new opportunities in new venues and new cities as well, but they will always consider Grand Rapids their hometown.

"GR has been great to us, and I'm definitely not ready to say goodbye permanently and probably never will be," Foster said.

Since Huisjen currently attends Michigan State University as a graduate student, he won't join the band when they move to Chicago this fall, but with the many return visits the band hopes to have, who knows what the future might hold in store for Common Shiner. In fact, both Brooks and Foster (former theater majors at Calvin) are involved in an upcoming play at The Actors' Theatre this fall and will return to the area for that, so look out for Common Shiner dates throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall.

In addition to the release party for the "Viennas" EP on Aug. 10 at The Intersection, Common Shiner will play in Grand Rapids at Sazerac Lounge July 7, and Beanabox July 20, as well as perform at a benefit to raise awareness about Fibromyalgia at the Comstock Inn in Hesperia July 21. To hear a sampler of songs off "Viennas" now, check out or

July 2007, article by Eric Mitts - Recoil Magazine


EPs Never Have Titles (EP - 2008)
Viennas (EP - 2007)
So Long... (LP - 2006)



(Recommended if you like: Dave Matthews, Guster, BNL, Ben Folds, Death Cab for Cutie, The Fray, OAR, classic rock)

What people are saying about COMMON SHINER:

"Arrestingly magnetic live."
- Lone Wolf Productions

"Absolutely captivating."
- Fearless Radio, Chicago

"One of the most polished and professional bands we have had on the show. Their music defies comparison. Beautiful harmonies combine with flowing, inspiring lyrics to take the listener on a journey of love and understanding."
- Michael Teach, Chicago Acoustic Underground

"I really dig the EP [Viennas]."
- Isaac Slade, lead singer of The Fray

"Viennas may be the best CD out of Michigan this year."
- Calin, DJ at 88.1 WYCE Grand Rapids

"Those guys rock!"
- Dev, DJ at 96.1 RadioX Grand Rapids

"Common Shiner takes the commonplace and makes it unique--their folk-rock approach plows new ground with distinctive tunes."
- The Grand Rapids Press

"Look for the emergence of Common Shiner, a jammy five-piece... O.A.R. fans will fill with jubilation [and] DMB fans should start grooving along."
- Recoil Magazine

No one would expect a band named after a pretty boring bait fish to make any measurable splash (pardon the terrible pun)--but in the past couple years, that's just what Common Shiner have set out to do.

Common Shiner originated in Grand Rapids and rose from the Michigan roots-rock rubble just a few years ago. It was not long before their 2006 debut album, So Long..., received accolades from local press and earned radio airplay in West Michigan. Their sophomore effort, Viennas, enjoyed even wider success as it sold across the country and the first single, "No Melody" secured mainstream radio rotation (and eventually charted at 142 on national Adult Contemporary charts). Following those successes, in the fall of 2007 the band made a leap across Lake Michigan to pursue full-time musical careers in Chicago.

The band has a little more in mind than just playing cute music though. Says Bangalore of their line-up, "We want to be able to really rock, but with two less traditional instruments leading: piano and acoustic guitar." But even that goal seems to hide a more interesting pursuit.

The group's real mission? Obliterate pretense and destroy elitist notions in any scene with quality songwriting that appeals to a wide range of listeners. You won't see these boys promoting any indie gimmicks, nor will you find them wearing arena-rock arrogance. What sets the band apart is the marriage of thoughtfulness in songwriting and undeniable accessibility. Everyone who listens to Common Shiner comes away liking something different, and these boys wouldn't want it any other way.

"I think there's some disheartening segregation in the music world right now," says Brooks. "There seems to be a dichotomy of 'Mainstream vs. Indie,' and now there's also this often cliquey notion of scene. I guess we just feel like listeners can see through that; we want to present music that is unifying and completely without pretense. We want to destroy ridiculous walls. Music is music. And it's community."

Chicago venues played:
Double Door
The Abbey
Cubby Bear
Beat Kitchen
Elbo Room
Red Line Tap
Goose Island (Wrigleyville)
Tonic Room
Underground Lounge
The Republic
Silvie's Lounge
Underground WonderBar
Walter Payton's Roundhouse (Aurora)
Mad Maggie's (Elgin)
"No Melody" (single) - #142 radio – national – Adult Contemporary
#1 band in Michigan, rock, pop, and folk rock genres (Myspace Top Artists chart)
#3 band in Michigan, any genre (Myspace Top Artists chart)
#5 band in US, folk rock genre (Myspace Top Artists chart)
Notable Concerts:
Part of International Pop Overthrow two years in a row- Chicago (4/10, 4/09)
Played for 5,000+ people at Michigan Harborfest (8/07)
Opened for This World Fair (5/07)
Opened for Flickerstick (12/06)
Showcased at Midpoint Music Festival (9/06)
Opened for Tim Reynolds (9/06)
Best Rock Album Nominee - Viennas - 2008 WYCE Jammie Awards
Most Outstanding Band - Supercave Competition, Calvin College
Best Crowd Reaction - Supercave Competition, Calvin College
Best New Artist Nominee - 2007 WYCE Jammie Awards
Best Rock Album Nominee - So Long... - 2007 WYCE Jammie Awards