Four Finger Five
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Four Finger Five

Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States | SELF

Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States | SELF
Band Rock Soul


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"The Mode Life"

"New music you must check out. Seriously." - Lauren Nicolas, Dec. 19 2011. - The Mode Life


"Soul in a Suitcase demonstrates more than elevated craft; it’s an example of master musicians connecting with that certain something, that mystifying element of Hell, Yes!" - Dan Slane--On-the-Town

"Student Life"

"It must be noted that 4F5, above all else, have a gorgeous sound." -- Steve Hardy, December 5, 2007. - Student Life

"GR Press"

"Easy to see why this Muskegon trio has gotten a favorable buzz nationally. The new CD teems with catchy rock/funk/jazz/pop that shows off ever-tighter, top-drawer musicianship. Keep an eye on these guys." -- John Sinkevics, January 31, 2010. - The Grand Rapids Press

"Billboard Magazine"

"(One of) 5 new bands breaking the rules." -- August 22, 2009 - Billboard Magazine

"The State News"

"Four Finger Five is that band you hear and immediately want to know more, hear more and see more coming from its direction." -- Thea Neal. February 4, 2008 - Lowdown, The State News

"Four Finger Five: "Four Finger Five""

Rating: 4.5/5
For fans of: Marvin Gaye and Eric Clapton's funk side project
Tracks to download: "Solid Ground", "Bullets", "Get it Together"

Four Finger Five is a definite candidate for Best Band You've Never Heard Of. On their new self-titled album, the Muskegon, Mich. natives take Rhythm and Blues back to its roots. This means funky bass licks, fuzzy blues guitar riffs and smooth crooning. It also means that the band has brought along their trumpet and saxophone-playing friends, and though some listeners might be turned off by the jazzy inserts, these instruments lend a necessary color to the songs and allow the band to expand their timbre beyond the banal, mass-produced synth-pop that too frequently passes for R&B. The ensemble's greatest asset might be its ability to express the sentiments of the vocals in the musicians' solo work.

It must be noted early that 4F5, above all else, have a gorgeous sound. Frontman Joe Sturgill has a stunning voice which he uses to shape and propel the musical phrase just like the guitar or keyboard. He and bassist Mike Phillips vary their effects enough to make each song sounds fresh without abandoning a sense of unity among the tracks.

This cohesiveness is also present in Sturgill's vocals. He manages to avoid the common blues pitfall of hackneyed lyrics. Rather than singing about personal loss and self-pity, many of Sturgill's vocals have apparent anti-war sentiments and employ combat metaphors throughout the album. "Bullets" is a fine example of this theme and also showcases how a seamless integration of a horn section can bolster the ensemble's approach to modern R&B without weighing down strong guitar lines.

Phillips' keyboard fills also add jazzy influences to several pieces without weighing down the melody. 4F5 use the keyboard to establish tension, making the moments of release all the sweeter. The group proves that easily listenable music necessarily includes moments of friction, and instead of a series of smooth jazz tracks, the musicians really dig in and reflect the weight of the lyrics in bluesy licks.

However, the band passes around the solos, never focusing for too long on one instrument or idea. "Get it Together" features a fantastic interplay between the various musicians, while remaining centered enough on the main motif to stay relevant and listenable.

Some listeners might withdraw from the sax and trumpet solos, but they too deserve a fair listen. Saxophonist Karl Denson is a talented musician and helped write most of the songs on the album, and his presence is significant. R&B listeners should embrace his work on tracks such as "Soul Rhythm" as a welcome new voice in a sea of talented instrumentalists. And his work is less be-bop than carefully constructed fusion jamming. Remember Pink Floyd sax? Denson plays like that. He works within the structure of a rock tune and sounds neither inappropriately simplistically nor out-there.

That being said, 4F5 wear their jam-band status with pride. They realize that they at once write good form songs and still indulge their need to showcase their solo work. It is hard to pick out a best song, as the hard-hitting funk of "Solid Ground" and the slow jam of "Rewind" sound superficially very unlike, yet both showcase a solid group of musicians who work well together to accomplish more than any one member could produce on his own.

If the thought of often lyric-less jams turns you off, give 4F5 a spin, and see if they can't change your mind. Though the simple R&B moments are excellent, the band realizes its full potential when they are letting their instruments speak for them, and they have a lot to say. - 12/5/07 by Steve Hardy

"Review in Muskegon Chronicle"

"New group of young musicians from West Michigan who play contemporary rock with jazz influences. True virtuosity" - Tom Schaub, Muskegon Chronicle

"Getting to Know Four Finger Five -This talented jam band is sure to leave you feeling good"

Gettin to Know Four Finger Five

This talented local jam band is sure to leave you feeling good.

By Taylor Olds

When you think of jam bands, what may come to mind are long bouts of turn-taking improvisation, dancing hippies without a care in the world and partaking in the "wacky tabacky." But when I recently spoke with two members of local jam band Four Finger Five, my stereotypical definition was challenged.

"If we fit into a genre, I think we fit into the 'jamband' genre, because we do a lot of improvising in our shows," says guitarist/vocalist Joe Sturgill. "But there's so many different kinds of music that fit into the jam band genre, it's kind of open-ended."

Here Sturgill is right on, as Four Finger Five is not your typical jam band.

Consisting of five highly talented musicians, Four Finger Five hails from the Muskegon area. With Sturgill, there's Steve Harris on drums, Gerry mattei on keys, Mike Phillips on bass and Jim VanBemelen on sax. Then there's luke Sass, the band's roadie and number one fan (the band says to give Sass your e-mail address for its mailing list if you see a show).

The sounds this eclectic jam band produces include funk, soul, rock, jazz and R&B. "I try not to copy anyone else's style,"says Sturgill, who brings many musical ideas to the table. As far as musical influences are concerned, he adds, "Therer are a lot of different kinds of music I listen to for different reasons." And it's these varied influences that make Four Finger Five so special.

To complement the many sounds, the band takes a group approach to writing music. "While one member may bring in the central idea, everybody has some sort of opinion or some sort of flavor to add ot the whole writing process," says Harris.

Sturgill writes most of the band's lyrics. He usually bases them on the music the band writes, but sometimes works with poetry or stream-of-consciousness writing he's done in the past. Harris says, "As far as vocals go, we try to keep those really clean and tight. We try to play really catchy tunes, but also have opportunities for people ot branch out."

A live Four Finger Five experience will be sure to please any fan or raw musical talent. While the band plays many original songs, a show also includes covers from artists such as the Talking Heads, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, and Soulive. These upbeat sounds will have you on your feet, and leave you wanting more.

- Review Magazine

"Things are happening fast for Four Finger Five"

MUSKEGON -- Things are happening fast for Four Finger Five.

The Muskegon three-piece has moved forward leaps and bounds in the last year. In a few short months, the rock-blues-soul-driven trio has risen from "local band" status to inking a deal with a newly launched Portland, Ore.,-based independent record label. It also has forged a relationship with nationally known saxophonist Karl Denson and landed a cushy slot opening for INXS Saturday night at Muskegon Summer Celebration.

"It's all kind of out of nowhere," explained Joe Sturgill, guitarist and vocalist for the trio. "I'm just kind of riding the wave to see how far it will go."
Sturgill and bandmates Mike Phillips (drums, backing vocals) and Steve Harris (percussion) have performed as Four Finger Five for roughly three years. The band recently released its first recording, the five-song EP "Enormous Pocket."

"We recorded it in one day at Mackinaw Harvest Studios in Grand Rapids," Sturgill said.

The recording includes guest appearances by Kiss, 4NZIX and Mike G., of Grand Rapids hip-hop collective La Famiglia, Paul Lesinski on keys and Benje Daneman on trumpet. Sturgill said the "spontaneous" recording is meant as a precursor to the band's upcoming full-length, to be released in November.

The album was recorded during a seven-week period the band spent this winter at Terrestrial Records in Portland, Ore. Sturgill said the studio came equipped with an attached apartment.

"It was like summer camp. We played music every day," Sturgill said.

The yet-to-be-titled CD includes a guest saxophone appearance by Denson, who the trio met last fall when they opened for his band in Grand Rapids.

"We were talking to him and kind of threw it out there," Sturgill said, adding Denson immediately showed interest.

Denson -- known for his improv fueled, high energy performances -- is an ideal match for Four Finger Five, which describes itself as "Led Zeppelin meets Al Green."

"We're a rock band, with very heavy soul influences and some funk and jazz," Sturgill said.

Sturgill said the band explores improvisation and incorporates guest musicians to keep things fresh.

"It's in the vein of a jam band, but we don't sound like a jam band," Sturgill said. "We like to improvise a lot. We like to wing it."
- The Grand Rapids Press,Thursday, July 05, 2007, By Tricia Woolfendon

"Enormus Pocket - Review"

There's such a joyous, jazzy soulfulness to the music that Muskegon's Four Finger Five trot out, it's darn near impossible not to bob your head, tap your feet, shake those hips.

Part rock, part funk, part edgy jazz jam, it's all worth exploring. Check out the opening track from their "Enormous Pocket" EP. It's titled "Change." Then keep an ear out for more later this year when Terrestrial Records releases a full-length CD by the band.
- Grand Rapids Press online, August 19, 2007

"Four Finger Five "Enormus Pocket""

The music: Muskegon's Four Finger Five -- Steve Harris, Mike Phillips and Joe Sturgill -- flaunts rock-splashed soul and funk that abounds with infectious energy, experimental verve and jazz textures. The band, which recorded this five-song EP at Grand Rapids' Mackinaw Harvest Studios, plans a full-length CD on Terrestrial Records for national distribution in the fall.
- Grand Rapids Press online, August 5 2007

"Get Your Fives Up"

On The Town Magazine
August 2007
Ben Pickel


The Verve Pipe and Mustard Plug have done it, and now Muskegon's Four Finger Five adds its name to local groups that are making it big by signing a record deal with Terrestrial Records, Which includes a national tour this fall. Before heading off to Oregon, Terrestrial Records' home base-to record the groups forthcoming album, Four Finger Five gave local fans something to talk about opening for INXS at Muskegon Summer Celebration and performing a benefit concert with Ultraviolet hippopotamus for the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts.
I caught up with the group at the benefit, which was the official after-party for the Muskegon Fourth of July Celebration. From the moment the band took the stage, it was obvious from the passionate looks on the members faces and the way they interacted with the crowd that each member has a deep love for the muskegon area. These guys immediately resonate a deep connection to their hometown, all sharing the community's concerns about the financial success of Muskegon, and are willing to give back in any way possible to be an integral part of the city's resurgence, hence participating in the Frauenthal benefit.
The core trio of Four Finger Five comprises Steve harris on drums, Mike Phillips on bass guitar and Joe Sturgill on guitar and lead vocals. Sharing the stage to create the type of sound and atmosphere the band craves were percussionist Scotty Pellegrom, Anthony Smith from California playing keyboard and piano, and Benje Daneman and Brandon Drew on horns.
This ensemble of players started strong and did not relent until it was time to pack up and head for the doors. Such songs as "Scenes", "Back in love again", and "Bullets" rounded out the show. Phillips amazed the crowd when he took center stage to sing lead vocals on the song "I Wanna Be Your Lover". Phillips a gentle giant dwarfs his bass and absolutely stunned the audience with his high range and gospel-based vocal abilities that draw comparison to Stevie Wonder.
In fact artists such as The Greatful Dead, Lead Zepplin, Widespread Panic, Phish, Aretha Franklin and James Brown easily come to mind when drawing mainstream comparisons to Four Finger Five. However, don't just label them a jam band. With a strong reliance on blues, jazz, hip-hop, and classic rock hooks, there is something for music fans of all genres to enjoy.
During the second set, Sturgill demonstrated his amazing mastery of multiple music genres, both on guitar and with his voice. Sturgill has the range and vocal authority to stop a man dead in his tracks wether it is a slower sultry pop song like "Rewind", a radio friendly song like "Change" or a powerful jam that incorporates his entire arsenal found in the song "Them Changes"
As a blessing along with credibility to move on to the national scene, legendary saxophone player Karl Denson, a Terrestrial Records artist who has recorded with Lenny Kravitz and is a founding member of The Greyboy Allstars, joined the group on stage, causing the audience to go wild. Through Denson's action you couldn't help but get a sense that Four Finger Five is a band worth taking notice. Oftentimes during individual solos from the core members, Denson would be beaming, looking on proudly like an adoring parent. And Denson has reason to act that way, band members credit his involvement as one of the reasons for its new found success.
If you are looking for a band that can blend all genre's of music in a soulful groove while displaying evidence of roots rock, blues and jazz, look no further. Four Finger Five offers a high-energy sophisticated musical style that will amaze any audience. But don't take my word for it, check out the groups recent release titled "Enormous Pocket", a teaser for what's to come as this group shows the nation what West Michigan has to offer. - On The Town Magazine

"Four Finger Five to Perform at Bells"

'Four Finger Five to perform at Bell's

By Sara Johnson
A & E Writer
February 02, 2006

People will have the opportunity to groove this Friday to the musical combination of rock, soul and jazz of the band Four Finger Five at Bell’s Brewery.About three years ago, Joe Sturgill, Mike Phillips and Steve Harris formed a band called Funktion, according to 21-year-old Mike Phillips. Sturgill played guitar and held vocal duties, Phillips played bass and Harris played the drums. After adding saxophone player Jim VanBemelen, the former band Funktion changed their name to The Elements.Another band already had The Elements band name, so they then decided on the current moniker, Four Finger Five. The name stuck because it was catchy and spontaneous. In addition, keyboardist Gerry Mattei joined and completed the band, Phillips said.For almost a year now, the rock band has been touring around Michigan. They have performed in the cities of Detroit, Muskegon, Grand Haven, Big Rapids, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo.Phillips said that Kalamazoo is a great music community full of diversity.“A lot of people are pretty open to different types of music,” Phillips said. “You can go to Bell’s, Corner Bar, or Boomerang’s. There’s always music playing somewhere. It might not be your type of music, but there’s music everywhere.”Four Finger Five performs mainly original material. However, the band also does cover groups such as The Beatles, Soulive, Stevie Wonder and The Talking Heads. They might occasionally play covers, but Phillips emphasizes the groups originality.“Change,” one of the group’s original tunes, features the line: “The only thing that ever stays the same is change.”“No matter what, change will always happen. You always have to be open to change,” Phillips said.Music is the perfect way to relax from the hectic times, he said.“Music is a getaway,” Phillips said. “Whether I’m stressed, or whether I’m happy, upset — whatever the mood I’m in — there’s always a certain type of music that I tend to go to relieve me. It’s kind of like medication; different medication for different problems.”Phillips said that Sturgill is the leader of the band because he puts a lot of time and money into the band. However, the entire Four Finger Five band works together to develop their songs. They try to stray away from having a frontman because each member contributes significantly to the sound, he said.“There’s no ‘I’ in team,” Phillips said. “We’re all together on the same page.”Four Finger Five’s original tunes end up being part of an improvisational experience. One member might start going off on his own and the band will follow, Phillips said. That really grabs the attention of the crowd and makes them dance.

“It’s always high energy,” Phillips said. “It’s always spontaneous. We have our set songs and we do a lot of improv. So we never know where a song can go.”

Four Finger Five has their heads in the right place, he said.“We’re well-rounded musicians opposed to being strictly one type, one genre,” Phillips said. “We’re not about image, like the way a lot of bands try to be. [They] try to get girls or the whole rock musician-type thing. We’re all cool, real laid back, level-headed people that love music.”Four Finger Five will be performing at 9:30 p.m. Friday at Bell’s Brewery, located at 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave. Patrons must be 21 or older with a valid ID, and cover charge is $3. For more information, contact Phillips at To sample the music, visit the band’s Web site at

- Western Herald


EP - Enormous Pocket, Terrestrial Records 2007
LP - Self-Titled, Terrestrial Records 2008
LP - 2:22, Independent Release 2009
LP - Soul In a Suitcase, Independent Release 2011



Grand Rapids, MI Rock/Pop/Soul trio Four Finger Five (Joe Sturgill guitar/vocals/keys, Steve Harris drums, Mike Phillips bass) first hit the scene in 2003. Since then, the trio’s dynamism and skill have earned them national recognition; earlier releases 2:22 (2010) and Four Finger Five (2008) led to a nod in Bill-board Magazine and charted the band on CMJ and Pandora.

True to their trademark style, Soul in a Suitcase is a strangely heady mix of driving rock riffs alongside catchy pop melodies, all tempered by lyrics that swing from love in bloom to middle-class political angst and back again. The band finds their middle ground between The Police, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The John Mayer Trio, thanks to the odd mix of influences like Jay-Z, Genesis and Clapton.

Four Finger Five showcases their expertise as musicians and as producers with this latest collection, their most ambitiously recorded album to date, and their most musically diverse; mastered by Brian Lucey (The Black Keys, O.A.R.), Soul in a Suitcase ultimately reveals an evolution in the bands’ sound, insistently showcasing a quiet darkness that pushes their appeal into a realm both wider and more distinct.