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The best kept secret in music




GRAND RAPIDS - Morale is sick and tired of being sold to.
From the Bush administration to the proliferation of advertising and rampant consumerism, the Grand Rapids quartet carefully examines and cleverly skewers those things it believes to be absurd.
While not overtly political, the Grand Rapids quartet approaches music and lyric writing as a means to comment on social and cultural issues - including penning a song about the “Harry Potter” book burnings in 2003 in Greenville.
“There’s a point where you’ve been sitting around for years and years getting bombarded with crap,” said guitarist Chris Kremo, referring to consumerism in America and the band’s anti-mainstream approach to music and subject matter.
The band plays complex, dense, cerebral rock with some elements of blues and jazz. The songs can stretch to eight or nine minutes, weaving through various movements at times with an improvisational feel with a solid structure. Lyrics speak in sociological terms, avoiding such typical subject matter as the band leader’s most recent heartbreak and ex-girlfriends, etc.
“We never say ‘I’ in the lyrics,” guitarist and lead vocalist Kyle Dood said. “We always refer to ‘we.’”
“It’s a broader social shift in ideas,” added saxophone player and backing vocalist Joel Brusk.
Morale has played together for about two years. The lineup changes often, and the band has no permanent bass player (bassist Jim Shaneberger is filling in at live shows).
“It’s been a challenge,” said drummer Weston M. Eaton. “We’re all learning new things and figuring out what we can do with each other. When it came together, Kyle wasn’t a singer. Kremo came from a heavy, hard background and Brusk played Jazz…. Everyone’s changed styles for each other.
“We’re not concerned with who is in the band, but with the music we’re putting out.”
Morale has made a conscious effort to sound nothing like what is played on mainstream radio - and it shows.
“We took all tradition and threw it out the window to make music that’s new and interesting,” Kremo said, adding the music is accessible, though strange.
The band is in the midst of recording, mixing, producing and printing its debut record, “Work Is Not A Virtue.” The self-financed and produced 14-track disc has taken months to complete in the band’s home studio.
Morale has not played live since November, because the album has consumed much of the bands time.
“We couldn’t use the kitchen for three months ’cause we were recording drums in there,” Brusk said.
Morale is determined to get a product in fans’ hands this summer.
“We’re excited to leave it with the people,” Eaton said.


Morale 3/06
There are two ways to record an album: A. By yourself, at home with a computer and Pro Tools; or B. In a studio with a group of professionals monitoring the sound, and mixing the tracks efficiently.
  One obviously costs more money, and for a local band, “money” is a dirty word. The other can take forever. Grand Rapids rock band Morale chose A, and then B, and then A again with a little help from B.
  The story of Work Is Not A Virtue really begins about two years ago when drummer Wes Eaton, guitarist/singer Kyle Dood and guitarist Christian Kremo decided to put the songs they’d been playing for the past couple of years down on tape. At the time they weren’t thinking about an actual album but more about a way to preserve their hard work.
  “We didn’t have a vision of, you know, how a record really happens,” Eaton told Recoil. “We just started recording songs, starting with the drums and adding on guitars and adding the bass tracks and spent probably about a full twelve months recording everybody for the fourteen tracks on the record.”
  “And then we spent a few months recording vocals, and then picking and selecting the tracks, which is a whole thing we hadn’t realized [we’d have to do].”
  In the meantime they made a few major changes like a different drum kit, new bassist, and totally new set list. Plus, Dood began to learn new recording tricks he wanted to experiment with. Things began piling up quickly until one day they looked at the 14 songs they’d chosen and realized there was no way they were capable of mixing the 80 to 90 tracks some of them carried.
  “By the time you get done with the record, you know everything you wish you knew when you started, but you didn’t know any of it.”
  So they got help. Eaton’s good friend Benjamin Hunter agreed to mix the album; Grand Rapids producer Al McAvoy agreed to master the final copy; Erwin Erkfitz at The Ideal Collective agreed to help with artwork. Of course, none of these men were allowed to see what they were getting into before signing on. But at the time of Eaton’s conversation with Recoil, he was cooking Hunter and his wife a pork roast for dinner, so one has to assume at least Hunter got retribution.
  The 14 tracks on Work Is Not A Virtue include Morale’s new bassist Jim Shaneberger (tenor sax player Joel Brusk rounds out the group), as well as songs written and sang by the band’s old frontman Nick Weaver, now with Semi-Casual Bedtime. Eaton summed up the album as “dynamic,” adding that their jazz and blues background is what really attracted Shaneberger to the group.
  “We do a lot of hits and catches and set-ups, things that I think a lot of jazz musicians would do and they really support the melody.”
  The title of the album is a crack on the American ideal that hard work will get you everywhere in life. Eaton said he doesn’t believe this to be true because too often people don’t question what they are working for, so the hard work backfires.
  “I don’t think it’s saving me,” he said. “I don’t think it allows me – it gives me credence not to pay attention to other things. And I think people that think work may be virtuous, even though they won’t consciously describe it like that, feel like they can take themselves off the hook of everything going on in this country and in this world because they just don’t have time for that other stuff. They don’t have time to pay attention to the news, they don’t have time to be critical of the government or [Hurricane] Katrina [efforts] or the War in Iraq.”
  The irony may be that the band’s hard work paid off not only in the form of a finished rock album, but also in what the band has learned about the music business. Eaton – who always seems to be honestly evaluating himself and the band even if it means criticizing – said the group has a better understanding of how to split up jobs off-stage, and how to work together to make good business decisions. They now have a direction or agenda, something they lacked pre-Work Is Not a Virtue.
  “We weren’t happy with just playing shows and writing music in the basement anymore, and that really gives a lot of [motivation] to write music that you really love.”
  Of course, the well-spoken drummer would probably argue that their hard work is honorable because the 14 tracks they were working on are a very righteous cause. Decide for yourself at Morale’s CD release party March 24 at Ten Bells in Grand Rapids Also check out their myspace account at–Nick Stephenson
- Recoil Magazine


EATING EP - January 2003
4 song EP
Recorded By Chris Kremo at
339 Auburn

Everything’s Lost - August 2003
Rarity collection
Recorded By Chris Kremo at
Various Locations

3 Song Demo - October 2003
Recorded by Chris Kremo at
1108 Quarry “Short House”

Full-length "Work Is Not A Virtue" released March 2006. Recorded at 1108 Quarry. Mixed by Benjamin Hunter. Mastered by Al Mcavoy at Dynamite Sound. Artwork and layout by Ideal Collective.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Morale uses three musical tools in order to attract new listeners: dynamics, space and melody. For a rock band, the use of musical dynamics is a rare occurrence; Morale uses this to our advantage. We cover all sonic levels and all levels of performance passion. We understand that in order for the music to go all the way up, we must first take it all the way down.

By allowing space in our music, we give the listener a chance to let the melody sink in. Whether it be a sax lick, a guitar solo or a vocal line, by balancing repetition and space, the voicing is remembered. With all the instruments in the band, a little space ensures that instead of talking over each other, we engage in a musical conversation.

Most importantly, Morale is about the melody. From the rhythm section up, all instruments support the melody. The lyrics and vocal execution are encouraged by all guitar, sax, bass and drum parts. This makes the songs, lyrics, performances and “Morale” memorable.

Morale’s members have been playing and writing music for at least ten years. From various former bands and projects, Chris Kremo (Guitar), Kyle Dood (Vocals/Guitar), Joel Brusk (Sax/Vocals), Jim Shaneberger (bass) and Weston Eaton (Drums) decided to work towards dynamic, passionate and original music. This goal is called Morale.

Morale is interested in writing music that we love and playing that music live. Our music is “our own”, we feel a connection to our songs and shows, we have a bond with our sound. We do more than merely write and perform music which we think that people will like; instead, we instrumentate our passions and orchestrate our emotions. This frees our songs from any false intentions.

What does this mean to you? It means that we can play with ANYBODY. And that we are something new and changing. Our performances are never the same, never have been. We balance the highs and the lows in an emotional set. We rely on more than just the full throttle action of metal acts, and move and rock harder than singer/songwriter type genre bands. We don’t cheat with “well-crafted riffs” or seek to thrill through “slammin’ breakdowns”, those formulas leave listeners empty: they have heard it before. We write and perform melodic action-orientated songs that make even the first time listener aware of the potential for fulfilling and substantial music.

We sound like "Bleach" with a sax, but sometimes soft, straining for sing-able melodies and chords and arrangements. We are all different in this band and are always changing. Our live shows are all of us forcing out our ideas all at once.