Interview with Oliver Houston vocalist/guitarist Kyle Luck | By Yong Los | Photo by James Li
For a band to reach any level of success, it takes equal parts talent, effort, and timing. For Grand Rapids, Mich., four piece, Oliver Houston, the timing just never seemed to be right. None of their previous projects found any traction with fans while they were active, but then, enjoyed a sudden surge of popularity years after their disbandment. “Every band we’ve ever been in has really sucked in the present,” says guitarist and vocalist Kyle Luck, “and then, it collects Internet dust, and people start to get into it.” After years of wrestling with this curse, Oliver Houston finally seem to be receiving the attention they deserve.
The best way to characterize Oliver Houston’s music is intricate yet fun. They often receive comparisons to bands like Algernon Cadwallader and Dogs On Acid. Luck’s sporadic howls blend wonderfully with his own complex guitar parts and those of Matthew Terrigan. Beneath the crazy guitar work, bassist Matthew McCue and drummer Garret Cabello provide the structure and foundation that drive the music. The band’s first EP, The Dork Ages, was recently re-released by Broken World Media, who will also be releasing the band’s full-length later this year.
Back in March, Oliver Houston embarked on an adventure to Texas to participate in the famed SXSW festival. The trip was 10 days down and back with shows sprinkled in along the way. While this wasn’t their first tour, it proved to be more grueling than previous trips. The band contended with the scorching Texas heat, endured the lengthy drives between shows, and Luck even battled the flu mid-tour. But, in the end, they felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude for the positive response they’ve been receiving at shows, both in-state and around the country.
In the past, Oliver Houston have played with some of the scene’s most beloved bands—including Tigers Jaw and La Dispute, as well as bands who are currently on the rise like The Cardboard Swords and Pinegrove—but despite their recent success, the band want to ensure they don’t lose sight of who they are. While they have gotten the chance to play some of the nicer venues in Michigan, they feel most comfortable in the DIY environment they developed in. “I think we’ll always be a ‘house band’ to some extent,” Luck admits. “That’s where we really thrive and shine.”
While Oliver Houston are excited by their growth over the past few years, they are determined to remain humble. “We’re at the point where we have to decide who we want to be as a band,” Luck says. “We’ve tried really hard to be intentional about our actions, like who we take money from, how much, and why.” The band are using their momentum to make a positive impact both in their local community and the music scene as a whole. From making sure to pay the artists and designers they work with to refusing to print on shirts that were made by child slaves, Oliver Houston are exercising a stance of ethicality over everything. Despite taking some hits financially, the band are determined to hold on to this moral code for as long as they exist.
2016 is going to be a big year for Oliver Houston. Whether they’re playing a 500-cap venue or a basement, they will never forget how generous of a gesture it is for people to help them book shows, buy shirts, or even listen to the music. Their music is both raw and captivating, alluding to some much bigger things in the future. Their focus on ethics and genuineness is what really sets Oliver Houston apart from many of the other bands out there. “We really just have so much fun playing music together,” Luck says. “It’s so cheesy, but that’s the bottom line. That’s why we do it.”
The Dork Ages is available now on Broken World Media!