It was discovered in February of 2007 that several articles written by arts writer Devika Daga did not meet the newspaper’s standards of ethical journalism. Parts of these stories had been plagiarized from other news sources. The article below appears to contain plagiarism, and The Michigan Daily no longer stands by its content.
Described by many as the “quintessential college town,” Ann Arbor is home to as many genres of music as majors in the University’s course guide. Whether it’s a jam at a South University Avenue bar or an informal session at an abandoned warehouse, the world of the Ann Arbor music group extends beyond clubs and bars.
But it’s not easy to sum up what it means to be a local band in Ann Arbor. The commitment to music presents stresses, demands and questions of sacrifice. And as you might imagine, money is priority No. 1.
“Money is huge,” said Shane “Mo” Paige of hip hop-meets-post-punk ensemble Belikos. “We’re trying to make this our living.”
The Belikos guys diligently pool their gig money to buy equipment and supplies for the band.
As a result, “none of us really get paid, but it’s for the love and the goal of actually making it,” Paige said.
But there are downsides. There’s an informal but ever-present competition between bands, and yet many local musicians have friends in other bands who they’ve known since high school or through classes at the University.
“Because the bands’ styles and genres vary so much, you sort of know from the start that you’re not competing with everyone,” Belikos frontman Keith Reed said. “When someone (you know) makes it – Tally Hall, for instance – it’s incredible, but you also can’t help but wonder when that’s going to be you.”
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
At the helm of Belikos is Connecticut native and bass guitarist Keith Reed, who plays the part of visionary to perfection: With a degree in jazz performance and experience ranging from pit orchestras to cocktail parties, the 23-year-old Reed is unabashedly in love with music and a pedigree to prove it.
“Before I joined Belikos,” Reed said, “my plan was to jet over to California and basically work like a maniac to try and break into the studio scene, play on albums, commercials, soundtracks, anything.”
The remaining four members of the group are somewhat different.
Plagued with bills, 9-to-5 jobs and a handful of recent robberies to their house, Ethan Hampton, Justin Hampton, Aaron Orr and Mo live what can only be described as a bohemian lifestyle. Inspirational quotes dress the walls of their Ypsilanti home, fit to burst with hope and regret, passion and aggression. Coupled with their makeshift 8-by-8 “stage,” also known as their living room, these words speak directly to their existence as both hopeful musicians and realistic adults.
It’s raw spirit and motivation that keeps them going. “We sacrifice what we have to, but we make it work,” explained guitarist Ethan Hampton.
Sacrifice indeed characterizes the lives of these four members. Unless you happen to be in their neighborhood at around 10 p.m. on weeknights when they rehearse, you have a better chance of seeing them behind a counter than on stage as musicians.
“Right now, we invest only about a quarter of our time on music – whether that’s enough or not is irrelevant . that’s all we can afford to do right now,” said Mo, who currently works at the Kinkos on Liberty Street, but has at one point or another has been employed at Polly-O, Abercrombie & Fitch and various catering businesses.
University students living in the Fiji house or Applebee’s enthusiasts most likely have caught at least a glimpse of lead vocalist Aaron Orr. Chef by day, waiter by night and musician in between, Orr has pursued his passion for music-making since his high school days in Ann Arbor.
“Mo and I went to rival high schools and met through mutual friends,” Orr explained. “We formed our own rap group and would just do our thing whenever we got the chance – before, after or during school.”
Later, the duo met brothers Ethan and Justin Hampton and started to play together informally.
“Justin is wild and out of his mind and just vomits creativity, but Ethan, who’s older and more mellow, is able to iron out and interpret Justin’s visions into something we can all work with,” Mo said.
Before Reed joined, the band had a female vocalist and horn players.
“(It) was pretty experimental,” Mo said. “The music was sort of spotty. Though we didn’t stick with that original direction, that experience gave us a lot to learn from.”
Then this past summer, Belikos invited Reed to join the band. Having originally met at an impromptu jam session months before, Orr and Mo kept Reed in mind thanks to his formidable musical skill.
Newly graduated and at the edge of starting a new life out in California, Reed faced an near-impossible decision.
“I’d been looking forward to moving out to L.A. for a long time,” Reed said. “But
(then) I got the offer to join Belikos. They were nicely established . (but) I was
about to try and establish myself like I’d always dreamed I would. In the end I (decided to stay) because I believed in the music we were going to make. It was very scary to throw away a lifelong dream.”
Let’s get wasted
Given their varied backgrounds and musical preferences, the band attempts to pack as much flavor and nuance into their music as possible.
“What we’re really trying to do is touch people,” Reed said. “We want people to remember us and our music as something special, something that evokes a certain memory and feeling – a reference point in life, maybe.”
Manifest in Belikos’s music is a desire to bridge the gap between hip hop, pop and more guitar-heavy, Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque rock. The band members must be able to switch back and forth between different musical techniques and styles. In particular, Orr and Ethan possess a dual effervescence that explodes on stage: In several sets, a gyrating, half-naked Orr will stun you with his vocal talents – free-styling at one end, hollering at an ear-splitting pitch at the other. Ethan’s versatile voice has the ability to seduce even the staunchest listeners, only later to break them down in a rambunctious protest.
With the majority of tracks serving as functional “Let’s Get It Started”-type songs (or rather, their more blunt rendition, “Let’s Get Wasted”), you shouldn’t expect much from their music other than a rapidly beating heart and a strong desire to hit the dancefloor.
Though they seek an innovative path and name for themselves, as a whole, Belikos’s triumph and desire speaks louder than their actual product. They can move audiences and inject a universal desire to “Get Wasted” into the bloodstream. Nothing more, nothing less.
When all is said and done.
With a handful of shows under their belts and a newly recorded demo, what’s next?
“I see the band doing a lot more shows across the nation,” Mo said, “hopefully on college campuses since it’s one of the best ways to get your name out there. I’m excited to get out and really hit the road.”
But Reed has a slightly different opinion.
“We’re good, but not great – yet,” he began. “A record label would be awesome, but I don’t think we’re quite there.” Reed believes Belikos needs to establish a network in Ann Arbor, then eventually throughout Michigan and the Midwest. “Right now, I see Belikos growing primarily through word-of-mouth.”
Playing a dual role as PR rep and bassist, Reed has a great deal of knowledge about the music industry that will work in the band’s favor. However, his consciousness of the band’s presentation is borderline obsessive.
Although the fledgling band has only begun to trudge along the path toward stardom, the Internet has dramatically altered the fate of local bands across the nation and in Europe. What BBC coined as “DIY marketing campaigns” could some day push local bands like Belikos over the edge.
Until then, it’s back to work for the boys of Belikos: paying the bills and feeding the dream.