The Great Lakes Myth Society is a rock band with a clear sense of place. As
you might expect from their name, the band’s debut album is full of songs
about Great Lakes folklore. But their music is also infused with a subtle
appreciation for Great Lakes nature as well. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Dustin Dwyer has more:
The Great Lakes Myth Society is a rock band with a clear sense of place. As you might expect from their name, the band’s debut album is full of songs about Great Lakes folklore. But their music is also infused with a subtle appreciation for Great Lakes nature as well. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Dustin Dwyer has more:
James and Timothy Monger grew up in what they call the “former small town of Brighton, Michigan.” While strip malls and fast-food joints sprung up around them, the brothers held on to a sense of respect for the natural world.
“We were taught when you drive down the road with your parents, and you see a bunch of cranes, you stop, and you look at them until they leave.”
“…And when you see a lilac bush in someone’s yard, you stop and cut off several and you drive away quickly.”
On their debut album with the five-man group, The Great Lakes Myth Society, James and Timothy turn their stolen moments of Great Lakes beauty into songs about the region’s culture, history and nature.
(Sound of song)
“When the cold stars work overtime to impress you, and the Northern Lights rise up from the coral, And your bed is on your back…”
But while many of James and Timothy’s songs for the Great Lakes Myth Society are full of awe for Great Lakes nature, the songs don’t include any overt environmental messages. James says that’s intentional.
“I’m not a big fan of musical political statements. I think it’s extremely narcissistic to me to use your music as a platform unless you’re out there doing something behind it.”
James and Timothy say they prefer a more subtle approach.
“It’s always good to come up from behind people and imply.”
“We whisper in their ears.”
“Yes we do.”
So he and his brother often use personal experiences to draw the environmental connections. Like this song James wrote about his college days at Central Michigan University. It’s called “Isabella County, 1992” On the surface, the song has nothing to do with the environment.
“And it’s an Indian summer, and the tap water’s brown sand ‘cause the lamprey are crammed ‘neath the Chippewa dam.”
But in a song that’s essentially about the drinking scene at a state university, James includes a line about how sea lamprey affect the tributaries that drain into the Great Lakes.
“I think I may be the only person who ever used a sea lamprey dramatically in a piece.”
“I think you’re right.”
James says he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a summer cleaning fish traps at the Chippewa dam in central Michigan.
“We would just get up early, get some donuts, pull up the traps, pull out three hundred crawdads, count weird riverfish like chubs. I liked the horny head chub a lot. That was my – and the Texas hogsucker. You learn a lot about your state when you know all the names of the fish that come through.”
And if James is about the gritty, sometimes overlooked details of Great Lakes nature, Timothy is more about the beauty of the area. He’s more likely to write songs about the northern night sky.
“‘Neath a radio of stars, on every band unravel cars. In the distance, Old St. Ignace, beneath a radio of stars.”
“Across the Bridge” is Timothy’s love song to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“We played a Chicago show directly after 9/11, like a couple days after. Like so many people, we were almost frightened going into a large city. I’d been writing about the U.P. and it kind of occurred to me that that was about the safest place, you know. Sort of in the event of a hurricane, you’d go to your cellar, I’d go to the U.P. in case anything bad was going down.”
Timothy says he just felt safer up north, where society and sprawl have yet to take over. He says it’s one of the few places he and his brother can still go to simply appreciate the Great Lakes – not to be advocates or fight for a cause, but to recognize and appreciate the nature that surrounds them. A place where the only intrusion from the civilized world is the music playing in their headphones.
For the GLRC, I’m Dustin Dwyer.