Grampie, my Mom’s dad, was a kind man with a near-photographic memory. To memorize lengthy sermons, he glanced at them. Once.
One night, we were all messily eating his homegrown blueberries in Bear Lake, Mich. Wearing her tan, wraparound skirt, Grammie passed me the pale blue sugar bowl and Grampie started telling a joke. Usually a master of detail, he forgot the punchline. Strange. Grammie told me to check on his minnow bucket.
Over time, Alzheimer’s disease took Grampie full force. Visiting, I saw his steady decline firsthand. Right before he died, he asked me, “Who are you, pretty girl?”
So I’m touched by entheos’ upcoming EP release party, a benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association. (Their friend lost her grandfather to the disease.)
Alison Shepard (vocals, keys, percussion) says, “We felt passionate about donating some of the door money to a charity so that it wasn’t just about, ‘Hey, look at us.’ ”
Wearing pearly, dangling earrings, Alison’s a vibrant soul — confident, yet humble. An art teacher at Thomas More College, her speaking voice echoes, the natural tone of a singer. The sound carries. I think those earrings are shells.
A full-time musician, Alison’s brother Carl Shepard (vocals, guitar, bass) started writing songs at 15. With straight, streaked hair and silver jewelry, he's colorful, but his voice is consistent and soothing; he appears perpetually mellow.
But wait: Carl also has a hidden, rambunctious look. Like he might take a nap. Or tear some shit up. Hard to tell.
Next, welcome full-time drummer Justin Webb.
On his arms, Justin sports fiery star tattoos. On his ears, hoop and diamond earrings, and he says straight up what’s on his mind.
Justin gets personal quickly and, when he does, he doesn’t look down. Eye contact and heart here.
Entheos’ 2009 sophomore EP, Sense, was recorded by a slew of talented sound engineers, including locals Matt Parmenter (“a mover and a shaker,” Alison says of the now-Austin-based musician/knob-twiddler) and Chris Schmidt. Former Cincinnatian Chris Estes mixed two tracks in Nashville, and for mastering entheos recruited Trevor Sadler from Grammy Award-winning Mastermind Productions.
Alison and Carl share vocals, pushing out soaring angelic harmonies, altering leads. With more electric guitar and Webb’s drumming on this release, the overall feel is fuller and more intense than the band’s previous work.
“It’s got Trip Hop elements, but it sounds more organic," Justin says. "We have more effects and overdubbed vocals, which makes the live performance more exciting. There’s a lot of color to the music, a lot of emotion.”
Alison comments, “As far as my chops, I’m not as skilled as Justin and Carl, but I love to sing. I can do what I need to for this band. I understand music theory and Carl and I write melodies and lyrics together.”
“Seriously, it’s really Alison and me trying to keep up with him,” Carl says about Webb. “It’s like when people don’t notice you, that’s when they notice you. He’s constantly working on his technique, constantly. Even right after gigs, he’s practicing.”
“He’s definitely the most talented in the band,” Alison adds. “I’m not ashamed of it. Dude’s badass. We’re lucky to have him.”
Webb responds, “My point of view about music and drumming is that it’s all an art. It’s not a competition. It’s not the technique — that’s already been done. It’s what you do with your technique that’s going to separate you from other musicians. The key point of being a professional musician is making the right musical decisions. ”
Simply, they dig each other and what each one does. And their collective positive nature comes across in the uplifting sound. Alison refers to the trio as a “family-type band.”
“We’ve had most of our success at art openings, private parties, churches and parks,” she says. “I don’t care if we play in bars or not. We’re proud of the music that we make. (It) feels like it’s bigger than us.”
Music. Curiously bigger than all of us. Mysterious connection between notes. Now that’s something. Like my Grampie, not easy to forget.
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