M897 Artist Spotlight: June 2013
JOE HERTLER & THE RAINBOW SEEKERS
An Playful and Dedicated Band from Lansing/Mt. Pleasant
Story by LCC Radio Staff Reporter Karen Hopper
Joe Hertler just wants to jam. The worst fight he ever had with his
band--that would be “the Rainbow Seekers” part of Joe Hertler and
the Rainbow Seekers--was over the midsection of a song. Hertler
wanted to put in a jam session, but his bandmates told him it was
stupid. They refused.
"I punched the ceiling," he says sheepishly.
Did he punch a hole in the ceiling? "No." Did he dent the ceiling? The very idea of it is embarrassingly inaccurate. "No," he grins. Nobody takes Joe’s anger seriously, least of all Joe.
Being taken seriously is a bit of a problem for Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers. In stark contrast to Hertler’s sometimes heavy material, the onstage persona of Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, is irreverent, fun, social.
Hertler will tell anyone who interviews him: people come to shows for the music, and for the other people. He instructs his audiences to talk to each other, shake hands, introduce themselves. There are Hawaiian print shirts on stage. One guy sometimes wears a fur coat. Hertler encourages singalongs and nonsensical humming. You get the impression that Hertler doesn’t know how to take himself too seriously.
And that’s a bit of a problem, Hertler confesses. Back in the day--five, six years ago--when he was just a lone guy with an acoustic guitar, singing his songs, he wanted very much to be taken seriously by the heavyweights of the Michigan music scene. He worries, a little, about his image; does his general lightheartedness and ever-present smile make him seem shallow, or like he isn’t dedicated?
Because he is, in fact, dedicated. He’s loved music his whole life. He was rejected from the music program at Central Michigan, but that didn't stop him. He kept writing songs, he kept practicing. Eventually, the Rainbow Seekers came along. He loves all sorts of music, and while the songs that come out of him are more along the folk-rock spectrum, he listens to and plays house and techno for fun.
He quotes Malcom Gladwell and Anders Ericsson when explaining why he probably won’t release his own techno music: he doesn’t have 10,000 hours of time in techno, and he does have it, or nearly, in “indie soul with folk roots.”
It’s a growing phase, right now, for Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers. I asked Hertler if there was a plan in place to transition the band from local gem--they book shows regularly and are appearing at Common Ground again this summer--into national music stars, and he hesitates. He’s not sure how much touring he wants to do. He loves his band (he writes them thank-you notes full of drawings and inside jokes) and doesn’t want to face the the downside of constant togetherness, which nonstop touring requires. There’s also the “studio band” approach, where they would release more music but play fewer shows. But nothing has been decided yet.
Hertler knows this much: he wants his band to be on salary, to be able to do nothing but play music, and ideally, he’d like to be able to support a family. Not that he has a family yet, he hastens to add. But it’s on his mind; the messy, practical side of being a rising musician; one with student loans and family relationships. He sees clearly a role for every member of the band. Everybody contributes something essential.
For somebody so playful, Hertler is at heart, deeply committed. To music. Sorry, ladies, but he might need a little time before he’s actually ready to start that family. In the meantime, you can buy the next Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers album using bitcoin.