Given Name: Band asks 'How much control do we have in our lives?'

Jun 24, 2013

From left to right: Drummer Brian Voortman, lead guitarist/vocalist Jacob Bullard, and pianist Laura Hobson.
Credit Antrim Dells

The Grand Rapids band Antrim Dells is probably best known for their haunting melodies, soft acoustic guitars, and three part harmonies. Antrim Dells is having a release show for their new album called Given Name on Saturday at Nice Gallery in Grand Rapids.

“We only have guitar, bass, drums, and piano as far as instruments goes. So, when you add three voices on top of that, it can really open the sound up and add a lot more texture and depth to the music,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Jacob Bullard.

The band is Bullard along with pianist Laura Hobson, bassist John Hanson, and drummer Brian Voortman. Almost everyone sings vocals.

Bullard says the name Antrim Dells comes from Antrim County, Michigan, the county next to the one he grew up in. Bullard says he wanted to capture the beauty of that place in his music.

“When you grow up in a place you don’t really think about it that much, it’s just where you’re growing up. And then I went to college and I would come home for the summer time. And I worked as a meter reader for a gas company. So I spent almost the entire summer outside by myself,” he says. “Those summers were really cool and just so much time walking around outside by myself and you can just let your mind wander. And it’s just so gorgeous in the summertime, really temperate climate and lots of trees.”

Antrim Dells is having a release show for their new album called Given Name on Saturday. Drummer Brian Voortman says unlike their last CD, Given Name is more of a concept album. It’s about how little control we have over our lives sometimes, like the name we’re given at birth.

“Things that are outside of our control that affect us and lead us to a certain place and spur us on to be the humans that we are,” says Voortman. “But I think also it’s…it’s a better representation of our band and our sound as a whole.”

Bullard says the song "Not My Doing" fits this idea best. He says he wrote it after seeing a homeless man on the street near his Grand Rapids apartment. Though he saw a lot of poverty in the neighborhood, he says it all felt like it culminated into that moment.

“Here I am walking out the front door with my Macbook in my bag and off to go get, you know, a cup of coffee and meet my friends at this gourmet restaurant for lunch. This happens, you know. And why is he not doing that? Why am I not the one lying there on the side of the street outside of my front door, you know? And when you really…for me when I really try to think, rationalize why that is I mean, I don’t know. I just felt like all of the things that have placed me in the place that isn’t his place weren’t up to me,” says Bullard. “There’s a certain amount of scariness I think that happens when you think about some of these things. But that doesn’t mean that you have to end up in a scary place or that there isn’t any kind of freedom or liberation that can come from exploring these things. Like I’ve actually felt a large amount of peace actually once I’ve come to grips with the fact that some of this stuff is happening.”

The band says in a few years they want to add a more instruments and maybe up the tempo. But Voortman and Bullard say they don’t want to leave behind what makes Antrim Dells Antrim Dells.

“There’s a lot of music that I’d like to play, but there’s only a certain amount of music that’s appropriate for Antrim Dells,” says Voortman. “You know what I mean? We can’t do everything. You know we’re not going to play like psychedelic rock n’ roll, that’s just not us.”