Local band Avant Horizon formed out of a Bob Marley tune.
Members of the local quintet, who are Ellie Ferguson on vocals, Andy Gent on keyboards, Tyler Kelley on guitar, and a rhythm section of James Mirabal on bass and drummer Evan Stambler, had been at one of the few open mic nights hosted at local bar the Starlight Lounge during the music-dry summer of 2020.
Ferguson and Kelley were on stage playing Marley’s “Is This Love” as Mirabal and Stambler watched. Mirabal thought the vocalist and guitar player needed a rhythm section, he motioned and mentioned to Kelley about joining in, and the duo quickly became a quartet. Thank Marley for having a catalog that’s a jackpot of hooks and catchy, accessible melodies that hang by our heads like a pilot fish to a shark, and thank Stambler for talking Mirabal into going out “for a quick jam” one night during a summer where most musicians along with the rest of the world were wisely staying home.
“James and I were there doing our own thing, Tyler and Ellie were there doing their own thing, and we ended up on stage together,” Stambler said. “We really musically hit it off. We did the Bob Marley cover, we did a couple of other things and it sounded so good that we started all begging each other, saying, ‘We need to make this a thing, we need to have a band.’ Then Andy joined a few weeks later.”
“I’m so glad Evan talked me into going because we met up with these two,” Mirabal added.
The quintet, who wasted no time writing songs and banging out recording sessions at the new and local studio Haymaker Sounds, will drop their debut later this winter.
As musicians, most have gone the traditional route of lessons – Stambler began drum lessons as a kid, while Gent took piano lessons, playing in bands in high school before studying jazz and science in college. Ferguson took voice lessons as a kid and was a student of musical theater before switching gears toward making music with a band, Kelley picked up the guitar a dozen years ago, and with the help of YouTube, taught himself. He’s inspired by Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote and Jimi Hendrix. Mirabal was originally a guitar player before being recruited to play bass by Stambler in a previous band.
The single from their forthcoming record, “Road Less Traveled,” is a laid-back soul-influenced cut that finds the band dipping into an acid-jazz groove before ramping things up into keyboard and guitar-heavy blast of indie-influenced psych-rock, a sound birthed from heavy jazz and classic R&B, things you’d likely find on band members’ home stereos or digital music devices.
“I think we all listen to a lot of jazz, fusion, soul stuff. And so we all have similar taste in music, and that comes out in our sound,” Stambler said. “But we definitely have a bunch of different songs that touch on different genres, and I don’t think we can pin ourselves into a particular genre at this point. We have a reggae song, and ‘Road Less Traveled’ has that cool surf rock part in the end. We like to incorporate a lot of different sounds in the music.”
The band members admit they’ve moved at a fast pace – forming the group, writing a record and recording that record a mere few months after forming. Yet when you cut live performance out of the progression, that timeline makes perfect sense.
“Part of the beauty with what’s been going on in the world is we haven’t had to focus on shows and that sort of thing,” Gent said. “So we’ve had a lot of time to dial in our sound and practice, and just go right into the studio with our stuff and really dial it in.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.