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It’s just rock ’n’ roll

Conspicuous Bystanders go against the grain


In May of 2014, two south Michigan-based musicians named Jenna Roark and Emmet McGuire met and began writing and making music together. Their mutual love for classic rock influenced their work together and not long after, they found a few like-minded souls to form the rock group Conspicuous Bystanders. The group is fresh off the release of their first original album this month, entitled “You Can Have It All.”

The group consists of vocalist Jenna Roark, guitarist Emmet McGuire, drummer Zachary McKinney and bass player Duncan Tarr. In a world where most musicians in their 20s are focusing on EDM, electronic or pop-style music, Conspicuous Bystanders, despite their name, aren’t exactly bystanders. In fact, their rock ’n’ roll mentality and style of music make them stand out from what is currently being made by most local millennial artists.

“In an era where everyone is eager to pinpoint their genre with every descriptive word they can find, Conspicuous Bystanders prefer to call what they play, ‘rock ’n’ roll,” said McGuire.

“Sure, there are jazz notes, blues notes, and even a little reggae, but to add that noise is too restrictive. Rock ’n’ roll has always been a mixture of blues, jazz and countless other genres, and to add such details seems redundant.”

McKinney agreed, saying that he feels that rock ’n’ roll has actually lost popularity. And yet, this style is what they choose.

“It’s fallen off in the pop scene, which is controlled by other people and the powers that be in those record labels. Rock ‘n’ roll is natural and it has a rawness to it. No one told us to play this style of music,” he said.

“You Can Have It All” is the first album officially released by Conspicuous Bystanders and contains eight original songs — all the original material the band has been playing since its first incarnation in Jackson. It’s true to Conspicuous Bystanders’ style, ranging from heavier rock songs to light, danceable music like their song “Buttons.”

“I think what’s unique about a band in general rather than just a solo artist, is that we have four unique artistic opinions that are going into our music,” said Roark.

“Taking a beat that’s been pre-made and adding things over it isn’t creative. You can only take that direction so far. You can get so much more with four people contributing than just one.”

The album was released on January 1 and is available on the band’s YouTube channel, SoundCloud, and BandCamp. As time goes on, the album will appear on popular streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Conspicuous Bystanders first tour is due in April of 2018 and plans to play in Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo.


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