“Damn, you guys are killing it!”
The interview is interrupted by a friend of the band, but her comment is appropriate. Aspen Hourglass, a local progressive-alternative rock trio, has exploded onto the Colorado music scene in recent months.
It’s the afternoon before their first headlining show at the Aggie. They have recently played the Oriental Theater and the Meadowlark and headlined Higher Ground Music Festival in Denver. They opened for the Flobots, Matthew Santos and Darling Parade, were on the cover of Colorado Music Buzz and have been in rotation on several Denver radio stations.
The band, comprised of Grayson Erhard on guitar and vocals, John Napier on bass and Sean Hanson on drums, are all current or former CSU students. Napier and Hansen met in CSU Pep Band, and Napier and Erhard met at Spotlight Music, a local music store.
“He was playing bass, I was playing guitar and we both kind of caught each other’s ear and jammed from then on,” said Erhard. “John brought Sean over – against my will – to jam, we already had another jam drummer over there. Sean sat down and started going crazy, and I was like word, let’s do this.”
All of this attention is definitely warranted. Erhard and Napier absolutely slay on guitar and bass – this is not an opinion but a fact – and Hanson is supremely talented as well. They try to play complex music that is enjoyable to the average listener.
“We play in various time signatures and have crazy chord progressions, but we want those to groove,” says Erhard. “We don’t want to be mainstream. I mean success would be nice, but our agenda is to make music that challenges us on a day to day basis, that we like to play, but also that the music lovers and musicians can like and that the audience that has no idea about music likes too.”
Aspen Hourglass is managed and produced by Lance Bendiksen of Bendiksen productions, a Denver-area production company that has worked with the likes of U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Fray. Working with such an accomplished member of the music industry is inspiring for the trio.
“He’s way more legit than we are,” says Erhard, laughing. “He is so connected in the local and national music scene. We recognized early on that this industry is heavily based on connections and networking. So to be tactical about it and move up quicker we needed to know someone that could get behind our music and introduce us to various contacts.”
So far that strategy seems to be working. Aspen Hourglass will spend their winter break “showcasing for industry executives” in New York and L.A.
“We are trying to walk the line between business and passion, and that’s a tricky thing to do,” says Erhard.
“Don’t let fear decide your fate,” adds Napier. “That’s why people don’t pursue their dreams; they’re scared of what could happen.”
The Aggie is packed, not quite sold out but still full. Aspen Hourglass takes the stage around 11 pm to raucous applause. Their set is lively and fun, mixing in some reggae and a little rap. Erhard plays two acoustic songs mid-way through.
The crowd loves them, for good reason. I overhear snatches of conversation from every direction, the gist of which is always, “Wow.”
They end their set with two encores, huge smiles and a song called “Taboo Days,” a crowd favorite, accompanied by Bendiksen on a weird keyboard-flute and his friend on an accordion.
“That was absolutely incredible,” said Hanson. “That was the first show where we actually got that stadium roar for applause at the end instead of just like ten guys clapping.
I am one of those average music listeners, and I was impressed. It’s safe to say the musicians in the crowd felt similarly.
“We’ve finally found our niche as a band,” says Hanson. “We’re looking to continue to grow, gain exposure and start playing those bigger Colorado venues.”
College Avenue and Collegian reporter Zane Womeldorph can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org