Attention, rock fans: Local band Endity means business

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StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115885730615362.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘Endity's next show is set for Friday, Sept. 22, at Elixur.’);

Does the Rockford music scene consist of the same old musicians playing the same old venues? An attempt at answering that question could spark an endless debate, which, in turn, could take time away from noticing who is actually putting themselves on the musical map in the Forest City, namely the five-piece band Endity.

The Rock River Times caught up with the award-winning modern rock group to chat about its roots, the local scene, a new recording and what the future may hold.

Formed in 2005, Endity is an outgrowth of a musical meeting that began nearly seven years ago within the Rockford public school district. Brian Ross, Ian Johnson, Dan Ross (no relation to Brian) and Matt Mickelson got together in middle school and soon realized they shared a collective dream to create and perform music.

With some gear and determination, Ross, Mickelson, Johnson and Ross were ready to take on the world. However, according to Mickelson, they had a problem: they had three guitar players. Mickelson, who has no formal vocal training, never thought his role in the band would involve singing.

“I really wanted to play guitar,” joked Mickelson. “Those three (Ross, Ross and Johnson) said ‘No!’ Then, they pretty much made me sing.”

Ironing out musical roles was a start for the schoolmates, as they recruited a drummer and managed to land a few gigs. However, as with many young musical projects, the initial effort wasn’t its last. It wasn’t long before it was back to square one, as gone was the drummer. Ian Johnson, who sports a makeshift mohawk, joked about how they found current drummer Eric Fishe, who at 32, started playing music in 1986, the year the rest of the band members were born.

“We lost our drummer, and began looking at ads,” Johnson said. “Then we found this old (guy). It just clicked, came together and became Endity.”

Fishe’s musical lineage can be traced directly to two schooled percussionists. His late father, Ted, was an accomplished player and kept him exposed to music.

Fishe said: “My father was a long-time drummer. He pretty much showed me how to play and passed the baton off to me. I like to think I’m good, but I don’t hold a candle to how my dad played. In fact, I am still using a kit that he left to me. So, his beat goes on, so to speak.”

Eric is also the nephew of a drummer, Thom Fishe, who began making his mark nationally in the 1970s and currently performs with the Jodi Beach Trio, as well as being routinely called upon by Rick Burns, Dan Voll, Steve Ditzell and Harlan Jefferson.

Endity’s live shows leave nothing to chance. The band’s modern rock sound brings a sharply-honed style to the genre. Although almost fresh out of high school, guitarists Ian Johnson and Dan Ross play with as much flair as ax-slingers twice their ages. Soft-spoken bassist Brian Ross’ in-the-pocket playing style locks in well with Fishe’s percussive mastery. With only four-and-a half years of experience, Ross plays it straight, but is not afraid to explore his fretboard.

Mickelson performs like he’s been singing for decades. His pro-level range allows him to effortlessly command the stage with a wireless mike attack. A long-awaited studio project has shined an even brighter light on the band, evident on the well-packaged two-song EP, which will be available soon.

Recorded at Jericho Studios in Loves Park, “Redemption” and “Flashback” were laid down as part of a prize package in Endity’s first-place finish in Elixur’s Battle of the Bands contest in May. They also won $400 in cash.

The first track is a strong, out-of-the-box introduction to the band’s recording talent. Musically, it hits modern rock nerves, with a dropped-tuning punch and a catchy melodic groove. As Mickelson’s vocals flow with the tune, the lyrics fall nicely into place as he grinds out the hook, “When I see you in the dark, you take my breath away.” Although the riffs are repetitious, rock fans are sure to find that “Redemption” is a far cry from a juvenile effort. The song has the necessary ingredients of a potentially solid radio listening experience.

The CD’s second tune features a flashy tempo variation, highlighted by a tight 5/4 time signature, lauding the band’s confidence. Lyrically as strong as the first track, “Flashback” is also a prime example of what rock fans are looking for.

Planning to eventually make full-time livings playing music, the members of Endity shared their thoughts about the state of the Rockford music scene.

“We know some people just don’t come out and see original bands,” Johnson said. “But I don’t think that has anything to do with the people in Rockford. It’s just the nature of this business. For some reason, it’s a touchy subject. Some musicians feel like it could be better, while some think it’s great. We don’t like to really get involved in figuring it out. Mostly, we just keep our mouths shut and play.”

Fishe agreed, saying he’s just happy to be creating music, and rolls with the punches.

Fishe said: “We’re about the music. We’ll play our asses off, whether it’s in front of three people or 300. We don’t really think of much when we are on stage.”

Dan Ross attributes his appreciation of the music to why he’s often lost in the moment.

“I get so into it, I sometimes actually drool,” Ross explained. “I also tend to do this thing where I forget to breathe.”

The name Endity, cleverly taken from the phrase “Ending of Reality,” according to Mickelson, encapsulates a unique musical state of being.

Mickelson said: “When we are playing, it’s almost like we are in a totally different reality. A 45-minute set goes by like nothing.”

When it comes to writing, Endity seems to have a system that is working well for them. Mickelson and Fishe explained how they go about writing material. According to Fishe, it’s a diplomatic process.

“Dan writes most of the music, and Matt writes most of the lyrics,” said Fishe. “Or, sometimes I will come up with an idea on piano, and we all run with it. Eventually, it turns into something.”

Sept. 10, Endity won its second contest of the year, taking home the $1,000 grand prize in JT’s Bourbon Street Grille’s Battle of Bands contest. The band is currently negotiating with several management companies. Johnson feels things are moving in the right direction.

Johnson said: “Just a couple of months ago, we were just a band hanging out, playing here and there. Now, we feel like this is all worth it.”

Going from an unknown group of hopefuls to a national act is often a classic success story for some bands. However, most musicians don’t make it to the top. Endity is willing to take that risk.

“We hope that in a year from now, we will be playing more shows out of town,” Mickelson said. “We would love to go on tour with a national act and possibly get a record deal.”

Endity just might be on that path. Within the last year, the group has opened shows for The Good Year Pimps and also played for a several-hundred-person crowd, opening for Travis Meeks, formerly of Days of the New.

For now, Endity will continue to grace the Rock River region and rehearse at the home of Dan Ross’ parents, Jim and Bev, who are very supportive of the music.

“We used to have to put up with it, but now it’s easy,” laughed Bev. “Now we’re just deaf.”

Endity’s next show is Friday, Sept. 22, at Elixur, 3780 E. State St., in Rockford as part of WXRX’s Rock Night. The club can be reached at 227-0000. Endity will also take the stage Saturday, Sept. 30 at Rocky’s Bar and Grill in Loves Park.

From the Sept. 20-26, 2006, issue

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