Four years ago, we were all being told to worry about the impending new millennium. Companies were scrambling to get their Y2K systems in place, consumers were stocking up on canned goods and bottled water, and upstanding citizens worried about the gun-toting militia. A pervasive feeling of doom and unknown spread across the land. And yet, in a medium-sized town in north central Ohio, four musicians came together with an eye—and ear—for the future.
Ah, but that’s not exactly right. The band began earlier than that with singer/guitarist Billy Peake and bassist Sean Sefcik, who met as college DJs their senior year at Bowling Green State University. Drummers came and went as the pair gigged and got their musical feet wet. A name—Miranda Sound—was chosen, but it wasn’t particularly well thought-out or strategized. Explains Peake, “There’s no logical reason whatsoever. We had a gig, and we needed a name. It sounded like the kind of music we eventually wanted to make.”
The early incarnation of Miranda Sound played shows in their college town, where they encountered singer/guitarist Dan Gerken; although part of another band, Gerken would occasionally join Miranda on keyboards.
After graduation, Peake and Sefcik moved to Columbus. They’d heard from a friend and fellow musician that the music scene there was vibrant, the job market open. Also recently relocated to Columbus was drummer Scott Haynes, who soon met and joined the other two. Their backbone in place, Miranda Sound went on to average a show a week over the next year. By the following summer, they were ready to record their debut CD. Once in the studio, they found they needed more texture, and invited Gerken—who had moved to Columbus to pursue a doctorate in philosophy at Ohio State—to join.
And that was the critical turning point. With Gerken on board, the two vocalists developed a counterpoint singing style that has since become the band’s hallmark. Each has a smooth, high voice; paired together or bouncing off one another, the men’s voices form a rich, dreamy, introspective landscape ripe for exploration. The guitars are alternately pointed and meandering, the songs filled with an indie pop sensibility not unlike a focused Sunny Day Real Estate. Bass and drums provide a sturdy foundation, skilled without becoming overbearing.
After self-releasing Baby Inertia, Miranda Sound was signed to Standard Recording Company, a small label in Indiana. SRC rereleased the debut (reworked and with extras), then sent the band back into the studio for a quick follow-up. Engaged in Labor has been quietly building steam and garnering attention since its release nearly a year ago.
The band has learned a lot since the early days back in Bowling Green. “Since then,” says Gerken, “we’ve all learned that writing a great rock song is more than coming up with a guitar riff and a melody. It’s about collaborating in the right ways and filling the right holes in the band.”
Peake concurs. “The songs are more about the parts coming together than about the acoustic guitar part and the vocals part.”
Still, there’s no denying that Miranda Sound is a band led by two singers—two voices, two ideas about lyrics and melody. “We share everything,” Peake is quick to assure. “Both of us will come up with a melody, and then we throw it around the group. Everyone has an open mind about what we’re doing.”
Though Engaged in Labor is tight and textured, the live show is what keeps audiences coming back. The energy these four put into their art can be measured by the amount of sweat on each player as he exits the stage. For his part, Peake is a careening force; when not tied to the microphone, he plays guitar with abandon. Says Gerken, “We are a live band, and people appreciate the live show, but people are buying a record that they’re going to listen to for two months to 20 years, and you want that to stay interesting. You can see a band any night of the week, but the studio’s a chance to show how interesting you can be.”
So here we are, at the present: four years on, and the world has not imploded, the computer systems haven’t gone down. And the band that began so unceremoniously back then, in a small college town in Ohio, is still with us, stronger and tighter and more textured than ever. Their immediate goal? To take over the world, one step at a time. “We’re trying to get out beyond Columbus, Indianapolis, and Cleveland,” says Peake. Next stop: St. Louis.