The internet can often be seen as a place that only creates fear, doubt, and frustration amongst its users – but on the flip side of that, it can also be a wonderful tool that connects like minded people, help spread love, and share creativity in a way that was never possible before. The tools available in modern society have been tremendous for helping artists get their work out to the world, and be seen more than ever before – as well as giving artists the freedom to fund and self produce their work, allowing for more creative freedom and expression. This is exactly what up and coming band, We Are The Guests, has discovered in recent months.
In early 2019, Spotify shared a track with me on my “Discover Weekly” playlist that had me hooked. That song was “House a Habit.” I immediately added it to one of my playlists and had it on repeat. When searching for the band who had recorded it online, however, I was coming up dry, and I was remiss to see only one song from them on Spotify. They were like a ghost, and I eagerly hoped for and awaited more… and it seems that I wasn’t the only one. After the first week of the song’s release, Spotify shared the track on the “Release Radar” for thousands of listeners, and the song spread quickly – even ending up in the video for a prominent speed painter on YouTube, Tamaytka, which brought the band even more fans. The ghost started to manifest as the band started to create an online presence for themselves, which gave me hope that more was to come from them.
The success of that first song lead to another great release later in the year, “Come Home,” which also popped into my “Release Radar” on Spotify. When I first heard that song I loved it immediately, and quickly looked to see who the artist was – I wasn’t surprised when I saw that it was We Are The Guests. I was thrilled that another song had been released. Both of these tracks were recorded with minimal resources in a podcast room at Kansas State University, where Clay Graber (one half of We Are The Guests, alongside Kyla Mitchell) and Nathan Fleming (“Da Wizard”) spent countless hours slowly piecing the singles together.
Thanks to the online presence the band had established, I was able to connect with Clay after the band returned from recording their debut album – an album that was made possible due to the fans they amassed from their Spotify success (via a Kickstarter campaign), and painting houses to round out the balance that wasn’t earned on Kickstarter. The album was recorded in Virginia at the home of their favorite band, The Hunts, who they connected with by helping load equipment after a gig they attended. Clay generously took some time to sit down and answer my questions.
– Can you tell me a little bit about how and why you got started as a band?
Kyla and I went to high school together, and while we were in high school we sang, and we sang – in choir class, in talent shows, around her beautiful cherry baby grand piano – we sang. Then, toward the end of high school I started writing original music, including “House a Habit”, on the piano and guitar. Kyla and I stayed close friends into college, where we both attended Kansas State University. During my time at KSU I lived across the hall from Nate Flesher, one of my closest friends, and we would listen to indie-folk music, and play guitar together for hours a day. Then one day, Nate stops our jam session and says that he wants to go buy a mandolin. We went to Glenn’s Music, bought a $100 mandolin, and We Are the Guests was officially born.
The “why” we got started as a band is two-fold:
1. We see the world changing a lot every day and people are forgetting and taking for granted the good that surrounds us. We want to tell stories that remind listeners of the good in life. Even though there is suffering and sin in the world, we can always choose how we respond and some of these songs are in that vein of responding to hardship.
2. Music is a wonderful gift. It unites people, sometimes it births friendships, and gives folks an outlet to create. Creating with this group has been one of the most memorable, and rewarding things.
– Who does the band consist of and how did you meet?
I want to make mention of everyone who has been involved with this project – previous members of the group, and those contributing to the group currently – because they’ve all put in a TON of time and have all helped mold WATG in a big way: Logan Wassall (everyone calls him Kilo), Daniel Casimir, Joel Mills, & Nate Flesher. Nate has created many of the mandolin leads that you will hear on the record. The crew that you will hear on our debut album Daughters and Sons consists of Clay Graber (songwriter/composer, acoustic/frontman), Kyla Mitchell (lead vocals, harmonica), GraceAnne Zachary (fiddle), Irene Wilson (bass), Kyle Arness (mandolin), Nathan Fleming (backup vocals & everything production related/hype man), & Emily Graber (backup vocals). We met Irene & GraceAnne at church, we met Kyla at a high school cafeteria, I met my wife Emily at that same high school, and everyone else I met at Kansas State University.
– What is the overall message/theme you are aiming for with your debut album, Daughters and Sons?
Don’t take for granted this life. Spend time with those you love, pray for those that hurt you and forgive them, and take note of the stories and lessons that your parents and your parent’s parents have taught you. Wisdom is valuably imparted, but sometimes we don’t recognize it.
– Who are some of your musical influences?
– What are the chances of a country wide tour in 2020 or 2021?
We’ll see! If demand is there then we will truly think on it and consider it! We’d love to meet new people and there are so many fans we haven’t met. It would be a dream.
– Does being self produced give you more musical freedom to fully express yourself as desired?
It does. Having the freedom to write as we have been, and having the freedom to stick with this unique style that we’ve created should be protected, I feel. It’s how we continue to create “new”.
– Find We Are The Guests online, and give them a “follow” and a “like” so that you can hear first hand when their new album is being released!