Eminence Ensemble will light up the stage this weekend
Colorado-based Eminence Ensemble will be the next band to perform at this month’s Mountain Music Series presented by Bud Light. Known for their genre-blending style and high-energy live shows, the sextet, including Tanner Bardin, Nick Baum, Wil Snyder, Zac Flynn, Dylan Gleit and Justin Neely, has been creating a unique experience for their followers since 2009. Explore Steamboat caught up with Neely ahead of this weekend’s show.
Explore Steamboat: How did you guys all meet and get started together?
Justin Neely: The first four members of the band, Tanner, Nick, Zac and I, all went to high school together in Summit County and played in opposing bands. At first, it was all competition, and each year, we went head to head at the local Battle of the Bands. But after high school, each of our groups disbanded, and we all coincidentally moved to Boulder to attend CU. We were in the same place at the same time, and we all wanted to continue pursuing music, so we set our differences aside and started Eminence Ensemble. The other two members, Dylan and Wil, both joined during the pandemic as our lineup rearranged, completing the team and adding a lot to our sound.
ES: With six different people in the band, how did your styles come together and turn into what it is currently?
JN: We are all very independent with our musical tastes, which adds a lot of flavor to our sound. With influences ranging from funk/jazz/RNB to classic rock/metal/classical to folk/pop/alternative, our music has become quite eclectic. We started with a lot of instrumental tunes that we improvised heavily in performance, but as we grew and our styles developed, we started writing and singing more. Our songwriting and repertoire really blossomed, writing with much more intent. Our style will always be evolving, but we have definitely established that “Eminence Ensemble” sound.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
ES: In terms of your musical style and infusing elements of all different kinds of music, how do you make that work and blend together?
JN: When we aren’t playing, we’re constantly sharing new music that we’ve come across. What really brings all of our styles together is how we listen to that music. First and foremost, we concentrate on how the music makes us feel, then we break it down into why it makes us feel that way. Then we put that toward our own music. Since we all write, we often combine ideas that stemmed from different genres and try and make them cohesive. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. The trial-and-error mentality has allowed us to explore unique musical spaces and has created a sound that we would have otherwise never found. In addition, our deep understanding as listeners combined with our unique musical backgrounds has led to our ability to mix and match so many styles.
ES: It sounds like you put on quite a show — tell us a little bit about what we can expect in Steamboat this weekend.
JN: You can expect a very dynamic performance. We carefully craft each set list to reflect the setting we’re in, and since this is an outdoor show in Colorado, it will be very adventurous and ever-changing (much like the weather). Expect a very powerful sound, deep jams, angelic vocal harmonies and dueling guitars. If the crowd is having a blast, then we are having a blast.
What: Mountain Music Series presented by Bud Light: Eminence Ensemble
When: 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15
Where: The lawn at Torian Plum
ES: I read that you first became popular by doing live performances. What was it like for you during COVID-19 when you couldn’t do that, and are you happy to be back on stage again?
JN: COVID was tough for us. We had a national tour scheduled in April 2020 that would have finished with a set at Red Rocks Amphitheater opening for Lotus. As Colorado musicians, playing at Red Rocks has been a life-long dream, so it was a hard pill to swallow. The thought of not performing for the unforeseen future was also extremely uncomforting. However, the pandemic led to a lot of good things. The keyboardist and guitarist, at the time, left the band to pursue other goals, and we had the pleasure of bringing Wil (keyboards) and Dylan (guitar) into the Ensemble. They brought a whole new energy of positivity and creativity. From then on, we entered a tsunami of songwriting, writing about 20 new songs in about three months. After much debate, we picked our four favorites, went into the studio and recorded them as singles, set for release in the fall. After everything was said and done, the band came out of the pandemic much stronger than it went in.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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