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“You gotta win to get love. I mean, that’s just life. Look at … look at Don Shula. Legendary coach. Look at that Asian guy who holds the world record for eatin’ all those hot dogs in a row. Look at Rue McClanahan. From The Golden Girls. Three people, all great champions, all loved.” When Ricky Bobby, in the movie Talledega Nights, said this about winning, he clearly hadn’t been in a close contest. Not one as close as this year’s whatzup/Wooden Nickel Battle of the Bands, anyway. Miles High, in their third year participating in the contest, missed winning the final night’s show by just three one-thousandths of a point. If they had received just one more judge’s point or one more person’s vote, we would be talking about Miles High, not Trackless, as Battle of the Bands champions in 2013. But just because they didn’t win, it doesn’t mean they aren’t loved. Nearly a hundred fans came out to watch the band play and voted for them to win. That’s love.
As Miles High guitarist John McKnight said, “Anyone could’ve taken first that night. It was a good night of music and we want to thank our fans for helping us rock the house.”
Formed in 2010, Miles High began as a group of friends sharing a love of music that morphed and grew as the band searched for its sound. Anyone who had seen the band perform in its early days would be amazed by what has grown into a mature, professional band ready to become prominent players in our area’s music scene.
“This band has been quite a work in progress that has seen many looks and lineup changes over the years,” McKnight said in a recent interview. The core group has been Miles Boyd on vocals and guitar, Nolan Opper on bass, Andy Murfield on saxophone, McKnight on lead guitar, and Ryan Moreno on drums. The most recent additions have been the horn section of Dominic Gaietto on trombone and Chris Adamisin on trumpet.
With the exception of Adamisin and McKnight, the members of Miles High went to school together, so they had been familiar with each other and shared a love of music well beyond the band formed.
“Everyone has been playing music for quite some time,” McKnight explained. “Everyone had different reasons for getting into music, and everyone had different styles” going into the band, but their differences are what make them great. “[Mixing the different styles] really adds a nice dimension to the music.”
McKnight explains that with influences ranging from “Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prince, Incubus, Rage Against the Machine, Umphrey’s McGee, Phish, Jack White, Pearl Jam and everything in between,” it’s difficult to plug Miles High into one specific type of music. And though those influences sound pretty diverse, Miles High have found a way to incorporate them into their music each and every night.
“Pinning us to any one genre is nearly impossible because we tend to infuse funk, blues, country, reggae, pop, jazz and rock into our music,” McKnight said. “We try to do it in ways that people can really grab on to, regardless of which particular style is calling them. Each musician has [his] own tastes, and we all let that reflect in the music. However, each musician is proficient enough to cover many styles so we can hit from all angles.
“When we talk about progressing,” McKnight continued, “it’s attributed more to our abilities to play and really clean up the sound. In having such a large band, it’s a huge priority of ours to not only play well, but to sound as well and clear as we can.”
Writing music for a band with such a wide range of styles sounds like it would be huge challenge. That’s why, McKnight says, the band spreads the workload around to all its members.
“No one individual is responsible for all the music we write,” McKnight said. “Someone will either bring an idea up at practice and everyone will add some color, or we’ll simply start jamming and see what comes of it. Some of our best work has been really spontaneous.
Boyd is responsible for the bulk of the lyrics, according to McKnight.
“Stresses, anger, love gained, love lost, life changes, good times and bad times all creep their way into the lyrics. Some songs are purely fun, and some have deeper feelings put into them. It helps keep listeners on their toes and gives them something to listen to regardless of their current situations.”
The band’s biggest asset may be having a lot of members with different ideas, but that size and diversity also presents some of the band’s biggest challenges.
“Having so many talented members makes it hard to focus our energy on one particular project to really propel it forward,” McKnight said. “Everyone needs their freedom to play, so it must be respected. Beyond that, simply finding time to get so many people together for practice is one of our toughest challenges. We can go over a month without practicing, which is kind of crazy we are even able to play at the level we believe we can play at.”
Though they’ve begun to finally see the fruits of their success, Miles High have a very realistic approach to the future. Having already two CDs – 2010’s Freaks ‘n’ Losers and Pleasure Playground, released last April – the band continues to write new music to present to fans. The band has found a way to combine their individual talents and influences into some great music, forging their own path, taking on challenges as they come and adapting and changing when needed.
“I think we tend to try and take it a week at a time and try not to get too far ahead of ourselves,” said McKnight. “Life has a way of throwing wrenches into plans, so we might as well enjoy it while we can. It’s hard to imagine where we’d be if life wasn’t in the way of the music.”
“Second place is just the first-place loser.” With all due respect to the late, great Dale Earnhardt, creator of this oft-used quote, that’s not always the case. Through three years of fighting through tough competition to finally get to the finals of this year’s Battle of the Bands, the band has made its mark on the music scene and gained a ton of new fans in the process by putting on some highly energetic, highly entertaining shows that left everyone highly impressed. It’s safe to say that in the case of Miles High, second place wasn’t the first loser; it was really the second winner.