It’s not unusual for a band to change its name. It happens a lot for a variety of reasons. A name change is often part of the normal series transitions bands face. What is unusual is for a band to change names when its first CD is in the can.That’s what happened to the Fort Wayne band Horizon Arcs. Formerly known as After School Special, the four-man group had struck a chord with area music fans and had developed a following. The name was spot on, ironic in a way befitting a 1980s cover band, and the gigs were high-energy, edgy and fun. But when it came time to release their album, they learned doing so under their then current name might cause a problem.
“We looked at trademarking and there was an issue with After School Special,” said bassist Aaron Steele.
Their CD Anybody Listening was ready to drop, but as a band they were spinning nameless in the ether.
Coming up with a new name isn’t always easy. Just ask Sean Combs.
“We started going through all the names we could think of,” Steele said. “We had gone through about 400 names and finally came up with Horizon Arcs. We settled on that about a year ago.”
The name change was the first of several transitions Horizon Arcs have faced. A shift in live performances, loftier ambitions and the departure of a key member would soon follow.
Steele was a Navy brat, and while growing up moved around a lot with his parents, Fort Wayne natives. When he was 16, in 1989, he got a guitar and started getting together with friends to play.
“I had a large room and my friends came over with their guitars and we just jammed around,” Steele said. “My parents were good with that.”
Steele moved to Fort Wayne in 2001, but it wasn’t until he bought a bass a few years ago that he thought seriously about joining a band.
“I was always more of a rhythm guitar player,” he said. “About four years ago I bought a bass and put a profile on BandMix saying that I played bass, even though I didn’t. A couple weeks later these guys called and said they needed a bass player. I was still playing with a pick. Then I went to see the Gin Blossoms live. Their bass player was all over the stage and really good. All of a sudden it just clicked. Now it’s really hard for me to play guitar. Should have done it years ago. I’m 10 times better on bass than I ever was on guitar.”
The guys who called were Brody Eastep and Tim Tilbury. Eastep and Tilbury, both guitarists, had met through an ad. Drummer Austin Snyder entered the mix via an ad too.
Eastep, an Ohio native who started playing the guitar at 16 with the self-proclaimed finesse of a gorilla, discovered in college that he had a talent for songwriting.
“College was a weird time,” Eastep said. “You get put into a different situation and you begin to see things from a different perspective.”
Snyder, whose dad Kenton played bass with local favorites Not My Kids, played French horn in high school. Despite paternal pressure to play bass, Snyder said he ended up gravitating to the drums, which he learned on his own by mimicking what he heard on CDs.
“The first band I played with was Les Nester in 2010,” Snyder said. “Then I found these guys on Craigslist. I saw their videos and thought they were pretty good.”
After School Special formed in 2014 and soon found regular gigs around Fort Wayne. Their style, influenced by alternative and grunge bands such as Nirvana, Weezer, Sublime and the Foo Fighters, was a natural fit. But the band wanted to play their own stuff. That’s when Eastep brought a cache of his songs to the group.
“What happened was our singer, Brody, already had a bunch of originals that he had written,” Steele said. “He came to us with a demo CD. We listened, and we liked everything he brought to us. We started working on those.”
The work took a nearly two years, but in the end they wound up with Anybody Listening, an 11-track CD of well-crafted, well-recorded songs. The CD, under the Horizon Arcs moniker, came out last April.
Having proved they could write their own songs, the next challenge was to find a place to play them. Bar owners can be skeptical of bands who want to play their own tunes, and rightly so. Steele said they understood this and they devised a plan to deal with it. But first, there was another hurdle to clear.
Tilbury, the band’s original lead guitarist, decided to quit the band. Steele said when it came time to ramp up the promotion of the album by playing more gigs in a wider radius, Tilbury had other priorities.
“Tim wanted to focus more on his family,” Steele said. “And he didn’t want to hold us back. So he stepped aside.”
With Tilbury out of the picture and a new CD to promote, Horizon Arcs had to find a new lead guitarist. Enter Alex Fernandez.
Fernandez is a Florida native who came to Fort Wayne to work at Sweetwater. On a lark he decided to follow up on an ad the band placed looking for a new guitar player.
“I wasn’t even looking to get into a band,” Fernandez said. “But they had well-written flyers and had a really good website. I thought I’d listen to their songs, figuring they’d probably suck. I didn’t hear a single song I didn’t like. I got a hold of them, we hung out and played and I really liked it.”
Steele said the CD is getting airplay in places like Greece, where it was featured in a blog, and online on Boston Rock Radio and on the UK radio show “I Don’t Hear a Single.”
“The goal is to keep playing, to get the CD out there and to make it as far as we can,” Steele said. “We’re starting to feel some momentum. We just want to see where we can take it.”