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Sky's the limit for local funk, rock band

Five Ball State students are in the band Eight Stories High, which fuses jazz, reggae and classic rock

By Stephanie Swendsen

“God damnit, why can’t Andrew show up for the show?” Tom Lyday asks the members of Eight Stories as they stare in disbelief. Hours before the band was scheduled to hit the stage at Doc’s Music Hall for the first time, the band’s original drummer was unable to make the gig. In desperate haste, Zach Gore called his floor mate, Michael Brown, to ask if he could fill in. The band met Brown in Lyday’s basement and taught him an entire two-hour set’s worth of music in three hours. What started out as chaos turned into an amazing show and a major turning point for Eight Stories High.

After that night, there was no looking back for Eight Stories High. The band is comprised of five Ball State students who formed on the eighth floor of the Studebaker East Complex. The band has gained popularity since a couple of members were replaced, and currently, AJ Wilson (keys, vocals), Jack Ramsey (vocals, rhythm guitar), Tom Lyday (bass, vocals), Zach Gore (lead guitar), and Michael Brown (drums) form this truly local band. Since its start in 2006, Eight Stories High has grown before Muncie’s eyes.

After landing its first gig at Mo’s Tavern, Eight Stories High began playing as Bygones Bar and Grill’s house band every Thursday night. Ramsey says performing at Bygones was a good experience for the band while it was young.

“We learned how to read audiences, and we had to provide material for three-hour sets,” Ramsey says. “Bygones helped us develop our overall stage presence, and without it, we wouldn’t be who we are today.”

As their popularity grew, the band received gigs playing at Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s fraternity house and numerous Waterbowl festivals. They perform regularly at both Doc’s Music Hall and Doc’s on Dill.

Mike Martin, owner of Doc’s Music Hall and Doc’s Downtown, first saw Eight Stories High at Live at the Waterbowl and loved the energy and passion the young band possessed. Martin added them to both Doc’s locations because he says they draw a large amount of people and “can get the place rockin’!”

Eight Stories High draws large crowds because it is a melting pot of musical genres. When a person hears the band, he can catch remnants of classic rock, funk, soft rock, jazz, and reggae, with the occasional jam session thrown in. Eight Stories High offers something everyone can relate to and love.

The band entertains crowds with a number of covers from all the mentioned genres.

“Nice to Know You” by Incubus, “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf, and “Ride with Me” by Nelly are just a few of the favorites that Eight Stories High regularly covers.

“By playing covers from different genres, it helps us exercise musically,” Wilson says. “That way, when we create our own music, we are able to offer a lot more genres.”

However, with Ramsey as the main lyricist, and all members contributing musically, they have 16 official originals, and many more in the works. Eight Stories High has been adding more and more originals to its set lists, and audiences are responding greatly. Crowd favorites include originals such as “Boogie Boots” and “Authority,” and you can catch audience members singing along at any given show.

The band’s individual members are as diverse as its genre. Each member has a completely different musical background, influence and musicianship that they bring to the group. Each member brings something unique and different musical ideas are always popping up for these talented musicians, creating an exciting musical spontaneity. However, individual strengths aside, it’s the bands chemistry and passion to succeed that has made them a prowess in the local music scene.

Aside from gigging as much as possible, Eight Stories High has been hard at work in Ball State’s recording studio. Senior Telecommunications Productions major, Matt Watkins, has been working with Eight Stories High to record their first album. Watkins was beginning his practicum through the audio department the same time the band wanted to start recording again in February.

Watkins has had a positive experience recording the band’s album. While in the studio, it became increasingly evident to Watkins how well rehearsed and talented the band is. He continues to be impressed with the band’s smooth tracking and its ability to record each song with only a few takes. The band is also pleased with overall progress of the album and Wilson states, “Everytime we record, things run more smoothly. By being in the studio so much this past year, we have been able to learn and gain something each time.”

Watkins is confident in the success the album will have. He is also confident in the band’s ability and believes it has a bright future ahead. As a band, he states its greatest strength is in the chemistry and the ability to come together as a whole. He believes the members’ musicianship and unique genre offers will bring the band endless potential. Watkins states that as long as they continue to work hard, produce new material and hone in on its skills, success will follow.

The hard work and dedication of Eight Stories High has not gone unnoticed. As the musicianship of each member continues to improve individually as well as collectively, each show tops the previous. The band’s fan base is increasing immensely as the band continues to put itself out there. Eight Stories High got 3,000 Myspace views in a three-week time frame, has played a number of charity events, has had multiple radio plays on Max 93.5, and have more than tripled the band’s amount of originals since fall. The band is never settled or content, so they are constantly working on and performing new material. Wilson states, “Now that we’re playing a lot more, people are starting to recognize us. So we are continually challenging ourselves to provide new material for our audiences.”

In regards to the band’s future, the sky’s the limit for Eight Stories High. As the band looks to its final year at Ball State, the band looks forward to finishing their album, gigging as much as possible, increasing its fan base, and building connections outside of Muncie. The talent, passion, and love of music that Eight Stories High possesses will undoubtedly take the band far. The future of Eight Stories High is best summarized by its own lyrics in “Authority”- “It won’t take us long, we’re gonna rock this world, gonna rock it all night long.”


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