The Rainbow Seekers try to rejuvenate Michigan’s music scene

On Nov. 7, six friends bearing floral ornamented instruments took the stage at the LOFT in downtown Lansing looking like frolicking travelers from a fantasy forest. They call themselves The Rainbow Seekers; and their front man is the lyrically-blessed instrumentalist, Joe Hertler. Together they represent their raw passion for locally cultivated music and the rejuvenation of Michigan’s music scene.

The faces of the crowd where illuminated by the red streaks of light as they welcomed the beloved troop of musicians with whistles and cheers; it is clear that The Rainbow Seekers have developed a dedicated fan base among the local natives of Lansing.

They opened the show on an upbeat, inspirational note with the song, “Ego Loss on Grand River Avenue,” that preaches the unity the human race—much like the unity found in the bobbing heads and singing of the crowd.

Further down the set list, the energy radiated from the Rainbow Seekers became even more electric. The rays of colorful light reflecting off of looming fog, mixed with the floral clad musicians offered visual decadence. A Technicolor trance. On cue to the opening piano chords of their new song, “Future Talk”, the band of friends danced to the funky beat reminiscent of disco anthems and the days of Motown, with a taste of 80’s synthesizer.

As I watched paint speckled balloons dance above the lively crowd as they look upon the enthralling characters on stage, I understood what it meant to be a Rainbow Seeker.

Before he met The Rainbow Seekers, Hertler was a young musician staring bold-faced at the complexities of life. Hertler originally went to Central Michigan University to study music and education, but the winds of destiny made him drift in a new direction.

“[I] had a little bit of an existential freak-out when I went to college; quit the [CMU music] program, got sad, bought a guitar, and by my sophomore or junior year I was kinda doing the coffee shop circuit,” Hertler said.

During this time of uncertainty, Hertler began working on what is the band’s latest record, On Being. The record is a compilation of the musician’s musings as he took classes in Comparative Religion and began questioning the human experience.

In 2009, Hertler expanded his solo project and teamed up with Ryan Hoger, also a student at CMU and plays electric guitar and sings background vocals for The Rainbow Seekers. In the following year, he met Kevin Pritchard and Rick Hale, two graduates from Michigan State University, and the newborn quartet recorded the Quilted Attic Sessions with local music label, Bigger Brush Media—which Pritchard co-runs. The collaboration unearthed yet another path in Hertler’s musical journey.

“The songs [off On Being] were written to be played as a solo artist; I was just meeting [the band-mates] and didn’t realize that we were going to be a band at the time. So what they did was go on top of it and added their various pieces to those songs,” Hertler said, later pointing out the contrast between the writing and recording process of The Rainbow Seeker’s next album, Terra Incognita.

Latin for “unknown land,” Terra Incognita will be the first album that Joe Hertler and The Rainbow Seekers will record as a single unit.

“The newer stuff is written for the band. When I write a song I consider the acknowledgment that I have a bunch of instruments that need space,” Hertler said.

A more obvious difference between the latest album and the upcoming Terra Incognita will be the band’s new sound. The Rainbow Seekers’ past work is often classified as funk-folk, but Hertler says that the new project will introduce some alternative and hip hop beats. According to Hertler, the upcoming string of shows will “ultimately determine the future of this band.”

Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers are currently on their “Future Talk” Tour, promoting their upcoming album that will be released in the Spring of 2014.