Monthly Music Spotlight: The Outer Vibe

It seems like almost everyone is riding a motorcycle at some point in Grand Rapids modern rock band The Outer Vibe’s new music video, “Hoka Hey,” and it’s easy to make comparisons between the bikes and the band.  Both are loud, have a seemingly tough image, and can lead to a great time.

The band’s sound—crunching guitars with soaring hooks—has a universal appeal.  With their new album, Hoka Hey, The Outer Vibe has expanded that sound to include a wider range of instruments including horns, banjos, and electronic drums.  Since the band just released their new video, we decided to shoot a few questions their way and the band was kind enough to reply.

The Awesome Mitten:  How did the band get its start?

The Outer Vibe:  Nick and Sean have been jamming together since high school, and the current lineup has evolved over time; they met Lisa in college while studying music, Wonder took guitar lessons from Nick and picked up bass when the band needed a new guy, and we found Jeff on Craigslist. 🙂

AM:   You’ve definitely got an eye-catching wardrobe.  What started that?

TOV:  The audience sees you before they hear you, so we believe our look is important. We have a few different styles we go with, and whether it’s bright and flashy or leather and biker, it’s part of the visual aspect of the show. Part of the experience of seeing The Outer Vibe is that the different members’ looks match their personalities. We’ve been collecting clothes as a group for a few years now. Also – you dress for the job you want. We like to play larger-than-life shows, so we dress the part!

The Outer Vibe - Awesome Mitten
Photo Courtesy of 

AM: Your newest album Hoka Hey varies a bit from previous efforts by including a number of different instruments and sounds.  What were your influences when making the album?

TOV:  The most exciting part about recording “Hoka Hey” is that it was the first album to be recorded in our new studio, Pharaoh’s House Recording, which also doubles as our rehearsal space. When the studio was finished in May 2011, we had the freedom and space to set up as much gear as we wanted to use and record anytime we wanted. We have the freedom to experiment 24/7! We can write an idea, record it, listen back, and decide if we like it and want to develop it further. In the past, an entire song would be written and then recorded. Now we have the flexibility to write and rewrite songs during the recording process. Almost every song on the new album was conceived in a different way.

 AM:  What’s the story behind the new album title?

TOV:  When we rode our motorcycles out West in August 2011, we met a participant in the annual Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, which is a balls-to-the-wall motorcycle race from one corner of America to the other, taking the most challenging back roads and no freeways. That same day, we went to see the Chief Crazy Horse national memorial, which is only about 15 miles from Mt. Rushmore. There we learned the meaning behind Hoka Hey; it’s a battle cry Crazy Horse yelled to his warriors during war. If the warriors died in battle, they knew they died doing what they were meant to do with their life. We adopted the term as a general underlying theme for the album, the title track in particular. It’s a good reminder to live for today, not tomorrow.

AM:  I noticed a couple of Arcadia Ales in your new video for the single “Hoka Hey.”  What are your favorite Michigan brews?

TOV:  Well, Arcadia is one of our favorites – we met the Arcadia crew at a Michigan Beer festival in Northern MI, and they’re huge supporters of The Outer Vibe. We also love Founders, Brewery Vivant, New Holland, Bell’s, Arbor Brewing, Star 26 Ales (who made us a custom “Hoka Hale” for our motorcycle trip out West!). The list could go on forever; Michigan has so many good brewing companies and we haven’t found one yet that’s less than spectacular!

The Outer Vibe - Awesome Mitten
Photo courtesy of The Outer Vibe

AM:  With all the touring you’ve done, do you have a favorite place to play?

TOV:  Each city has its own charm and people that make the visit special. We’ve made some great friends while traveling who have become like family, so every time we return to a city it’s like a reunion! We love any type of show where everyone’s having a good time, whether it’s a big outdoor festival or a club gig or a radio performance.

AM:  Your website mentions you started something called Rock Camps.  Can you go into detail about what those are?

TOV:  Michigan State University’s Community Music School approached us in 2009 with the idea of starting a Rock Camp. They asked us to plan the camp and teach it, so the five of us helped create the program, and we’ve been running Rock Camps ever since – now we teach in four cities and it’s grown into a popular opportunity for teen musicians to meet other kids to jam with. Rock Camp is something we really enjoy teaching during the summer between gigs, and we’ve made some lifelong fans and friends by connecting with the students!

AM:  A friend who’s never been to Michigan is coming to town, where’s the first place you take them?

TOV:  Depends on the season! A local brewery is great any time of the year, and Grand Rapids is chock full of those. If it’s fall, we’d go for a motorcycle ride to enjoy the colors, and also head downtown for ArtPrize, an annual worldwide contest held in our very own town of Grand Rapids. In the summer months, the lakeshore is the place to be. Michigan hosts the largest freshwater coast line in the world, so there are plenty of beaches to party at. Finally, a trip to a Michigan rock club like The Orbit Room, Saint Andrews Hall, or The Pyramid Scheme always leads to a good time.

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Jake Cagle is a contributing writer for The Awesome Mitten. Born in Adrian, Michigan, he has been a longtime resident of Grand Rapids. He graduated from Grand Valley State University. Jake's work has also been featured on The Rapidian,, Visit Detroit Blog, and Pure Michigan's blog, as well as his personal website,