West & Run’s music carries sense of depth, purpose

GVL / Courtesy - West & Run

GVL / Courtesy – West & Run

TJ Kimball

When we think of musicians, they’re often associated with the pursuit of fame, wealth and a lifestyle of indulgence that borders somewhere between envious and repulsive. Yet, if you talk to Ryley Grayson, lead singer for the band West & Run, you’ll hear a much different tone reinforcing his ambitions.

“Connection. Inspiration. Admiration. Everybody should live by these three words,” Grayson said. “It’s all about experience.”

These are the type of introspective foresights that led to West & Run’s creation back in 2011. As time progressed and members changed, they’d come to mark Labor Day as the anniversary of their current state of success. Sept. 1 marks their second birthday.

Grayson isn’t the only one living up to the standards of a young person on the search though. Three band mates – each of which shares similar interests and pursuits with music as their medium – join him.

Ryan St. John is the lead guitar player for West & Run, and is currently finishing up his last year at Grand Valley State University as a Communication Studies major with an emphasis in film. Taylor Robida, the band’s base player, is also in his final year at GVSU studying film. The two have been best friends since they started college. They met James Reinhardt, their current drummer and a broadcasting major at GVSU, along with Grayson at a battle of the bands back in December 2011. In a surreal twist of fate, St. John and Robida were judging the competition and declared Grayson and Reinhardt as the winners. They’ve been playing music together ever since.

“We’d been experimenting with different people before then but nothing quite stuck,” Grayson said.

The lead singer began playing with Reinhardt back in August of 2009, clueless at the time that it would be a few more years before the project fully came together. February of 2011 would be the first time the name West & Run ever came into being.

Today the band takes inspiration from idols such as Taking Back Sunday, Jack’s Mannequin, The Starting Line and a combination of other fem-pop and emo influences. Those role models have carried them far, or at least to the point where they’re playing for welcome-week at GVSU – one of America’s 100 largest universities.

“I thought it was a blast,” Grayson said. “It was an outdoor event. People were talking and being social. It was a good show to just chill and play. The last real weekend of the summer.”

That sense of engagement was echoed through the crowd, as the band landed another gig for Sept. 19 at Ferris State University. They’ll be playing at The Gate in Big Rapids, with music expected to start around 8:00 p.m.

As for further productions, they’re expected back in the studio this fall, with a new single release titled “Julie” prepped for launch on Sept. 5. Grayson says their newest addition to the West & Run canon involves a larger 80’s influence, bringing the era’s iconic keyboard styling to the forefront of its rhythm.

“It’s a happier song,” he explained. “We wrote it back in April. It’s got more of an optimistic feel to it. We just wanted to try something different. It’s a new approach, but it still fits our style.”

When asked about the future of the band, “Julie” works as a poetic symbol.

“We’re excited about what’s coming next,” Grayson said. The band’s most recent album, “New Kid,” was released in 2013. “I can’t say I’m a musician full-time but the life of loading up at a show and promoting things and seeing the magic happen and being in the bedroom at midnight and writing the first song of the next album… it’s magic for sure.

“We don’t want fame or money. Those things are nice. They help us continue what we’re doing. But what it’s really about is the experience and the growth; continuing to improve and becoming more creative.”

With such powerful motives reinforcing their creative drives, it’s hard to say where West & Run will go in the next couple years. Being the first major band any of them have played in, there’s a sense of limitless opportunity in the air. It’s an apathy-defeating combination of youth, belief and sincerity that seems to pull the band along a path that many in the crowds are sure to admire.

For more about the band and to check out its music, visit westandrun.bandcamp.com