Chasing the Sky's influences range across 90s and early 2000s powerpop and emo, including Jimmy Eat World, Weezer, Anberlin, Third Eye Blind, My Chemical Romance and Brand New.
The band recorded two albums at Mackinaw Harvest Studios with Michael Crittenden and Christopher Andrus and landed several placements in independent films and television commercials. Chasing the Sky announced a hiatus in 2017, followed by plans to begin writing a new EP in 2020 or 2021.
Chasing the Sky mixes an existential and socially conscious lyrical style with dramatic confessionals inherent to the pop-punk and emo genres, alongside references to pop-culture including the works of William Shakespeare, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Marvel's X-Men films and comics, Battlestar Galactica (2004), Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy, and The Boondock Saints.
- 1 Formation and The Empty Chair - EP (2009-2012)
- 2 King of the Losing Side and Hiatus (2011-2018)
- 3 Hiatus and Kreisau/"Defiant" (2019)
- 4 Members
- 5 Media Appearances
Formation and The Empty Chair - EP (2009-2012)
Chasing the Sky was formed by Brenden Stark and Tim Alexander (Middlefield and Slant), bassist Mike Ritz, and keyboardist Tiffany Brazeau. After writing the first drafts of several songs that would eventually appear on The Empty Chair - EP, Stark recruited drummer Ryan Dekkinga (Alive After Death) and the band entered Mackinaw Harvest Studios.
During the recording process, Ritz was replaced on bass by Dekkinga's old Alive After Death bandmate and lifelong friend Kay VanAntwerpen who would help revise the lyrics on "Satellites" and "Beautiful Broken Thing" while completely rewriting "The Glass Winter."
Chasing the Sky released "The Empty Chair - EP" on October 1st, 2010 at a Susan G. Komen Foundation charity CD release show hosted by The Intersection, supported by Domestic Problems, The Party's Over, and Christopher Andrus. The album sold somewhere around 1,000 copies before several lucrative advertising deals allowed the band to pay off its recording debts and release the EP digitally for free.
In 2012, 20th Century Fox, Glee, and Chevrolet jointly purchased the single "Beautiful, Broken Thing" for use in Super Bowl XLV promotional material. It also appeared in a Western Digital television commercial, and on the score for the Netflix film "Is Everybody Happy?"
The Empty Chair -- EP received generally positive reviews. Critic John Sinkevics said the band "makes well-crafted, pop-inflected rock with terrific harmonies in edgy songs that build to dynamic, inviting crescendos." Grand Rapids arts and entertainment magazine REVUE named the band one of their top "Artists on the Rise" and said of the EP: “It's no wonder Chasing the Sky promises to become 'the soundtrack to the most intimate moments of your life'. Its carefully crafted, high-energy sound pulls from modern pop-rock and indie influences, and often veers into ballad territory, featuring soaring vocals and heartbreakingly beautiful lyrics that aim to reveal each listener's story.” Meanwhile, magazine West Michigan Noise
said: "What makes [Chasing the sky so appealing is] ballad-heavy music with varying degrees of rock. “A Certain Degree” brings the work forward on almost a 90s alternative rock foot. “The Glass Winter” almost channels a band like The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. “Beautiful, Broken Thing”, “Satellites” and “William (Forever Lost)” usher the listener out on an impressive note.”
While promoting "The Empty Chair - EP" in 2012, Chasing the Sky was nominated by WGRD as best live performance, but lost to King Crabapple and Fine Fine Titans.
The Empty Chair - EP was recorded at Mackinaw Harvest Studios by Michael Crittenden (Pop-Evil, Troll for Trout) and Christopher Andrus (Bless You Boys), and mastered by Brooks Paschal (Underøath, Versa Emerge, There for Tomorrow, Sullivan) at Mockingbird Studios.
After the EP's release, guitarist Tim Alexander resigned due to the birth of his daughter. He ultimately returned for the "King of the Losing Side" sessions.
"The Empty Chair - EP" Tracklist
- "Beautiful, Broken Thing"
- "The Glass Winter"
- "A Certain Degree"
- "William (Forever Lost)"
- "The Glass Winter (Acoustic)"
Behind the Tracks on The Empty Chair - EP
- "Beautiful, Broken Thing" isn't the most played Chasing the Sky song, but it's the most financially successful -- having been featured in several commercials, including a Chevrolet and 21st Century FOX promo for the 2012 Superbowl involving the cast of popular television series Glee.
- "The Glass Winter" began as a poem VanAntwerpen wrote about the death of Holland, Michigan resident Jordan Dreyer -- who drowned in melted ice and snow on a warm Christmas Day. Stark came up with the title on accident after mishearing a friend during a game of Jenga.
- "Satellites" was the very first collaboration in what would become a 10+ year writing partnership between Stark and VanAntwerpen. The title represents the difference between static lights in the sky (stars) and those that leave the sky as quickly as they arrived (satellites). A t-shirt with a cartoon satellite that read "I could've sworn you were a star" was sold with the single.
- "William (Forever Lost)" is about the passing of Stark's father, Darrell Stark. He was the second recent death in the Stark family, following the death of Brenden's brother Matthew Stark (who would also receive an homage on the band's debut full-length).
King of the Losing Side and Hiatus (2011-2018)
Chasing the Sky began writing around 20 potential songs for King of the Losing Side before The Empty Chair - EP was released. The band quickly returned to Mackinaw Harvest Studios while simultaneously performing bars and festivals across Michigan thanks to a wealth of goodwill earned by The Empty Chair - EP.
Drummer Ryan Dekkinga departed during recording due to the birth of his first child. Former lead guitarist Dana Mika rejoined the band after hearing and falling in love with the studio recording of "The Glass Winter." This time he took Dekkinga's place on drums.
The band branched into a more dynamic sound with the addition of The Juno Blacklist members Cassidy Warner (keys) and Trevor Atkinson (lead guitar and vocals). Tim Alexander returned as a vocalist, guitarist, and lyricist completing the lineup for King of the Losing Side and equipping the band with four lead vocalists.
The band released three singles as entries in Grand Rapids' Art Prize -- "Stories" (2011), "Noir (The Devil Dressed in White)" (2012), and "Imposters" in 2013. On Christmas 2015, the band released a live recording of the b-side "... And Shepherds We Will Be" which had been revised and performed by Romance for Ransom vocalist Melissa Dylan.
"King of the Losing Side" Track List
- "King of the Losing Side"
- "Colorblind (The Ghost in the Passenger Seat)"
- "The Devil Dressed in White"
- "King of the Losing Side (Acoustic Version)"
- "'... And Shepherds We Will Be' (Live Acoustic B-Side, Featuring Melissa Dylan of Romance for Ransom)"
Influences and References on King of the Losing Side
- "Stories" has the most radio play of any Chasing the Sky song. VanAntwerpen wrote many of the lyrics prior to joining the band, while part of an acoustic two-piece called A Sidewalk Redemption.
- Though VanAntwerpen's original "Dysphoria" lyrics were scrapped or rewritten in favor of a new concept by Alexander, the title came from VanAntwerpen's relationship with the transgender community (they later came out as trans). The two agreed on the new subject matter during drunk heart-to-heart while on a songwriting camping trip.
- "Viper" was the first song written with The Juno Blacklist members Cassidy Warner and Trevor Andrew Atkinson contributing musically.
- Stark and VanAntwerpen wrote the lyrics and chords to "Colorblind (The Ghost in the Passenger Seat)" at the end of the "Empty Chair" sessions, but decided to save it for a future album -- it's a loose adaptation of an award-winning poem by VanAntwerpen.
- The lyrics to "The Devil, Dressed in White" were written in a single sitting after Stark and VanAntwerpen learned a friend of the band had been sexually assaulted. The lead guitar in chorus two is an homage to "Degausser" from Brand New's 2006 album The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me.
- Stark and VanAntwerpen admitted the concept of "Imposters" grew from their mutual love of the closing track on Anberlin's Cities, "*(Fin)."
- The incomplete demo "... And Shepherds We Will Be" was written about VanAntwerpen's deceased grandfather. The line "some people only want recognition and response" was a phrase he commonly used.
Hiatus and Kreisau/"Defiant" (2019)
After King of the Losing Side's release, Dana Mika, Trevor Atkinson, and Cassidy Warner resigned. Bassist/lyricist Kay VanAntwerpen was diagnosed with avascular necrosis and confined to a wheelchair. As a result, the band went on hiatus.
By the end of 2019, production on album three had halted. Stark refocused on his sophomore solo album Lantern, and contracted VanAntwerpen as a contributing lyricist. VanAntwerpen, still recovering from surgery and unable to walk, became a narrative editor and contributor on producer Christopher Andrus's nonfiction book Dough Nation. Alexander decided to step reduce his role from band member to contributing writer in order to spend time with family.
In January 2019, Stark and VanAntwerpen announced that other projects were taking priority, but several songs were in development. VanAntwerpen posted a photo with eight working track titles and an album title, Kreisau:
The tracks were:
- Children of the Atom
- The Lions that Guard the Sheep
- Dead Friends
- The Seventh Head of Hydra
- Islanded in a Stream of Stars
- The Scorpion
On January 23, VanAntwerpen posted lyrics to the chorus of "Defiant" describing it as the band's first true rock anthem -- the instrumentals had been written during the King of the Losing Side sessions but were set aside when the band took a more blues-influenced route after Warner and Atkinson joined.
- Brenden Stark: Vocals, guitar, and drums. Can be heard on The Empty Chair - EP and King of the Losing Side.
- Tim Alexander: Vocals, guitar, lyricist. Can be heard on The Empty Chair -- EP and King of the Losing Side.
- Kay VanAntwerpen: Bass, backing vocals, primary lyricist. Can be heard on The Empty Chair -- EP and King of the Losing Side.
- Dana Mika: Vocals, drums, guitar. Can be heard on The Empty Chair -- EP and King of the Losing Side.
- Cassidy Warner: Keyboard. Can be heard on King of the Losing Side and "The Glass Winter (Noble Version)."
- Trevor Andrew Atkinson: Vocals, guitar, drums. Can be heard on King of the Losing Side.
- Mike Ritz: Guitar, Vocals. Can be heard on The Empty Chair - EP.
- Ryan Dekkinga: Drums, backing vocals. Can be heard on The Empty Chair -- EP.
- Tom Steimel: Various arrangements on "Bliss is Ignorance."
- Jay Bolt: Various arrangements.
- Melissa Dylan: Arrangements and lyric rewrites on "... And Shepherds We Will Be"
- Christopher Andrus: Arrangements and backing vocals throughout The Empty Chair -- EP and King of the Losing Side.
- Michael Crittenden: Arrangements and backing vocals throughout The Empty Chair -- EP and King of the Losing Side.
- Arie Boon: The title "Bliss is Ignorance"
- 2010 - "GR30K" (Film)
- 2010 -" Is Everybody Happy?" (Film)
- 2011 - Chevrolet and Glee Super Bowl XLV Commercial (Advertisement, Behind the Scenes)
- 2011 - Western Digital Hard Drive "Beautiful Moments" (Advertisement)
- 2012 - WGRD's Best Live Performance Award (Nominated)
- 2012 - West Michigan Noise's Best Michigan Pop-Rock Act. (Runner-up)