Vocalist and guitarist Greg Benton hails from Virginia and started his life in music in Old Dominion.
After a few years, he started to feel like his career wasn’t going anywhere, so he and his cousin Thomas Troutt, also on guitar, set their sights on Colorado and landed in Longmont, the city where they started Native Station.
The five-piece rock band is currently situated all over northern Colorado. Guitarist Troutt still lives in Longmont, but Benton now calls Milliken home. Other members in Denver, Greeley and Fort Collins.
“I always just tell people we are from Longmont,” says keyboardist Blair Clark. “That’s kind of where we started. It’s the easiest thing for me to say. Especially pre-show wise, ‘We are Native Station from Longmont, Colorado.’ It’s already scripted.”
Once Benton and Troutt were established in Boulder County, they found their rhythm section — bassist Brett Cunningham and drummer Casey Laurent. Clark came along later, in about 2016, and filled out the quintet. Clark, who moved to Colorado from California via Alaska posted a Craigslist ad looking for like-minded musicians and found Native Station.
The band has so far released one full-length album, the 12-track “Morningstar Drive.” Other recordings that are available on bandcamp include “Lightframe/Tall Tales” and “shifty.Shifty: The Harvest Sessions.”
Clark, who uses they/them pronouns, listens to a lot of progressive rock. Troutt is more into metal. Laurent likes contemporary modern music. Cunningham is into punk, and Benton is a hip-hop fan.
“We kind of draw influences from a little bit of everything,” says Clark. “We kind of meld somewhat of a hip-hop R’n’B vibe with alternative rock-like melodies.”
All those different sounds come out in the music, particularly in “Morningstar Drive,” which Clark says is the most focused and concise of Native Station’s output so far. Benton, the primary lyricist in the band says “shifty.Shifty” has a bit more of a folk bent than their newer work. The songs focus on his personal experience and those of his friends and family, but sometimes he comes up with ideas from just people watching at the mall.
“I’ll fill it out with my imagination,“ he says. “A lot of it comes from people watching in general.”
Benton says at the end of the day the music is best described as alternative rock but he is also fond of calling it “quasi metal.”
“It’s sort of alternative rock,” Benton says. “It has a sort of arena rock (sound) to it. In some small ways, it’s got a little bit of metal to it.”
He adds that people who’ve seen the band play or heard their music have commented that the sound is difficult to compare to other groups and people at shows often throw out completely random bands they think Native Station sounds like. Members don’t always agree, but they have found new bands to listen to through those interactions with fans.
“I would say we are pretty unique in the way we tend to take the influences we all have and put them all together,” he says. “It tends to lead to a pretty unique product, unique rhythm and people like to dance.”
Although Benton writes most of the lyrics, the band has a collaborative approach in songwriting that varies in technique. Sometimes someone will come up with a riff during a warm-up, and the band will just expand on it. A song can emerge from it, and Benton considers it a sort of jam-band technique.
“Other times it’s really scientific,” he adds, “(It can be) both very deliberate in terms of layering and how we add certain parts, one part written. We will deliberately add parts on top of each other rather than just jamming things out.”
Clark adds that the band’s songwriting process has become more “organic” in nature in recent years.
“How we used to do it is Greg came in with a skeleton of a song, and we kind of built parts around it,” Clark says. “Now he will come in with maybe how he wants the song to start off, or maybe how he has the chorus worked out. Everything else we just go organically on how everyone is feeling or how we think the song should go as a band.”
Benton and Troutt played almost exclusively in Boulder County when they were first getting their Colorado lives established, playing a lot of open mic nights and festivals in Longmont and Boulder. The band has played a lot of shows at the Dickens Opera House in Longmont. It’s a venue that dates to 1881 in an effort to bring culture to the town, according to the venue.
Clark likes the Dickens because it is a large room and has a lot of space in the grand tradition of an opera house. The sound fills out more in a large room, and they come from a classical background, so room acoustics are important musically. It’s also a local landmark, and the band filmed a video for the song “Breckenridge” at the venue.
“That’s probably one of my favorites,” Clark says. “But I kind of like older buildings like that and older-style buildings like that, so I might be a little biased.”
“I like the architecture of the Dickens as well,” Benton adds. “It has a nice old theater-style to it.”
Their favorite Boulder County venue the band hasn’t gigged at so far is the Fox Theater on University Hill in Boulder.
“The Fox is one of those venues I like to go see shows at,” Clark says.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the kaibosh on most live music in Colorado and around the United States. The band hasn’t played live since a gig in Fort Collins several months ago, but has done some live streams like many other bands. It’s not an ideal situation, according to Benton, who loves a live show, but he adds that sometimes you just have to adapt to the world around you. He says the band used to play about 50 lives shows a year, so the drop off has been pretty drastic.
“I’d love to have two opening bands,” he says. “I’d love to do a tour. I’d love to do a lot of things, but until we have that option, we’ve decided that instead of being sour about it, we will just adapt as well as we can.”
Clark adds that the band’s live stream is as good as its live set.
“The last live stream we did showcases how we play live and how we gel and interact with one another,” Clark says. “I’ve been told before that I’m probably the biggest fan of my band, but I very am the biggest fan of my band.”
Native Station is working on new music currently. They are a little slowed down because Clark’s keyboard is in the shop, but once they get it back, they have some new singles they’d like to take into the studio.
“We don’t have any big album plans right now,” Benton says. “We are just sort of building up singles. We are writing again for the first time in a while since everything has been shut down. It’s good to get back in that flow.”
For more information on Native Station, visit nativestationmusic.com.