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The Erly: Local band makes their stamp creating new sounds out of old

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — In a local music scene that is rich and diverse in sound, The Erly is making a stamp with their own take on the musical influences of current and past generations, creating an experience that is unique, vibrant, and fun.

The Erly formed in June of 2017, with drummer Fran Gleason and bassist Collin Mattiford coming together at the recording session for another band. They connected almost immediately and, with each of their current bands coming to an end, they decided to form something new together. Guitarist Trevor McDonald joined in 2018 after applying to a Craigslist ad for the band, who had recently lost another member. Along with keyboardist Alyssa Serviss, the four musicians who make up The Erly share vocal and songwriting duties.

The band has no particular approach to creating new songs. A song might begin from a melody or a lyrical idea. Each member seems to have their own method. While Trevor might begin with a new chord progression, Collin builds from melodies running through his mind, and Fran will typically begin with interesting phrases and lyrical ideas he’d like to explore. Often, band members bring separate pieces, trying them together and building from there. They spoke of the fun of the collaborative process, the attempts to fit lyrical snippets with guitar riffs and other sounds, adding to the pieces of the songs from there.

“It’s nice to be limitless in your approach to writing,” said McDonald.

“That’s what makes it The Erly,” offered Mattiford.

The sound has evolved over the years. A listen to their earliest studio release, Shadows, recorded in Niles, reminds that the tracks from it often heard live were a little less funky in their first iteration. They described the collection as a hodgepodge of older projects, as they were trying to figure out what they wanted to create. The opening cut, Waiting, the first song that was written by the band together, already begins to show the seeds of the growing music

2021’s Reckless brought in Serviss’ keyboards and the expanded sound fans have come to know and love. Though they note that the developing sound has solidified some, they generally set out to create whatever they’re feeling in the moment, as opposed to a particular style. The always changing sound drips in their musical influences, whether it be those that they grew up with or the music on the stereo now. The Erly continually strives for a bigger sound, merging the past with the next intriguing ingredient.

“It’s just whatever we’re in the mood for,” said Gleason. “It’s better than creating the same album over and over again.”

Music was an element throughout the lives of members of The Erly. McDonald spoke of always being around music, especially with his father, who teaches and plays in bands, in addition to selling instruments at Roxy Music in LaPorte. Fran found inspiration watching MTV music videos with his sisters as a kid, wanting to be a drummer after watching Jet’s Chris Cester in “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”. His parents supported him, both with the gift of a drum kit and by never complaining about the noise.

“I was pretty fortunate with that,” he laughed.

Mattiford started with an acoustic guitar at the age of 12, a hobby that eventually bored him until rediscovering it after playing the video game Guitar Hero. A performance by Green Day on Saturday Night Live brought him to the electric guitar.

Each member brings their own unique education as well, whether it be McDonald, who learned in youth groups and who studied jazz at Indiana University South Bend or the self-taught approaches of Gleason and Mattiford, playing to favorite songs and listening and watching to see what the moves are to create each chord or note. The combination of the four members’ skills has created one of the best live bands in the region.

You can catch them live all summer long. They will be returning to their regular spot at South Bend’s Garage Arcade Bar this Friday, June 16th, playing at the Acorn Theater’s first annual Acorn Music Festival on Saturday, June 17th, and returning to LaSalle Kitchen and Tavern on Friday, June 23rd. They’re also a part of Niles Music and More’s summer line-up, playing the Riverfront Park amphitheater on Sunday, September 10th.

The Erly also has a new single this week. Information on that, live shows, and more can be found at

Justin Flagel is the founder of Red Chuck Productions, where he writes, tells stories, and creates new media. Follow his work at Feedback can be directed to


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