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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Sal Wiertella March 1, 2024

Nick Adams and the Aral Sea Divers

Disco may be dead but swing is still alive and, well, swinging. A group of musicians have gone back to the ’30s and pulled from the depths of time an old sound. They go by Nick Adams and the Aral Sea Divers and they want nothing but for you to dance.IMG_7448

Inspired by the big band sound of the ’30s, senior English major Aaron O’Brien decided to get a band together and get back to the roots of rock’n’roll.

“I started listening to jazz and big band ’30s music,” O’Brien said. “And it opened up this whole new world.”

He recruited from the Northern Michigan University music department and last March had a swing band.

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The name of the band originates from the Ernest Hemingway short stories whose main character is named Nick Adams. Many of the stories take place in the Upper Peninsula, which is fitting for this band.

There is a bit of sarcasm laying within “the Aral Sea Divers.”

A sea, which because of the interference of man, has almost completely dried up within the last 40 years.

“The Aral Sea is the quintessential man made ecological disaster,” O’Brien said. “Something you wouldn’t want to imagine with the Great Lakes.”

With its roots in the 1930s and slowly dying in popularity after World War II, swing music is not traditionally thought of as a young person’s music.But this old-timey swing is the genesis of a lot of the dance music you can hear today.

“Everything that came after it has been informed by it,” NMU alumnus and drummer Phil Kessel said. “All the dance stuff you hear at the club, the idea that you can groove to a song [comes from swing].” IMG_7336

While swing has been around for a long time and has inspired many other types of music, it still has an appeal to musicians and audience members alike.

O’Brien said a big appeal to swing is the improvisation.

“What I think [improvisation] does is allows the audience to experience a side of the musician that is more authentic to the moment,” O’Brien said. “The rawness and directness of improv comes from how that musician is feeling and experiencing life in that very particular moment, the same moment that the audience is experiencing, and I don’t think you get that level of depth or interaction with the audience in other forms of music.”

It takes a good musician to improvise on the spot and especially with the quick beat of swing it can be difficult to think on your feet and play a good sounding song.

“With the fast tempo of swing, you’re kind of thrown into a sink or swim situation every time you enter into a solo,” O’Brien said. “And that can be a real test of your musicianship.”

The majority of the band members are or were music students at NMU, and their hard work and passion for music is evident as soon as the first trombone note is blown.

Their sound is clean and crisp with the air of well practiced, finely-tuned musicianship. These jazz cats know music, and have fun playing it.

“[Swing is] light hearted and fun,” Marquette native and trombonist Roscoe Schieler said. “[It’s like we are] telling jokes to each other in sound form.” Which is evident when watching them play a song and the band bursts out in laughter when one of them plays something especially witty. And even though it may seem like an inside joke on the musician’s part, it’s not.

“Everybody can get it,” Schieler said. “They can still dance to it, appreciate it, understand it, enjoy it.” O’Brien’s voice fits perfectly with the music and makes one dream of “the good ol’days” of swing bands and penguin suit wearing conductors.

But don’t think because this band plays old time music that they don’t appeal to the kids. Swing is cross-generational, Schieler said.

“It’s a simple sort of jazz that’s toned down a little bit, so more people can appreciate it and it’s a dance music, instead of intellectual jazz,” he said. Schieler isn’t lying about swing being a dance music.

As soon as the rhythmic beat enters your sound holes it can be almost impossible not to tap your toes. The music transcends time because of the unique effect it has on the human body to just make it want to dance.

Nick Adams and the Aral Sea Divers consists of six; guitar and vocals, Aaron O’Brien; senior saxophone major and clarinet, Audra Hagan; trombonist, Roscoe Schieler; NMU alumnus and violin, Matt Mitchell; Marquette Senior High School Senior and bass, Lucas LaFave; and drums, Phil Kessel.

Stay tuned for an upcoming half-length album due out around Christmas. Nick Adams and the Aral Sea Divers plays most often at Blackrocks Brewery and the Ore Dock  Brewing  Company. To  stay up to  date   on  all your Nick Adams needs and  to hear of any  upcoming  shows,  like Nick Adams and the Aral Sea Divers on Facebook.

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