Courtesy of Jason Withrow
As a 15-year-old, performing for skinheads in New Jersey bars, Adam Thornburgh dreamt of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. As a guitarist for Columbus-based band Ease the Medic, Thornburgh, 38, said he is happy those dreams never came true.
Thornburgh, along with fellow members, Mike Bryant, Mike Finch and Joe Estes, released Ease the Medic’s self-titled sophomore full-length album Feb. 7.
Thornburgh said he gave up his dreams of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for his pregnant wife, two children and a day job as a production supervisor at ELK Promotions.
“I used to think I would be selling out arenas by now, but I’m glad that never happened,” Thornburgh said.
“I go home and do more work with a kid on my lap, and I still get to play music I want to play.”
Ease the Medic formed in 2005 after each member had played in different bands but never found the right fit. Similar tastes in ‘80s “thrash metal and post-hardcore rock” lend to the band’s sound, which ranges from upbeat screams on the record “Meh,” to more deliberate, smooth harmonies on “Indian Style.” The members’ realistic goals of playing original music without false hopes of “making it big” made the band a success.
“I think a lot of bands really try to write, not for themselves, but for other people,” Thornburgh said. “We all have careers, we’re all content with never getting a record deal, but we keep pushing hard for doing what we enjoy doing. There’s no pretensions that we’re going to be big one day, so we’re not trying to make ourselves appealing to everyone around us. We just want to make sure that at the end of the day, we’re happy with what we’re doing.”
Ease the Medic has opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd, INXS, 3 Doors Down, and other big names, but it is just as content playing smaller shows, such as sweet 16 parties, graduation parties and backyard shows by car light.
Bryant juggles work and family life with his role as drummer. He said he is proud the band has traveled to “every state east of the Mississippi.”
“We really do a lot with the amount of time we’re able to put into it,” Bryant said.
Bryant, 36, is a traffic supervisor for Time Warner Cable Media Sales. He said the band plans to continue to make original music until people stop listening.
“I don’t see us stopping unless we get bored with it,” Bryant said. “I’ll do it forever.”
Estes, 30, joined Ease the Medic in 2010 after the original bassist, Eric Payton, moved to Germany to pursue a job in engineering. Estes said he was a fan of the band before he joined, and his role in Ease the Medic is the most challenging of his career.
“When I joined this band, I had never touched a bass before in my life,” Estes said. “That was a big challenge. I never really knew the idea behind the bass.”
Like Thornburgh, Estes played guitar as a young teenager and is perhaps the most musically versatile of the group. He plays electric guitar, synthesizer, violin, cello and “whatever has strings on it.” He also performs classical, jazz and rock, but has the most passion for metal, which stems from his “anger issues,” Estes said.
“It’s really soothing to have a musical outlet because it takes your mind off everything else,” Estes said. “It’s an emotional release because you don’t have to think about anything. I get a lot more frustrated if I don’t have a guitar next to me.”
Finch, lead singer, guitar player and corporate tax accountant for Big Lots, Inc., didn’t start playing guitar until he was 21. Like the others, Finch said he is content with the level of success they have found.
“We’re at a point where we can make whatever music we want to make,” Finch said. “I’ve done everything I originally set out to do with this band. We just want to continue playing and gain a wider audience.”
Finch, an OSU alumnus, said the music scene in Columbus has changed dramatically since he moved to the city in 1995.
“There’s more coverage, more bands and the number of venues has doubled, if not tripled,” Finch said.
“There are four or five shows on any given night in Columbus and most of them have a lot of people in attendance. That wasn’t always the case.”
Finch said Columbus is a great central location because it is within driving distance to many big cities. He said the band’s success stems from playing in New York, Detroit and Chicago, without having to go on tour.
“In three or four days, you can get a lot done,” Finch said. “I think a lot of bands make that mistake, like, ‘We’re releasing a record, we’re going to do a six-week tour.’ Good luck with that, most of your shows are going to suck and you’ll be burnt out two weeks in.”
Estes is also in a Cleveland-based band. He said the music scene in Cleveland is uncomfortable compared to Columbus because bands tend to be more image-conscious.
“Some bands are very new to trends — they have an attitude, and it almost makes you feel uncomfortable,” Estes said. “They don’t care about anything other than their image. There’s a whole lot less of that in Columbus. It makes it a lot more fun when you don’t have to deal with that.”
Thornburgh said he is proud to be in a band with members who don’t try to be something they’re not.
“Our image is that there really is no image,” Thornburgh said with a laugh. “There’s no makeup or special hair. We’re just regular guys who like to play music.”
The music is written collectively, a process that Estes said is unique to any band he has been in. While Estes joined the band after “Ease the Medic” was recorded, he has already written new material with the band. Instead of each member writing different songs individually, or writing separate parts and putting them together, the band takes a more mathematical approach. “They don’t have a general structure for writing a song,” Estes said. “You don’t necessarily need a chorus, a pre-chorus or a verse. You just have all these notes and you come back to parts, pick up new parts, and at the end it all builds up to this big part. I like that because it’s even more of a challenge.”
Finch said the slower writing process gives the music a less catchy, more deliberate sound.
“We’re not an immediate band,” Finch said. “There’s a lot of music that is meant to catch your attention with a big chorus, but the idea is more to have things that people might not hear upon first listen, so they can hopefully hear something new the next time they hear it.”
“Ease The Medic” is available on iTunes and in local record stores.