Green River Ordinance: A Beloved and Bedazzling Band

7 Dec

In a sea of pop-rock bands, Green River Ordinance (GRO) could easily be swallowed up in the tempest that is the music industry.  Yet the group of twenty-something guys are carving out a niche based on something very familiar—late 90’s pop rock.  And they’re very intentional about it, too, citing Third Eye Blind and Matchbox 20 as major musical influences (along with a wide array of jazz artists, country crooners, and rock legends).

Their goal is simple—to create and play music that is both real and hopeful.

Guitarist Joshua Wilkerson muses, “You can write a depressing song that would connect with people, but when it comes down to it; we’re hopeful guys.  If there’s a downside to a situation, then there’s also an upside.  And that’s what we write about.”

Built on a foundation of hope, the band was formed by brothers Jamey (guitar) and Geoff Ice (bass) while the brothers were still in their teens, later Josh Jenkins (guitar), Denton Hunker (drums), and Wilkerson entered the line-up.  After recording their first album in their church’s basement, GRO was soon opening for Bon Jovi in Houston and playing gigs every weekend. Then in early 2009 the band released their first major label debut on Virgin Records.  Since its release, Out of My Hands has earned GRO coveted spots on tours with the likes of Collective Soul, Gavin DeGraw, NeedtoBreathe, and David Cook.  Plus, the band’s song “Outside” was heard on MTV’s “The Hills” and “On Your Own” was used as the men’s sign-off song for the hit show, “So You Think You Can Dance.”

While GRO could easily lap up the luxury of the rock star life style, the band members have a reputation for being a clean, fun loving group that adores their fans.  Looking to each other and to God for solidarity, the band is able to stay away from temptation, “We’re Christian guys that play rock music—that’s what we do,” shares Wilkerson.  He elaborates, “When we started as a band, we were trying to figure out if we were going to be a Christian band or a rock band.”  In the end the band decided to take their faith with them into the secular music scene without compromising their integrity.

It was this integrity that took root in the members of GRO as they grew up in music and around music being exposed to a variety of styles.  Despite their backgrounds, the GRO guys all have one thing in common.  Wilkerson elaborates, “One common denominator is that we all grew up in the 90’s.  So when we were writing for the album that just became the sound.  We all bring different things to the table musically, but we always come back to 90’s rock because that’s what we love.”  While sifting through the 70 or so tracks, the band wrote for Out of My Hands, GRO was intentional about picking songs that would craft a catchy album—that fans would want to listen to in its entirety over and over again.

The album’s title track, “Out of My Hands,” is an autobiographical song that owes the band’s success to forces outside of their control.  “When we were trying to finish up the album, we ended up writing ‘Out of My Hands’ in the studio,” says Wilkerson, who prefers to craft songs in the studio.  “When you write outside the studio, you’re throwing around ideas with your acoustic guitar.  But in the studio, you have the whole band together with the producer and all these instruments and sounds at your disposal.  You can record an idea and then experiment with it.”  Unfortunately, due to time and financial constraints, most bands cannot afford to write this way.

Other songs like “On Your Own” took unexpected twists during the recording process. Originally a piano-laden ballad, GRO became nervous when their producer wanted to take the song in a new direction, “He wanted to make it a full-on rock ballad and we were shaking our heads saying that would ruin the song,” reminisces Wilkerson.  “We tried it and it was awesome.”  So awesome, in fact, that it was chosen as one of the sign-off songs for “So You Think You Can Dance.”  Sadly, Wilkerson admits that none of the members of GRO can dance, so they would be promptly kicked off the show.

But that didn’t keep GRO’s drummer Denton Hunker from dancing onstage in a monkey suit during the of the band’s summer tour with David Cook.  It’s OK, though, because Cook’s band danced in a Green Man suit (re: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) during GRO’s set.  The prank war between the bands made GRO’s live show even more impressive.

David Cook sang “Goodbye L.A.” with GRO’s Josh Jenkins…off-key and another time pelted the band with a barrage of guitar picks.  As the final tour date loomed, Wilkerson and the rest of the band knew their final trick had to be good.  “We knew they were going to prank us, so both bands went all out,” laughs Wilkerson.  “When we started playing, David Cook and his band brought a table out on stage and started playing poker using their guitar picks as poker chips.  They just sat there playing poker during an entire song!”

No good deed goes unpunished, so when it came Cook’s time to take the stage, the guys in GRO were ready.  “All the David Cook fans are really awesome fans.  Really supportive fans.  They have these glittery shirts that say, ‘David Cook is my American Idol’,” says Wilkerson brightly, without a hint of sarcasm.  “So we decided to make a t-shirt for each member of the band.  We went to Hobby Lobby and bought all this glittery stuff and a Bedazzler.  We each wore a personalized fan shirt for each band member.”  GRO just finished up their prank, err, make that fall tour with David Cook.

Great pranksters and even better musicians, Green River Ordinance is a band that is making its mark—on stage and off through lives well lived, song well written, and an audience well loved.  And they’re doing it with honest, catchy, pop-rock songs that touch the chord of not only the 90’s generation, but the next generation as well. Rock on, boys, rock on.

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