Sometimes, the best life experiences begin with the most random events.
For Davis Drake, Evan Todd, and brothers Nathan and Caleb Hurley, it all started with playing an unplanned set at a pizza joint.
The set went so well, the group started playing more. Two years later they decided to start writing music and playing shows for real.
Their band Guys on a Bus – based in Joplin - plays indie alternative rock music.
Nathan Hurley, Todd, and Drake became best friends after meeting in high school, through a shared love of music.
Although the guys have been together since 2013, they did not start playing shows as their current formation until late 2016. Guys On a Bus began touring together in September 2017.
“We have a really solid relational foundation,” said Nathan Hurley, guitarist and main vocalist.
Each member of Guys On a Bus has a different story and reason he began playing music.
For Nathan Hurley, his journey began when saw NEEDTOBREATHE in concert. After seeing the group in person, decided he want to play music and make it more than a hobby.
Drake, the band’s bass player, played in his middle school’s orchestra program. It was there he found his passion, which led him to pursue music in college.
“I decided to keep meeting with my friends to play music and we just kept playing until we realized we were doing it full time,” Drake said.
Todd’s interests gravitated more towards drumming than music itself. He got into music after realizing he could facilitate it pretty well.
“I never really listened to much music for fun,” Todd said. “I only listened to it so I could play the drums with it. I took any opportunity I could to play drums with other people.”
Caleb Hurley started considering a career in music after his parents signed him up for drum lessons at the age of 9.
At the age of 15, he became a fan of Billy Joel which sparked his interest in playing keys, which is what he plays for the band.
What unites the group members is the combined shared passion for music – especially the creative freedom they find when writing.
Drawing inspiration from the best and worst experiences, the bands’ songwriting process is collaborative. Once lyrics are written, band members spend time playing until they decide on instrumental accompaniment.
“Our music, lyrics in particular, cover points of time in our lives,” Caleb Hurley said. “Whether it’s my parents separating, a girl I was dating moving away, dropping out of school. So every time we play those songs I get to relive those moments, which isn’t necessarily easy but I think it’s good for you.”
Although their passion is shared, they each appreciate different aspects of playing music.
“I like the moment after we’ve finished writing a song when it finally is what we wanted it to be. That feels great every time,” Nathan Hurley said.
For Todd, it’s that he is an integral part of something beautiful and full of emotion. He is energized by sharing music with others and performing.
Drake said the creativity is one of his favorite things.
“I get to write my parts and perfect them until I enjoy playing them,” he said, adding that playing for an audience is fulfilling.
For Caleb Hurley, playing music is his ultimate goal.
“I just feel grateful that I’ve been given that opportunity this early in my lifetime,” said Caleb Hurley.
The friendships, which began in high school, has encompassed more than just music.
“We are definitely like brothers at this point,” Todd said. “It is hard to imagine life without them honestly.”
They each connect differently as friends.
“[Evan and I] connect on tour because I usually don’t want to sit still and Evan is the most difficult person in this group to annoy-so it works out well because he’ll go with me to explore or check out coffeeshops or pretty much anything,” Nathan Hurley said. “The cool thing is he doesn’t even like coffee but he still goes.
“Davis is such a solid and all around good dude. Basically music is the excuse for us to all hang out all the time and travel the country together. Davis keeps me sane and makes sure I don’t spend all the money, Caleb makes me laugh all the time and tells me when I’m being “too much” and Evan cheers me (and everyone else) up in the rougher moments.”
For Drake, one of the most important things is that they have each other’s back.
“I think the bond we have is necessary for the survival of our band. I said earlier that I couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else, because I don’t think I would want to,” Caleb said.
In addition to being best friends, the guys do their best to interact with fans at concerts, before and after the show.
Sometimes they will meet up with fans for coffee before a show, or stay out late after the concert to get something to eat with friends who came out to see them.
“A concert experience goes beyond your set,” Caleb Hurley said. “I definitely feel the need to make conscious effort. I also think it’s necessary for success as a band. Getting someone to like/listen to your music isn’t always easy, but I think your odds improve drastically if they genuinely like you as a person.”
The band interacts with fans using its social media account. They frequently post on their Instagram story, featuring fans’ posts about the band.
“We try and reply to every [social media] message and comment that comes in and we also like to make playlists for fans, ask fans and friends questions and keep a conversation going as best we can,” Nathan Hurley said.
For Nathan and Caleb Hurley, some of their impactful moments come when fans relate to their song “Mom and Dad”, written about their parents’ separation.
After playing a set at a high school camp, a girl came up to Caleb, crying, saying that she related to it and hasn’t heard much music covering that topic.
“That was a weird moment for me, because that was the first time I realized that we could make music that people related to,” he said.
The music Guys On a Bus creates is the group’s personal outlet. While it is a culmination of experiences and memories of one person, their friendship allows the others to relate to the stories being told.
“I just love that I can write a simple song about something that happened to me and these guys take it and make it something totally new and cool with their musical contributions,” Nathan Hurley said. “It’s cool when it goes from vocals and guitar strumming to a full band rock song.”
Guys on a Bus will play a show 7 p.m. Saturday, May 11 at Wilder’s Event Center, 1208 South Main Street, Joplin. The show is for those 18 and above. Admission is $10.