On Thursday night, the TapHouse roof was filled with electricity only a rock band can deliver. That band was M31. One that, as the lead singer put it during the set, met on Craigslist. Well, maybe it's been a little bit more complicated than that.
M31 was kickstarted by guitarist Eric Buttner in 2001. Buttner had picked up guitar after gifting one to his now wife and long-time band member Jennifer Trejo-Buttner.
“I told him I could play the guitar and I could play like three cords or something,” Trejo-Buttner said. “So for Christmas that year when we were together he got me a guitar and I was kind of like ‘oh shit, now I’ve gotta learn to play it.’”
After enough time passed with the guitar sitting in the corner unused, Buttner decided he was going to learn.
Then, after about a year of learning the instrument, Buttner set out to start a band. He began with ads on bulletin boards at the now closed Hastings book store and other spots around town. Once the internet started to pick up, he took to Craigslist to look for new members, hence the lead singer's reference. Then, Facebook and so on.
The band has had an ebb and flow of members throughout the years. Shortly after the band was created, a former drummer convinced Trejo-Buttner to hold the place for vocals, and that’s how her career with the band began. Josh Clark, captivating vocalist and guitarist for M31, is one of the next longest-standing band members and has been with the group almost 19 years. The natural and smooth drummer for the band, Rick Parham joined next in 2010, and was followed shortly after by front man and powerhouse vocalist Brian Scott. Two years ago, the band landed the missing piece of their puzzle, an “ace in the hole” bass player, Matthew Meals. Their goals have always remained the same. The local band feels passionately about bringing positive energy and a good time to people in the community they are a part of.
Trejo-Buttner said, “Overall what we’re looking for is to connect with the audience. I think we like best the smaller shows and the shows where we’re on the same level and there’s not a stage separating us because we like to be right there with you.”
Guitarist and vocalist Josh Clark agreed wholeheartedly.
“Our whole philosophy is we just want people to have an experience and have a good time,” Clark said. “That’s why people pay hundreds of dollars and drive to Kansas City to go to the Sprint Center, they just want to have a good time.”
Clark noted that the band doesn’t want anything beyond the local scene, and having fun locally. “It keeps it special, if you move it out or try to make it something that it’s not, it just becomes tainted,” he said.
The motto of the band is, “We’re not here just to play for you, we're here to party with you.” On Thursday night, they did just that. The band began at 7 p.m. and kept the roof alive, dancing, tapping their feet, and engaged for over three hours. Their set weaved in and out of cover songs and originals. The ensemble appeared seamless, rolling with the punches of their fellow band members. This was where they thrived.
Bass player Matthew Meals expressed that playing with five other members is a fun challenge and one of his favorite things about performances.
“Anything playing music with more than one person, it’s a collaborative effort,” said Meals. “An effort like what we’re doing with six individuals is a huge collaboration, and we all have to compromise with what’s happening around us. There’s nothing wrong with compromising. It keeps it fun and it keeps it interesting and every gig is different and I love it. If we take it too seriously it’s no longer fun.”
The band uses the practice time they can get to work on their originals, although lately their performances have been those practices. Since it originated, the band has averaged a show about every one and a half months. Over the years that has been somewhere between 250-270 gigs, which as Clark put it, “is pretty damn good in all honesty.”
The group feels strongly about getting its music out to the community for free. So, it’s available on YouTube, BandCamp, Spotify and ReverbNation and open for the public to listen to.
The band continues to gig around town, leaving bars and restaurants a little bit brighter and more alive than they found them, and it doesn’t look like that is changing any time soon.