Brodhead band Loftland has lofty goals

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staff, Gazette
Friday, May 31, 2013

— It’s only 9 a.m., but the members of pop-rock band Loftland are already rehearsing inside the rural Brodhead garage next to shelves of carpentry tools. Drums pounding, the lead singer is springing around in time to the beat.

Playing rock with a morning cup of coffee isn’t unusual for this determined group. Loftland is a band with a plan.

Three of the five members grew up nearby and graduated from Brodhead High School. Now they’re hoping to hit it big with the help of an L.A. management company and move to Nashville.

In the meantime, they’re biding their time in Brodhead, living with their parents, working odd jobs and getting out on tour as much as possible. It’s a plan that’s working well so far.

“Within this next year we’d like to sign,” said frontman Dominic Gibbs, 24. He and his brother Tanner, 20, who plays guitar, started the band while still in high school. They’re joined by Tanner’s friend since preschool, bassist Steven Priske, and by drummer Zach Wilke, 20, and Ben Pepin, 23, on guitar and keyboard. Wilke grew up in Minnesota and Pepin in Waukesha, but all five live in Brodhead now.

Loftland just got back in early May from a tour in Texas and Arizona. Their next major gig is at Lifest, a Christian music festival in Oshkosh that attracts more than 10,000 and up to 17,000 fans every July. Last summer they played at Lifest for a crowd of 3,000—their largest yet.

They estimate they spend roughly about a third of the year out on tour.

“Every year it’s been growing,” Dominic Gibbs said.

The members of Loftland all identify as Christian but don’t consider themselves a worship group. They’re inspired by bands like Relient K, Switchfoot and Anberlin.

“So if people want to call us a Christian band, that’s cool. If people want to call us a pop band, that’s cool,” Gibbs said. The bottom line, he added, is they love Jesus and their faith works itself into every song and bears witness to their beliefs, even if it isn’t spelled out explicitly. They’re aiming for catchy, uplifting songs that don’t fall into typical pop themes of obscenity, sex and objectification.

On “Girl Like That,” a song he co-wrote for their latest album “Let’s Make It Loud,” Gibbs sings about looking for a “faithful, fierce and free” girl who’s looking for true love and not “some teenage dream … And if we walk strong in truth, then nothing’s going to come between.”

Financially, Loftland has reached the level of sustaining itself—a turning point for any band serious about going full-time. They’ve also been able to keep up as their overhead grows as they tour more, Gibbs said. Their bus and gear trailer drink up gas at a rate of 8.5 miles per gallon. It’s a considerable amount of stuff to haul since they bring their entire setup with them wherever they play—all they need when they get to a venue is a power outlet.

They’ve been able to save money by taking a Do-It-Yourself approach to their gear. The Gibbs’ father, Rob, is a carpenter and built the cases for their speakers, drums and other gear from scratch. Many of the cables and other electrical aspects of the setup they built by hand as well, working together in the same garage they practice in.

“I’d come out here and just start cutting wires and soldering,” Tanner Gibbs said. He also taught himself how to run the digital soundboard himself.

The members of Loftland are committed to taking the band as far as they can. That doesn’t preclude other aspirations—Priske, for instance, wants to be a youth pastor someday.

For now, though, they’re it in for the long haul.

“The chemistry between us has been really good,” Pepin said. Between tours when they’re back at home, “we hang out with each other. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten sick of them.”

Last updated: 10:30 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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