Common Shiner (band)

Common Shiner (band)
Common Shiner
Origin Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
Genres Indie rock
Years active 2002–present
Morgan Foster
Michael James Brooks
Jake Chandler
Vijay Bangalore

Common Shiner is an indie rock/Folk band originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan and now based in Chicago, Illinois .

Started in 2002 by songwriters Morgan Foster and Tim Haig while both were attending Calvin College, Common Shiner varies in style from blues to rock to folk and back again. The group started out as mostly a hobby, but has since been established as a more serious endeavor, making regular appearances at a wide range of venues throughout the Chicago, Illinois and Grand Rapids, Michigan. The band has also toured the East Coast several times. In July, 2007, they played at the South Haven, Michigan Harborfest in front of a crowd of over 5,000 people, their largest audience to date.

The current band members, drummer Vijay Bangalore, keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter Michael James Brooks, and acoustic guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Morgan Foster, as well as former guitarist Andrew Huisjen and former bassist Zach Hache, all met as undergraduates at Calvin College. When Hache moved to Arizona for work, the band hired Bangalore's long-time friend Jake Chandler to take over on bass. "When I first started playing with Morgan more than four years ago, I thought it was just going to be something that I'd do here and there for fun," Huisjen told interviewer Eric Mitts of Recoil Magazine.[1] Instead, the band played at every opportunity, building a loyal following at their repeat venues, including Grand Rapids' Black Rose and The Intersection. The band relocated in the fall of 2007 with the goal of dedicating themselves to music full-time. They soon began a grassroots mainstream radio campaign, and their single entitled "No Melody" has reached as high as #142 on Mediabase's Adult Contemporary radio charts.

The group draws on a wide variety of influences, from Death Cab for Cutie and Ben Folds, to Dave Matthews Band. They are often compared to Barenaked Ladies due to their playful style, sometimes quirky lyrics, and vocal similarities between Foster and one of the Barenaked Ladies vocalists. Their songs feature honest, meaningful lyrics that vary from striving toward a social consciousness to light-hearted crushes. “The goal is reflecting the beauty in the common experience. I would say that applies to most of our songs,” Foster told Rachael Recker of the Grand Rapids Press.[2]



In their first incarnation, Common Shiner produced a self-published recording titled Reflections, which features songs written by Foster and co-founder and former bassist Tim Haig. The first full length album, So Long... was also self-published, and was released in summer, 2006. "All the tracks are solid," wrote a critic for West Michigan music magazine Revue.[3]

Believing that having a second album to sell at concerts would increase their visibility, the group decided to release a new album, Viennas, in 2007. Because the members pay for all their recording expenses themselves, Viennas has a shorter playlist than their earlier title. "We're starving artists in an almost-literal sense sometimes, and we just didn't have the money for a full-length this time around," Brooks told Mitts. "We could've waited a bit and done another full-length, but there were enough fans out there who really wanted recordings of these songs as soon as they could get them."[1]

In December 2008, just a year after their relocation to Chicago, the band released a four-track EP entitled EPs Never Have Titles, which was recorded and mixed in Grand Rapids by band friend Chris Andrus of West Michigan native band Bless You Boys. It was released solely as a free online download at, marking a new venture for the band in free online music.

Common Shiner released a full-length acoustic album entitled Before They Sold Out: Part 1 on May 31, 2011. Before They Sold Out: Part 2 will be released in early 2012 and will feature full-band interpretations of some of the songs from Part 1, as well as new material the band worked on through 2010 and 2011.


  • Best Rock Album Nominee - "Viennas" - 2008 WYCE Jammies Awards
  • Best New Artist Nominee - 2007 WYCE Jammies Awards
  • Best Rock Album Nominee - "So Long..." - 2007 WYCE Jammies Awards
  • Most Outstanding Band - Supercave, Calvin College
  • Best Crowd Reaction - Supercave, Calvin College


Former Members


Title Release Date Label
Reflections 2003 Self-Released
So Long... 2006 Self-Released
Viennas August 10, 2007 Self-Released
EP's Never Have Titles December 9, 2008 Self-Released
Before They Sold Out (Part 1) February 15, 2011 Self-Released


  • The group takes their name from the common shiner, a small, abundant freshwater fish found throughout the Midwestern and Northeastern United States.
  • The band's current songwriters, Morgan Foster and Michael James Brooks, met at Calvin College while studying theatre. They have worked on and off-stage together, and have both expressed a desire to keep working on theatre projects even while focusing on music. Most recently they both took part in devising the ethnographical script for the World Premiere play, Seven Passages. Michael James Brooks is an active Composer and Sound Designer for theatre.
  • The band members share a lot of the same taste in entertainment and the arts, and will often make small on-stage references to works of theatre, or dedicate their personal myspace photos to obscure television comedies such as 12 oz. Mouse.

Notable Appearances

  • Ribfest Chicago 6/12/11
  • Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006
  • International Pop Overthrow (Chicago) 2011, 2010, 2009
  • Harborfest, South Haven, MI 6/16/07
  • Opened for This World Fair 5/22/07
  • Opened for Flickerstick 12/4/06
  • Midpoint Music Festival 9/21/06
  • Opened for Tim Reynolds 9/13/06


  1. ^ a b Interview: Common Shiner, Recoil Magazine, July, 2007
  2. ^ Common Shiner Strives for Style, Universal Appeal, Grand Rapids Press, August 3, 2006
  3. ^ So Long... Review, Sonicbids reprint of Revue text, retrieved July 5, 2007

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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