Local Band Spotlight: Much Obliged

“We are Much Obliged.” That’s what you’ll hear Lexington-based indie rock band Much Obliged say at the end of each show.

The band’s name is multi-purpose: The familiar phrase is used as a thank-you to listeners, a nod to the band members’ pop-culture influences (the expression is often used by video game Bioshock Infinite‘s protagonist, Booker, and appears in the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”), and a reminder of how the five-piece band has grown and changed.

Much Obliged’s beginnings are traced back to 2013, when college sophomores Daniel Lay (guitar, vocals) and Jeffrey Alford (drums) formed a cover band. The band came together quickly: they were ready to debut in just a week. A nature-inspired name, Evergreen, fit the bill: their first show was at a local marina on Herrington Lake.

This iteration of the band played just a few shows with a rotating crew of musicians—the only consistent members were Lay and Alford. Nevertheless, Evergreen took home first place at a Battle of the Bands competition at the University of Kentucky.

That’s when Lay and Alford felt compelled to solidify a full-time line-up and reflect the band’s evolution with a name change, landing on Much Obliged. Michael Clark, a longtime friend of Lay and Alford, left another band to join Much Obliged as the lead vocalist. Clark also contributes guitar and keyboard.

Next to join was Max Galbraith—a friend of Clark’s—lending guitar and vocals. “We all clicked immediately,” the bandmates recall. Finally, Bassist Keenan Ray joined the group a few years later.

Friendship has always been a significant theme for the band. While Much Obliged has been around for about ten years, the “original three” band members started making music together much sooner: Lay, Alford, and Clark have been friends since fourth grade. They joined the Burgin Independent School (Mercer County, KY) concert band the following year. In middle and high school, they played together in church bands.

“The freedom to experiment musically and collaborate with each other” is what Alford calls his favorite part of being in a rock band with life-long friends. “We’re all different, yet similar, and when we play together, we all bring something to the table that just really works. And that creates a bond that lasts.”

Much Obliged incorporates country, folk, and jazz influences into its signature jam-rock sound. True to jam tunes, their music is also a little bluesy, a little psychedelic, and a lot of fun. “We don’t try to hold to any specific genre,” Alford says, but “no matter what song of ours you hear, it always sounds like Much Obliged.”

Hear from Much Obliged at Riney B. Park Amphitheater on Saturday, June 3, at 6:00 p.m. No registration or tickets are necessary. Bring a blanket or lawn chair.

Ready yourself: Stream Much Obliged’s record Paradise on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Music, and Bandcamp.