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Fainting Generals' Juliet Bennett Rylah on being an artist in Grand Rapids

Underwriting support from:
Juliet on-stage

Juliet on-stage /Steven DePolo

the Fainting Generals

the Fainting Generals /Jonathan Clay

Juliet relaxing

Juliet relaxing /Jonathan Clay

Juliet Bennett Rylah is part of the local band, The Fainting Generals, which has been in existence a little over two years and makes regular appearances at larger-scale festivities in Grand Rapids. Over the years, the band has lost a few of its original members, but the core remains the same. That core is represented by singer-songwriter Juliet.

“I suppose our music is rock 'n roll, which is a really broad category that I find has gotten chopped up into many smaller category—glam rock, indie rock, post rock, space rock, progressive rock, hard rock, surf rock, etc.," said Juliet, who also plays the flute, guitar and some keyboards. "Our music is varied, I suppose, because it depends so much on how things go. It starts with a chord, and then another chord and things go from there.”

Juliet is a journalist for various publications around town, including Revue and The Grand Rapids Press. She is well-versed in the history of music, American history and the struggles of unheard voices. On the night of our interview, Juliet was fresh off the Rapid Growth speaker series panel discussion, and at The Meanwhile, she gave me detailed arguments on what its like to be a struggling artist.

“As someone who attempts to make a living as a writer and a musician, I'd take any deal that came along, but only in a rogue agent sort of way," Juliet said. "I think the state of music is that people don't want to pay for it, so you have to make them pay for performance, because that's one thing, one experience, they can't get for free."

The Fainting Generals have been performing for street fairs and fundraisers, alike.  They have attracted a good following of Grand Rapids residents who are familiar with the music and band members.

"I select shows based on self-serving equations like 'How Much Money We Are Going to Make' versus 'How Many People Will Be There,' or we'll play shows that benefit a cause we believe in."

Fainting Generals have a new album on-the-horizon and Juliet is working on new material that will be rolled into the band's live performances. 

“I am hoping to accomplish the same things that everyone says—I want to play shows and use it as a vehicle for travel," Juliet said. "I hope some people like the music and that it excites them the way I am excited by the music that I like. I also want the things people won't admit.”

Read the full Q&A here.

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Great article, Doug. It's awesome to see you cover the local music scene like you do!

I really wish we had a dedicated "arts speaker series." Your headline made me think of that.

I love this quote from Juliet in the full-length interview:

"I think Grand Rapids is a town with four seasons and a lot a potential.  It is hindered by the notion that we are held down by conservatives, when really, I think we just haven't been vicious enough... and being vicious a lot of times means using words."