Rebel with a cause

    Grand Rapids native makes ’Waves’ on the West Coast
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    Photo courtesy of Poel

    Musician Austin Poel is dropping a new single next week, a punk track called Waves. The thirty-something singer/songwriter, who now spends his days on the shimmering sands of the Pacific, is a Grand Rapids native who graduated from Grand Rapids Christian in 2002.

    “I came from a middle-class background. I went to a Christian High School and skipped school to smoke,” he said in classic rebel form.  “When summer came, we couldn’t wait to drink beer on the beach and jam Nirvana riffs in the garage.

    “It wasn’t until I got to California that I started to get into bands like Bad Religion, Pennywise, Black Flag, NoFx and The Descendants. Living in the South Bay, you really start to figure out that you’re living on ground zero for all that classic punk rock.”

    Though Nirvana would later play a huge part in his transformation as a musician, Poel said his earliest memory of a musical influence was the Beach Boys. It’s not surprising, then, that the musician makes his home in Redondo Beach, California, where he’s lived for the better part of a decade.

    It wasn’t long until Poel’s musical taste branched out beyond the Beach Boys, but he kept it on the light side.    

    “My mom heard me singing Bob Marley in the shower when I was five years old,” said Poel, in a soft-spoken tone. His sun-kissed baby face, accentuated by piled high hair, could easily be mistaken for that of a 1950’s heartthrob.

    Poel credits his late father for helping him further his musical tastes by introducing him to Fleetwood Mac, “Rumors” and to the Rolling Stones. These two bands, among others, served as a solid base for the artists, who has gone on to perform everything from folksy sing-alongs to hard core guitar licks in every type of venue imaginable.

    But one extremely influential album changed Poel’s course forever.  

    “My sister brought home Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ and cranked Smells Like Teen Spirit and it hit me right between the eyes like a bullet,” Poel said. 

    His next tape was Offspring’s “Smash,” followed by Green Day’s “Dookie,” and Weezer’s second album, “Pinkerton,” which Poel said he received as a Christmas gift.

    Austin Poel courtesy photo

    “I unwrapped it the night before Christmas and listened to it and wrapped it back up,” Poel said. Even then his rebellious roots were showing, but he had a lot of other music to sample before settling on a genre: Guns N Roses, Incubus, Blink 182, Rise Against, Foo Fighters, to name a few.

    “I think I tried writing and performing every genre of music,” Poel said, recalling a period during which he performed in an Eighties cover band that did covers of GnR and Poison. 

    “The reception was mediocre,” Poel said. “People knew it wasn’t me.” 

    He then took a 10-year deep dive into pop with the goal of “crafting top quality songs that resonated hope and unity with his audience.” 

    His rich history as a musician of all the modern genres gives him a broad palette from which to paint his anti-authority lyrical prose. Poel said he spent a year learning 50-100 Beatles songs when he first moved to L.A. “because I knew that was the foundational blueprint for pop music,” he said. 

    The yearlong study clearly paid off. His pop single, LIB (Lightning in a Bottle), went to No. 1 on the “What’s in Store” music charts in 2018, with a whopping three million streams! The single was penned and performed by Poel under the name Austin David, a moniker he’s since shed in favor of his last name for his new punk project. 

    When he asked to portray Kurt Cobain in a Vegas-style tribute show, Poel said he finally hit his stride. 

    “The lightbulb went off that maybe I should do more punk/grunge,” he said.  

    After years of enjoying the genre as a listener Poel finally wrote his first punk single called, 1997. The track, which contains an arsenal of punk riffs and politically motivated lyrics,  dropped in June of this year. 

    “That’s when I started hearing from people all over the world, places like the U.K., Australia, Canada. That’s when I started getting the deep connection to fans,” Poel said. “I draw on punk influences of the 90s and put a modern spin on it with 2022 pop production value.

    “Coming out of the pandemic, I had a chip on my shoulder. The way the government and politicians handled issues drew big red flags for me.” Poel said. “My core ethos is equality amongst all human beings. I have no tolerance for people who try to benefit off the hard work of others or maintain a lack of transparency to keep themselves ahead.”

    In addition to entertaining fans with original music and covers for years as a regular performer at the Hotel Café in Hollywood, Poel has also landed some of his music in Lowes and BMW commercials. 

    Poel said he believes the two best ingredients for music are a healthy defiance for authority in the lyrics and a juicy guitar riff. 

    “All great songs start with a banger guitar riff – like a beacon that draws the rest of the song into shore,” Poel said.

    Poel’s latest single, Waves, will be available for streaming on Sept. 28. The track was produced, mixed and mastered by Poel’s longtime friend Rokman. 

    Poel said his new song has “all the hallmarks of a righteous punk song.” 

    “The guitar riffs, the gang vocals and the fast a.f. punk drums, it’s all in there,” Poel said. “I played and sang everything, save for the drums, which were done by my long time buddy and punk/metal drumming legend A.J. Barrette.” 

    When asked about the name of the new track, Poel explained:

    “I spend a lot of time in the ocean surfing/swimming and a lot of the lyrical content personifies the ocean’s change in movements to a shift in consciousness amongst the people.”

    People who wish to pre-save Waves before it drops can do so here. Check out Poel’s other tracks here.

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