Christian Howel, Position: KeyboardslKody LittleChris ChildressMatt SpivackCalvin Merseal

Before the Beginning (Pre 2011)

Before the formation of Amalgam Effect, the strings that would be tied together were already weaving. Matt Spivack and Calvin Merseal were friends before either played a note of music. Matt was always a singer, but it was throughout high school and middle school that he picked up flute and guitar – among other instruments. It was around that time that Matt met Kody Little, and one of the precursors to Amalgam Effect was taking shape. Meanwhile, and far away from his future band mates, Chis Childress was honing his skills as a bass player throughout high school and college.

As Chris was growing as a bassist and playing in various projects in Colorado, Kody and Matt came together to form Men of Passion, which became Unconquered Skye; a band that was eventually called Generation Bridge. However, all attempts to create a full unit which would meld Kody’s wild Iron Maiden influence with Matt’s Jethro Tull musicality proved unsuccessful. Eventually, these three musicians found their way into various projects to grow and master their instruments. Meanwhile, Calvin Merseal was simply playing rhythm-based video games rather than real instruments.

Feeling at a loss for a fulfilling musical outlet, Matt followed a lead from an old high school friend and ultimately met Chris. After a brief encounter, the two parted ways for several months. It wasn’t until Chris at last called Matt that Amalgam Effect’s formation began to take shape. Under an initial name of Against the Grain, Matt and Chris sought to bring the likes of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple (Chris) together with Jethro Tull and other prog greats (Matt). As a duo the two began writing, playing the same few songs over and over in Matt’s apartment – occasionally annoying Matt’s roommate, Calvin.

Amalgamation (2011-2013)

Facing a revolving door of members, Against the Grain chose a rather interesting name change in Amalgam Effect. First there was Matt, Chris, and the first of Amalgam Effect’s drummers. Then there was Matt, Chris, and a second drummer. It was at this time that Matt contacted some old friends to fill out the lineup. It was then that Amalgam Effect got its first keyboardist in one of Matt’s high school friends, and a guitarist in none other than Kody Little. Unfortunately, the first amalgamation lasted only a brief time. By early 2013, Amalgam Effect was out a drummer, a keyboardist, and a guitarist. Kody had left the band to pursue other endeavors, and once again Matt and Chris were alone.

So, the hunt was on for a new lineup, and again it was Matt that dipped into the pool of old friends. This time however, his resource was a drummer who had never played drums. Calvin Merseal had never sat at a real drum kit, but Matt thought that Expert level Rock Band drumming and a love for prog rock might be enough to get things started. Not expecting much, Calvin learned the first few audition songs by tapping his legs on long bus rides. After auditioning – and playing a drum kit for the first time – Chris was not all that impressed. However, learning that Calvin had never played drums before, it was decided that things could only get better.

Stuck as a three-piece for a long while, Amalgam Effect focused on writing while searching for a guitarist and keyboardist. Fortunately, Calvin was able to bring more than work-in-progress drumming to the table, and was able to help with both lyrics, and conceptualization. By the end of 2013, fortune smiled again as Kody Little returned to the band to provide an essential (almost) final piece. Though a keyboardist proved impossible to find, the band had a lineup that could at last finalize songs and play shows. This was the true beginning.

Road to Time of Departure (2016)

It was two years in, and with every member of the band possessing affluent writing abilities, Amalgam Effect had too many songs and not enough recordings. The process of recording their first album began in early 2015. At this time, the band had more than three full hours of material written – all neatly arranged into a complex map of albums. It was decided early on that Amalgam Effect would focus on the album as the ultimate artistic statement, and that each one would have a concept; the first three telling one overarching story.

With that, Alan Quill was born. Time of Departure would be the first of a trilogy telling Alan’s story. Alan is the amalgamation of the band’s four original members, and his life and experiences would reflect the struggle of artists in a modern pragmatic society. After a long recording experience with the amazing people at UI Sound in Boulder, Colorado, the band found that there was still something missing in their music. The music needed the sonic space that a keyboardist could fill, and the band knew they had to find it.

Unfortunately, throughout the whole recording process it was impossible to find the right keyboardist to fill the final role in Amalgam Effect. As a result, the band worked with several different session keyboardist and finished the first album as a four-piece.

Road to As We Were (2017)

Time was moving along, as it tends to, and Amalgam Effect was preparing to record their second studio album. The plan was to record the album late in the year, and plan for a December release, but exciting news in the Spring of 2017 changed things up. Amalgam Effect was invited to play Progtoberfest III in Chicago, Illinois, which meant recording the album sooner, and faster.

In an attempt to get As We Were released before the festival, the band got pre-production rolling. The songs had all been written for a long time – some were several years old, and originally from former projects. Great efforts were taken to finalize the songs and shape them into the second installment of Alan Quill’s epic tale. With that complete, Amalgam Effect returned to UI Sound Studios for round 2!

It took sixteen evening sessions to track the album – and a couple extra nights outside the studio to track the keyboards with special guest Bill Hussung. Along the way, they met up with Sadie Trigg, whose guest vocals proved to be an indispensable addition on “Dangerous Games” and “Oil and Water”. Within another week, mixing and mastering was all wrapped up, and As We Were was out for production in time for the festival!

Road to Sketches (2018)

Progtoberfest behind them, Amalgam Effect set out for a whirlwind year of varied challenges and thrills. The driving force which fueled the band’s perseverance was the preparation for their third release – the final installment in Alan Quill’s saga, Sketches. Rather than approaching the album as a traditional concept album, Sketches was written instead as a single hour-long piece of music with multiple interconnected movements.

Though much of the music for Sketches had already been written, there was much work to be done. To create a single song which spans the course of an hour, paying extra attention to transitions, orchestration, and fluidity was crucial. This steadily became the singular focus for Amalgam Effect in 2018, and as a result, they felt more than ready to begin recording in October. With that, ten recording sessions were booked at the ever-reliable UI Sound Studios, and they got to work on their biggest endeavor yet.

After just over a week spent tracking the hour-long epic, the pieces were in place and the mixing process began.  The result was a sweeping artistic declaration which acts as the conclusion of the Alan Quill Trilogy and the end of Amalgam Effect’s first artistic chapter.

The Missing Piece (2019)

Following the release of Sketches, the band contacted keyboardist, Christian Howell. After a long introduction process, and several years as a four-piece, Amalgam Effect finally added its missing element. Together, the new five-piece lineup embarked on a new creative journey, looking
forward to a new cycle of albums and the exploration of new territory.