A longtime musician, Clay Graber had been happy with the modest success that his song “House a Habit” had seen initially on the online music streaming platform Spotify.
Along with childhood friend Kyla Mitchell, the pair — K-State students at the time — recorded the song with friends and released the song on Spotify under the band name “We Are the Guests” in December 2018. The song proved popular locally, with many of the band members’ friends listening on repeat. Spotify provides artists a real-time report of how many people listen to the artists’ songs each day, and Graber said he was excited when it reached 1,000 listens.
But less than a month later, as Graber sat down to eat his cereal one morning, his jaw dropped as he saw that that the song had jumped from a plateau of 1,500 to 11,000 overnight. Spotify had put the song on its Release Radar — a curated list of new songs from artists big and small that is personalized for each user.
The song would continue to rack up listens, and Graber said he and Mitchell were taken aback at the success of “House a Habit.” The song currently sits at just above 506,000 listens.
“The music resonated with people more than we were anticipating,” Graber, now a realtor at Foundation Realty, said. “That one song spread to 70 different countries and has half a million listens. I think we just connect with people.
“Our sound is unique, I think,” he continued. “We kind of blend acoustic elements with electronic elements. It’s kind of earthy, or modern. People are excited about it.”
Now, the goal is to use the song’s momentum to turn what had been a far-off dream into reality. Last fall, the band used the online fundraising service Kickstarter to raise $6,000 to record an album. In January, the band traveled to Virginia with The Hunts, Graber’s favorite band, to record the album in The Hunts’ studio.
The band — which included Graber, Mitchell, GraceAnne Zachary, Kyle Arness, Irene Wilson, Nathan Fleming and Emily Graber — spent a week with The Hunts, although they only had a single day to get to record the entire band together. Each song required two or three takes, but the musicians plugged away until they finished at about 2 a.m.
Zachary, a background vocalist and fiddler for the band, said the recording process was an unforgettable experience for her. She’d played in her family band before, but she’d never had the finances to do something as big as what We Are the Guests is trying to do.
“It’s always been a dream of mind to be in a band that travels and does big concerts, so this part of a dream come true for me,” she said. “I guess my biggest takeaway was that I really think I was made for this kind of thing. I enjoyed every minute of it, except having to be gone from my husband and little boy for a week.”
The group now anticipates releasing the resulting album, “Daughters and Sons,” this summer. Hundreds of hours of work have gone into the album, and Graber said he hopes listeners are able to use the songs in their lives.
“We want people to partake in the joys of listening to music, and that’s why we call our listeners guests,” he said. Graber said the band’s name also is meant to acknowledge that its members and other people are all temporary guests on Earth, and with their music, they can make an impact while waiting for life in heaven.
Meanwhile, the band evolves, Graber said. His dream is a cross-country tour, since it seems the band now has enough fans to make that a real possibility. But with Mitchell now living in a different state, and success not yet guaranteed, the band’s makeup likely will evolve and shift while it tries to find a permanent core.
Graber said the album’s songs explore “stories that haven’t been told.”
“The main message in this album is how we shouldn’t take for granted the cards we’re dealt,” Graber said. “People find a lot to complain about, but I think we should do a better job of soaking in and appreciating the things around us.”