This week’s Off the Clock is about a band whose story is one that most millennials can relate to… the group’s founding members met on Tinder, a popular mobile dating application where users are prompted with pictures and short biographies. People can “swipe right” if they are interested in the other person, or “swipe left” if they’re not. In January 2014, former MU students Morgan Manson and Luke Dierker both swiped right.
“I had recently decided like two months prior that I was going to try and do music,” Manson said. “So I kind of bee-bopped around Mizzou and looked for people there, and I got Tinder and started swiping right on anyone with a guitar or drums… Luke was one of those people.”
Dierker had dreams of coaching college football and was working for the MU football team when he first met Manson. Afte the 2013/2014 season, the two met for the first time to sing together. They sang the song “Poison and Wine” by the Civil Wars.
“I pretty much made up my mind right there that whatever football prospects I had were going to be put on hold until I gave music a shot with Morgan began our harmonies were just… they were too good to not try to do something with,” Dierker said.
“The moment that we sang, it sounded like we had been rehearsing and practicing together for years,” Manson said. “That blend is not something that you get naturally. We really just had something there from the beginning that I had never seen before, and so I knew it was fate.”
They call themselves A Simple Exchange. The self-described Americana-folk duo played their first show together at Gunter Hans in Columbia, just two weeks after meeting.
“Honestly, we were good harmony-wise, but in the beginning, we were definitely rounding out our stage presence and how we interacted with each other,” Dierker said. “We still didn’t know each other that well.”
Manson and Dierker both brought in friends from previous music projects to help record a 5-song EP, One Swipe Right. They uploaded the project for streaming online and joined ArtistSignal, a worldwide internet music competition. Within days, One Swipe Right was recognized as a “Staff Pick” by the website. With the full-time addition of Catherine Sandstedt on viola and Daniel Blake on drums, A Simple Exchange began playing shows all around Columbia and St. Louis, and would later be recognized by Inside Columbia Magazine as one of the Top Ten Best Bands in Columbia in 2015. But there’s something else that makes their story stand out.
“After a while, we just kind of started dating without knowing we were really dating,” Manson said. “We were spending so much time together working on music that is very emotion, a very deep thing with the lyrics and the music itself… it really touches your heart.”
“And on April 9th, I set up a show at Gunter Hans in downtown Columbia which is the first place where we performed together. I had all her friends and family and all my family and everything came up, and at the end of the show I had a song that I had only performed that one time,” Dierker said. “The song ended with a proposal, I kind of stumbled into it, so I got down on one knee, pull a ring out of a cajon drum and popped the question. Now, we’re three months away from getting married.”
Six months later, A Simple Exchange played a nearly sold out show at Rose Music Hall on February 17th to celebrate the release of their debut 10-track album titled “What We’ve Become.” Manson reflected on the way their music has developed from a soft, acoustic duo two years ago.
“I guess you can’t really know until you work at it for so long, that your music kind of takes a mind of its own,” Manson said. “It’s not rally you, like, creating something to sound like this… it just becomes that.”
“I think the more you write and the more music you listen to, you start to hear the possibilities of, ‘Okay, what would a mandolin sound like right here? What would a viola sound like?’” Dierker said.
“The lyrics, I guess, and the music, are something that Luke and I work together on and then we have Cat and Daniel listen to it,” Manson said. “Cat adds the viola, Daniel adds the drums and it just becomes something new.”
After two years in the Columbia music scene, A Simple Exchange is gearing up to move to Austin, Texas and they’re all excited for a fresh beginning in an ever growing music scene.
“There’s always been people that, for no reason at all other than that they like our music, come up and throw a five in the tip jar and say they really hope that we’re successful because they like what we’re doing, so I think we can do that in Austin,” Dierker said.