` Jesusfreakhideout.com: The American Hotel System, "Can You Hear It? - EP" Review
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JFH Indie Music Spotlight Review

The American Hotel System, 'Can You Hear It? - EP'

The American Hotel System
Can You Hear It? - EP

Artist Info: Discography
Street Date: November 17, 2023
Style: Alternative / Pop Rock
Official Site: AmericanHotelSystem.com
Buy It: AmazonMP3
Buy It: iTunes

Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, The American Hotel System is a rock band that has recently started making waves since their debut in 2018. They saw some extra success in 2022, winning a music competition and getting to open some shows for Bon Jovi. Now they're following it up with their latest EP, Can You Hear It?. The American Hotel System blends together CCM pop rock, such as MercyMe or modern Newsboys, with a little bit of rock & roll flair. Listening through the EP, there are occasional moments that remind me of bands like The Elms (particularly their first two albums). But while The Elms tended to have a couple of big pop singles that didn't sound much like the rest of the album, Can You Hear It? is consistent from start to finish, even when transitioning from an upbeat pop rock song to an acoustic-based one (eg. the transition from "Tripping" to "Fire"). Additionally, the EP is full of Biblical principles and longings to be made brand new. The title track reminds me of a famous C.S. Lewis quote, where he says "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world." The song gets into that, as the singer describes a search for something to satisfy his soul: "I've been searching through my past / a backwards journey from the lie they cast / I find nothing of solace in the siren's voice / the echoes of knowledge of a long lost noise / can you hear it? / oh, can you feel it? / I've been searching for a melody that can't be sung / it's the song that I've been looking for since I was young." The band also touches on the difficulties and blessings of marriage ("Seattle"), as well as enduring the loss of loved ones while knowing that they're now secure in the arms of the Lord ("When that moment comes and I take my final breath / rhat is when this vagrant heart will finally find rest / know that when I'm gone and my body becomes dirt / all that I've been longing for has finally given birth" - from the closer, "Not The End"). Can You Hear It? is a solid EP that is super accessible and will likely appeal to fans of any of the aforementioned artists (or any K-LOVE enthusiasts). If that's you, then The American Hotel System may be a band you'll want to keep an eye on.

- Review date: 11/20/23, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

JFH Indie Spotlight Review     Grand Rapids-based rock band The American Hotel System returns with their latest EP, Can You Hear It?. This collection comes after a year that saw their sophomore album release along with opening for Bon Jovi. Some of that high carries over into their latest tunes as this EP opens with the energetic title track and keeps that mood flowing through the rest of the set. There's a good balance of songs here, from full-on rockers (the title track, "Tripping") to mid-tempo tunes ("Fire" and "21st") and even a decent ballad (the closer "Not the End"). While the influences on this group could be considered wide-ranging, Switchfoot's shadow is easily felt. Not only does the music carry tints of this influence (the chorus to "Seattle" could easily fit into a Switchfoot song), the lyrical approach of lead singer Jacob Betts falls into that slightly vague category of songwriting where there's just enough light for a Christian listener to catch, but nothing too overt. This leads to moments where the listener wonders if a song is a spiritual prayer to God or a wrestling of emotions with a spouse. Some might find that confusing, while others will appreciate it and dig deeper into the lyrics and background.

That said, it's clear that Betts and company are trying to live life meaningfully. "21st" perhaps encapsulates this theme best as Betts sings, "I'm letting go/Down from my throne/Cuz I'll never know what my life could be/In this twenty-first century." There's a struggle here to be open and honest and humble, letting love drive the change with just enough hints that such change can't come wholly from will-power. This lyrical depth, along with the catchy and fun music, makes Can You Hear It? a worthwhile listen as the year closes out. Perhaps between a big year last year and more new music this year, The American Hotel System can make more in-roads and garner more fans as they're certainly a fun band worth paying attention to. - Review date: 12/15/23, written by John Underdown of Jesusfreakhideout.com


. Record Label: SONO Music Group
. Album length: 6 tracks: 25 minutes, 12 seconds
. Street Date: November 17, 2023
. Buy It: AmazonMP3
. Buy It: iTunes

  1. Can You Hear It? (3:21)
  2. Tripping (4:26)
  3. Fire (3:06)
  4. Seattle (3:36)
  5. 21st (4:01)
  6. Not The End (6:40)
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    Click For Song Lyrics
    Click For Song Lyrics
    Click For Song Lyrics
    Click For Song Lyrics
    Click For Song Lyrics



  • Jesus Freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): First off, I love an interesting band name. Can you tell me about the origin of the name?

    Jacob Betts: The story behind 'The American Hotel System' all started as an inside joke. Back in college in the early 2010s, the midwest music scene had some of the craziest band names you could think of. So, a group of us music majors decided to make a list of the most ridiculous names we could come up with just for fun. Fast forward to when we needed a name for what we thought was a one-off show. We scrolled through our goofy list, and 'The American Hotel System' was the winner. Moral of the story? Choose that band name wisely!

    In the time between forming the band and now, the name has grown to have meaning. One of the core messages of this band is that "you are not alone". I see the name as an invitation for other vagrant hearts to find rest and community.

  • JFH (Scott): The American Hotel System is only a few years old as of now. How did you initially come together?

    Jacob: The birth of The American Hotel System happened during our last college semester. I was organizing stress relief events, and the idea struck us to put on a one-off show on the final day of the semester. It featured seniors from the music program covering our favorite songs as a final hurrah. Surprisingly, after our first performance, we were invited to play another event four months later. In the span of a year, we not only recorded a demo EP but also transformed my ongoing solo album project into the band's first full-length release. It was a whirlwind journey that took us by surprise!

  • JFH (Scott): You recently won Grand Champions at Music Prize 2022 (congrats!). Can you explain what Music Prize is for those who may not have heard of it?

    Jacob: Music Prize is part of LA Prize Fest, which includes Film, Music, Food, Fashion, Comedy, and Start-Ups! Each year, thousands of indie musicians from all over the United States send in performances and the top ten acts get to perform at Prize Fest and do mentorship with industry professionals. At the end of the festival, the mentors pick a grand champion who receives a grant of $10,000 to help advance their career.

    In 2021, we had the honor of being top ten finalists, but took home fourth place by half a point. We learned so much from all of the feedback we received! After the festival, we had a band meeting where we each took out our notebooks and said "Okay, what changes can we make to push ourselves to grow in excellence?". We spent the next year growing and, in October 2022, not only made it back to the top ten finals, but walked away as grand champions! 'Can You Hear It?' would not exist without our music prize family...we are so grateful to have crossed paths with them!

  • JFH (Scott): Who are some of your musical influences?

    Jacob: Switchfoot, Colony House, Manchester Orchestra, Mike Mains & The Branches, and Foo Fighters are just some of the bands who have inspired us! All five of us come from diverse backgrounds and, with that, we each bring diverse musical influences to the table.

  • JFH (Scott): Can You Hear It? only has six songs, but it covers more ground than I expected. Did you go into the songwriting intending to do this?

    Jacob: These songs are a reflection of the journey that we have been on as a band. Going into the studio, we wanted these six songs to take the listener on a similar journey. This collection of songs came together during an intensely personal time, as we processed big life events like marriage, parenthood, mental health struggles, and the loss of loved ones. A few years ago I was introduced to the German word 'Sehnsucht' through the writings of C.S. Lewis. 'Sehnsucht' describes the deep longing or hope that we all have in our hearts, which is where the title track was born. From recalling the journey of growth in my marriage in 'Seattle' to tackling my battle with OCD in 'Tripping', there's a through-line of that longing and hoping in all of these songs. We really wanted the first drum hit of 'Can You Hear It?' to the final strings on 'Not The End' to feel like a journey.

  • JFH (Scott): Which one song from the EP would you suggest to any potential new listeners?

    Jacob: I think 'Seattle' is a great picture of who we are as a band, which is partly why we chose it as the lead single from the EP! A close second would be '21st'!

  • JFH (Scott): What would you say is the mission statement of The American Hotel System?

    Jacob: We actually have a written mission statement and core values that internally help us make decisions as a band; "We are a community of musicians that aim to provoke the heart, soul, and mind of listeners through authentic, heartfelt lyrics and intentional musicality".

  • JFH (Scott): Is there anything else you'd like to add?

    Jacob: My prayer is that these songs will reach people where they are. I hope they can be a reminder that, no matter what troubles may come in life, we are not alone. There is hope and love greater than anything that can be found on this earth.



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