On a Friday night last month, Medium Build’s Nick Carpenter embraced his bandmates in a narrow backstage stairwell before the start of their concert at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub.
“I love you guys,” he said as they put their hands together in a small huddle. “We’ve done everything we can to prepare for this. Let’s just have fun. Let’s not overthink it.”
As Medium Build continues to grow and make waves in the national scene, Alaskans are seeing “their” band make it — and it’s a point of pride.
The concert, which kicked off the return of the Spenard theater’s First Tap series, helped Carpenter pay homage to the Anchorage band’s fans who have been with them since the start.
Those fans turned out in full force, filling the approximately 1,000-person venue after weeks of anticipation and pleas from Alaska social media users hoping to score tickets to the show.
Medium Build’s rise in popularity is the culmination of years of time and effort, shows and albums, friendships and relationships, Carpenter said during a recent interview at his Anchorage home.
Like many locals, he can be ambivalent about Anchorage. But he’s come to call the city home and wants to be part of what makes it good.
“I’m first in line to ... talk shit on Anchorage,” he said. “But after 20 months of talking shit, eventually you’re like, ‘OK, well, I’m a part of this so I can either help change it or I can leave.’”
On stage, Carpenter — casually sipping a cup of tea and wearing Carhartt overalls — had an ease with his approach to the crowd and was connected and present. He’d shared the stage that night with former band members James Glaves and Ed Washington, as well as local artist Bethlehem Shalom.
“It was our homecoming,” Carpenter said of the concert.
Some songs were rooted in melancholy, a slow burn for the audience, while other tunes incited screaming and head banging. The banter in between was full of honest exchanges between Carpenter and his fans — a catharsis for him, for his audience and maybe even for Anchorage.
At least that was Carpenter’s hope — for everyone to feel thanked and invited.
Local musician Emma Hill, longtime friends with Carpenter, said his Bear Tooth concert was the best live show she’s been to in Alaska. The combination of on-stage camaraderie, energy and the time dedicated to honor previous bandmates and new artists made it a special night.
“It’s incredibly easy to create here because so much of us lean on it as a form of therapy and a form of coping and a form of existence in this intense place,” she said. “But it’s very hard to share that creativity in what feels like a meaningful way or a way that is taken seriously by the rest of the world.”
Starting as a self-described drunken, chaotic bar band, Medium Build has evolved through the years and gone through different phases.
The band chased a “weird ‘80s vibe” with their electronic stadium era a few years after their first show in 2016. Then, they found their place with harmonies after Washington, an Anchorage artist and producer, was brought on.
Currently, the band’s Alaska outfit includes Greg Geddes on drums, guitarist Nate Cain, Steve Hartmann on bass and Hollis Bryan with vocals.
Now, Medium Build is in their folk rock era, Carpenter said.
“For me, Medium Build is always just like, me and whoever’s down,” he said. “That’s why there’s like, five different producers on the EP.”
Their new EP, “Health,” dropped at the end of January. Although it didn’t rival the social media buzz for the Bear Tooth show, Alaskans were still eagerly anticipating its release.
“yo the new medium build album feels like a state holiday,” tweeted local musician Abi Sparkman of SunDog.
Each track features acoustic guitar and the lyrics are rooted in deeply personal stories from Carpenter’s journals.
Carpenter compares his writing process to speed dating or fishing — he travels to different music hubs, meets with other people and sees what sticks. “Never Learned to Dance,” the second single from his new EP, was cultivated from a writing trip to Los Angeles.
His new songs were recorded in Anchorage, Nashville, Brooklyn and Los Angeles, and he’s already selling out shows on Medium Build’s upcoming Lower 48 tour that begins in March.
“I think Alaskans overall just want to feel like we have a place on the map,” said Hill. “We exist and our culture exists and ... we have cool stuff going on.”
A recent all-ages show at The Nave in Spenard sold out, and Medium Build is also set to play at the Sitzmark in Girdwood on Feb. 19.
More eyes are on Carpenter now than ever before, and he credits some of that to his presence on social media, newly released music and the fans they gained after he went on tour last year with Briston Maroney, a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Knoxville, Tennessee.
Last summer, Medium Build was garnering about 11,000 plays per day on streaming platform Spotify. Now, that number sits at about 30,000, and growing.
Over on TikTok, Medium Build has taken off.
Some of Carpenter’s earliest videos on the platform are goofy. In one, he’s standing with a guitar and singing a song he made up about his dog, Huey, who seems pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. In another, Carpenter is sporting a bright yellow Medium Build tank top and dancing along to his song “comeonback,” with a Topo Chico in one hand and twirling a large grilling spatula in the other.
About a year ago, at the suggestion of his manager, he shared a video of himself singing a stripped-down version of his 2021 song “Rabbit.”
The video took off, and his account has since grown from 300 or so followers to nearly 35,000. About 25,000 of them started following him just over the last two months.
“It’s like a snowball,” he said of his social media following. “It’s whiplash inducing, a bit dehumanizing, because ... nothing has changed. I’ve been trying with the same amount of heart.”
Hill has seen Carpenter’s growth and self-reflection throughout his time here. She helped him book the band’s first show at the Taproot — a now-closed Spenard music venue — and his first tour along the West Coast in 2017.
The audience at the recent Bear Tooth show was there because they wanted to be, with “every bit of their soul,” and they wanted to see Medium Build succeed, Hill said.
The show was like a 1950s headline: “Local band makes it big, gives flowers back to town,” Carpenter said with a slight chuckle.
“It’s such a classic sort of story, but you don’t really ever see yourself in that lens,” he said.
As for the future of the band, it’s a bit up in the air, but Carpenter loves what he’s doing. There’s potential for a label deal and possibly a few longer jaunts Outside on the horizon.
“We’re not just Anchorage’s band anymore,” he said.
But for Carpenter, Anchorage is home.
“Me and Anchorage have had this thing for six, seven years, and now the rest of the world is on and ... I don’t want to ignore the new people, but I also want to thank and still pay attention to the people who helped me get here.”