Exploring how a student band forms

Four boys milled around the basement practice room of the Wing Davis Wilks complex on a quiet weekday night, tuning electric guitars and plugging in amps.

Will Hanley, a tall, gangly sophomore, sat behind a drum set, warming up on a practice beat.

The band’s development started when Hanley’s friend Ben Febre, who lived in the same dorm building as him, sought him out a few months ago, Hanley said.

“Febre goes: ‘I saw that video you posted awhile back of you playing drums; you’re good, man,” he said.

Hanley and the three other UVM students he plays with in the unnamed band, sophomores Jon Kilian, Alex Doty and Freddie Johns, represent the seedling stages of a college band.

Student bands are a regular occurrence on campuses such as UVM’s. They form through a variety of circumstances and seek to accomplish a range of goals.

Hanley and his bandmates found each other with the initial goal of playing a single live performance, he said.

Even after achieving this goal, they still meet regularly to practice.

Sophomore Alex Bennett is a member of the band Tongue in Cheek, along with with sophomores Erik Burnsand, Sergei Bluman and junior Matt Griffith.

“During the first week of school, one day I heard guitar coming from this room,” Bennet said. “So I just knocked, introduced myself to Griffith, and we had a little jam.”

The spontaneous way in which Tongue in Cheek came together is common in the formation of college bands, Bennet said.

Through Griffith, Bennet met Burnsand. Bursand later got an opportunity to play a show at Battery Street Jeans during the fall semester, Bennet said.

“So two weeks in advance [Bursand] just rounded us up and basically said, let’s be a band, and we were in,” he said.

Tongue in Cheek has played five shows since October 2016, mostly at friends’ apartments. The desire to continue playing came from their love of music, and the fact that music is best when shared with other people, Bennett said.

The members of the band willingly give up leisure time to commit themselves to the practice room, he said.

“I feel like people think of a college band as this rebellious, college youth type [of thing],” said senior Cole Davidson, lead guitarist of Navytrain, the winner of this year’s UVM Battle of the Bands. “But I think we’ve been more productive than anything.”

Despite the fact that it can be difficult to balance the band with his schoolwork at times, the rewarding live performances make it well worth it, Bennett said.

“You emit energy while you play, and the crowd then receives this energy and re-emits it,” he said. “You end up with this back-and-forth interaction with the crowd that you wouldn’t get in other settings. That’s what keeps me coming back.”

Tongue in Cheek represents a classic college band in the sense that the members make the band work through other commitments, and are realistic about not having consistent gigs, Bennett said.

A good way to find gigs is through other bands who give you leads, as well as through friends who are looking for live music to perform at their houses, he said.

Eventually you establish a name for yourself, and people begin to request you, Hanley said.

UVM serves as petri dish for the many different stages of band development.

While Hanley and his bandmates are still working to firmly make it beyond the practice room, there are success stories such as Kudu Stooge, a seasoned UVM band.

Kudu Stooge played a professional performance March 31 at Higher Ground, and has an upcoming residency at Nectar’s.

From the dorm to the stage, there is potential for greatness in the UVM music scene.