“I’d say our relationship is extra-marital. No one’s got a prenup,” Lennon Fanning said as he and his six bandmates laid on the bed, bodies smushed together. The group of friends and roommates teased each other, smiled and joked as they described making music together. Evidentely, there is never a dull moment at the little blue house on Donna Way.
After discovering their common interest for music during the start of their college careers, this group of friends came together and formed a band to express their passion through song writing and garage jam sessions. Formally known as “The Super Somethings,” the band decided that after over a year of making music, it was time to bring in a fresh new sound to their songs. Scratching off the old name and songs completely, “donna” was created.
The band consists of Cal Poly students Tyler Hentges, Ryan Kraemer, Lennon Fanning, Davis Leach, Collin Moore, Brenden Sallstrom and UCSB junior Cameron Segel. Each member brings a vital element to “donna” that has shaped its musical development.
For anthropology junior Fanning, it was his group of friends who impacted his love for music and encouraged him to perform for the first time.
“I never played an instrument before meeting these dudes but they were like, ‘Okay let’s start a band,’ and I got forced to be lead singer so I had to pick up singing and I had to learn how to play the keys also,” Fanning said.
Inspired by artists like The Growlers and The Beatles, the band has progressively developed their sound and made it their own. According to Fanning, the creative process is individualistic. Each member writes their own songs and presents it to the band.
“These guys are some of my main inspirations but I mostly write songs inspired by whatever I’m feeling at the time,” Fanning said.
After more than a year of songwriting and playing together, the band decided it was time for a change. They wanted their new experiences to cross over in their music.
A new sound
Unable to hold their usual garage jam sessions while several of the band members studied abroad, the band was reunited in January, ready to play. However, in the midst of their reunion, The Super Somethings questioned their original musical process. As everyone came together to share their new experiences, the band ultimately decided to start over as donna.
“We didn’t like the music that we were making so we decided to change our style and and put a new name to it,” Fanning said.
The Super Somethings was more of what agribusiness junior Hentges refers to as “beta,” or a test run of what being a band would be like.
According to environmental management junior Leach, the style of the music they produce as donna is significantly different.
“I think [the sound] is less poppy; it’s not as up-beat,” Leach said. “There are some slow songs and it’s a little more mellow. You can kind of tell that we’re not just, like, way too excited.”
No one has had more firsthand exposure to the band’s progress than industrial engineering junior Moore, donna’s manager.
“I’ve been friends with these guys since freshman year so I’m kind of stuck with them,” Moore said. “It’s pretty cool to watch them progress as musicians. Their new sound is really, really good and one that I’m proud of.”
As for the band’s new name, they chose something close to home.
“We chose ‘donna’ because we identify with it, living on Donna Way,” Hentges said. “Basing ourselves out of this house where our music has been made and brought to life is important to us.”
As the artists continue to explore their new sound, the blending of their individual musical expression is what helps donna grow.
“Everyone’s collaborating really hard and everyone has their own influences which is why I think it works well because we never really seem to get bored of the songs we’re making,” Leach said. “I think it’s like the diversity of interest and like musical genres that we all have is what makes it interesting for us.”
The new and improved band, debuted by coming together during spring break to record their new album, simply titled “donna”.
The recording and production of the album was done by the band itself. All they needed was an empty living room, mattresses to line the walls for better sound, and their equipment. Although recording the album only took four days, the process consisted of sleepless nights and what seemed to be endless jam sessions.
Making the album was something that resonated with communications junior Kraemer and bassist for donna.
“Making the album was super cool,” Kraemer said. “Getting like super delirious and tired and only working on one thing with the same people for like 80 hours total in a room with everyone was pretty wild.”
The band members recognized the amount of work that took place post-recording, as vocalist and guitarist Segel also took on the role of donna’s producer during the making of this album.
“Getting to produce and mix the album has been a super fun and creative endeavor for me, audio engineering is a big passion of mine and being able to indulge that passion on a project that is our own music has been very fun and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it,” Segel said.
Although the full album is scheduled to release soon, donna recently debuted their first single, “Sleepy.”
During their time together as a college band, the muscians have experienced countless moments together that have solidified their musical passion and their friendship. One of their fondest memories occurred last year, when they performed at a sold-out venue in Eugene, Oregon.
According to Kraemer, this performance had a lot more energy than their usual gigs.
“You kind of feed off that [energy],” Kraemer said. “Normally we play at SLO WWDo Co, so having three stage divers was a pretty milestone moment.”
According to environmental engineering sophomore Sallstrom, the weekend trip allowed the band to connect better and experience a bigger crowd. However, Sallstrom believes that the day- to-day occurrences that the band experiences together are the most memorable.
“I think fondest memories is just like, very mellow times when you just like jam and almost explore music, explore our own sounds, ‘cause we’re all figuring it out.”
Similarly, the rest of the band members are grateful for the opportunity to express themselves musically alongside their best friends.
“Playing music is fun on its own but when it’s like, with your best friends, there’s nothing better,” Leach said.