Five San Luis Obispo-based bands have been sharpening their axes in preparation for a massive group performance.
Associated Students, Inc.’s (ASI) Battle of the Bands is set to hit the Julian A. McPhee University Union (UU) Plaza from 6-9 p.m. Friday.
The five bands, including Bearcats; Hopeless Romantics; Box the Oxford; honestly, nothing.; and The Pacifics, will be in the running to be the opening band for this year’s Spring Stampede.
But before hitting up the battle, here’s a breakdown of this year’s players:
Members: Journalism senior Lexi McCoy, drummer; and Lisa Harrison, bassist.
How they describe their sound: “I would say it’s like garage rock with a peppy — well, we call our style garage pop,” McCoy said. “So it’s like, it is like garage rock but it definitely has a pop element.”
What they have been covering: Bearcats have recently been incorporating The Vaseline’s “Sex with an X” into their setlist.
In brief: Harrison and McCoy had been in a band together a few years prior. But when that band fell apart, they decided to put their own duo together with a distinct garage pop flavor.
Bearcats just recently came back from what McCoy referred to as a “mini tour” that took them through Southern California.
McCoy emphasized that Bearcats entered Battle of the Bands not for the sake of competition, but for the fun of playing another local show — which they have scheduled to do every week in April.
“I don’t like competition,” she said. “Especially in music. I think music should be about supporting each other and lifting each other up, rather than competing. So we decided to apply more for the fun and for the fact that, hey, I’m graduating in June, and I could have this opportunity to play in the UU with these other bands.”
They’ve played with Box the Oxford previously. McCoy explained that she’s excited to have the opportunity to play with a set of local bands who all have Cal Poly ties.
“We all go here and we all live here, and that’s going to make it really fun,” she said. “And I’m pretty sure that we’re all pretty different genres, so that will be really fun too — I mean, if all the bands sound the same then what’s the point?”
Members: Psychology senior Michael Azevedo, drummer; and Isaac Rubin, guitarist.
How they describe their sound: “Blues rock,” Azevedo said.
“It’s funny, so I’m not very good with genres,” Rubin said. “But I have a friend who is deeply into sub-genres who described us more as garage rock pop — I think she even said garage blues pop.”
Favored songs of their own: Azevedo is partial to “Pretty Girls” and “Lost Cases of Love,” while Rubin said he appreciated the reactions he’s gotten from “Already Yours” and “Powder Nose Girls.”
In brief: Hopeless Romantics draw some of their musical inspiration from the early work of The White Stripes and The Black Keys — in that both bands shared the ability to make strong, full sound with just two band members, according to Azevedo.
“And I like to infuse some hip hop into that,” he said. “Not so much Kanye — we’re not using any auto-tune or anything like that — but like, old school hip-hop beats.”
Rubin, who does most of the lyric writing for the band, said that he most commonly likes to write about relationships with people, especially with women.
“It’s how I vent,” he said. “So there’s anger in some of it. But I also — I like having it be lighthearted as well. Even though there’s anger in it, I don’t want to take it too seriously.”
Azevedo: “I’d say in a more positive way, it’s more angsty. Like there have been days where he’s kind of in a bad mood, and I’ll be like, ‘tell me a story,’ and I tell him, ‘go write an angsty song about it.’”
Additionally, Hopeless Romantics have played shows with most of the bands featured in Battle of the Bands.
“They’re all super nice and awesome people that I’ve enjoyed playing shows with,” Rubin said. “So it’s fun that we all get to do this together.”
“And I know Bryce (Parry, of The Pacifics) and I are graduating this year,” Azevedo added, “So it’s just really exciting to be able to play together at Cal Poly.”
Members: Electrical engineering junior Eric Osborn, drummer; mechanical engineering junior Andrew Krippner, lead vocalist and guitarist; mechanical engineering junior Davis “The Mux” Muxlow, bassist; and computer science junior Colton Stapper, guitarist.
How they describe their sound: “Surf Velvet Underground — we do what The Strokes do, but, better,” Krippner said. “No. We do indie surf rock. We’ve been called weird, crazy stuff like long wave — blah, blah, blah.”
“Long wave surf rock,” Osborn added.
Krippner is listening to Rayland Baxter.
Stapper is listening to Geographer.
What they have covered before: Box the Oxford consistently covers Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom.”
In brief: Box the Oxford draws a lot of inspiration from blues music, with several members having been in blues bands in high school and listening to the genre now.
The first time Stapper and Krippner met had been online — they both had a common interest in San Diego-based, indie band Local Natives. The second was during Week of Welcome (WOW); Stapper and Krippner bonded over the band again without realizing they already knew each other.
“I said, ‘dude, I know this guy on Facebook who I’ve been talking to who knows the Local Natives,’” Stapper said. “So I pulled up the chat and it turned out to be Andrew … And like, that day, we started writing music.”
Then, the rest of the band slowly came together as they became friends, and worked to make a sound that could translate across multiple platforms.
“We want to play songs that if you play it on the acoustic guitar, if you play it on the glockenspiel, if you play it on the marimba — that’s the same category — they all have value just because of the song, not the way you produce it,” Krippner said.
Osborn: “Basically, we want to write good songs.”
The band said they plan to release a nine-song album in the upcoming months that addresses what it means to “be a man,” according to Krippner.
“Like, falling in love with an experience that you know is short or fleeting,” Stapper said. “You know, ephemeral?”
“Uh — sure,” Krippner said. “I guess that’s one good thing.”
“He just wanted to get ephemeral in there,” Osborn added.
Members: Electrical engineering sophomore Nic Kane, guitarist and lead vocals; mechanical engineering sophomore Nickie Gurney, guitarist and backing vocals; mechanical engineering freshman Cameron Kao, bassist; and biology sophomore Matt Neumann, drummer.
How they describe their sound: “There are some math rock-y vibes,” Gurney said. “Some hints of math … We have some pop hooks — distorted, but not too distorted.”
What the band is listening to: Gurney is listening to SpaceGhostPurrp, Aphex Twin and the Deep Vibes playlist on Spotify for studying, adding: ”It’s just like, really weird — but not that weird. Just. Deep. Vibes.”
“I’m pretty sure I can play that on piano,” Kao added.
Gurney: “No, but without the piano.”
Kao: “OK, but we can still incorporate piano.”
Gurney: “No, but no piano … I want it to be heavier, like, math-y.”
In brief: The mixture of different music inspirations including Nirvana and Pinegrove inspire Kane to meld dark and light musical themes together into one cohesive piece.
“Being able to blend the darker sides with something kind of uplifting … It’s more difficult than just trying to do one or the other,” Kane said.
The hip-hop music that Gurney has been listening to has had an effect as well.
“Hip-hop drum beats are really different, so it just inspires different things … And if they’re electronic, you can do things that humans can’t do,” he said.
Kane added that they’re excited to play both with other local bands and for the possibility of playing to a larger crowd.
“It’s just — say T-Pain plays for Spring Stampede, I want to open for T-Pain,” Gurney said.
“Put that on my resume, dude,” Kane added.
Gurney: “And you could buy pizza with the money (from playing) … It’s like seven or eight pizzas from Little Caesar’s.”
Members: Physics senior Bryce Parry, guitarist and keyboardist; business administration junior Ryan Corvese, guitarist and vocalist; Cal Poly alumna Jessica Neie, vocalist; environmental management sophomore Cliff Moore, bassist; and agricultural business sophomore Drew Miller, drummer.
How they describe their sound: “You can definitely feel like, fusions of the British invasion and blues,” Corvese said. “I would say it’s kind of a — is psych rock blues a good way to put it? It’s inspired by everything under the sun.”
What the band is listening to: As a whole, the band has been listening to The Black Keys and The Beatles.
What they have / want to cover: Moore would cover Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know the Better.” Neie would cover Audioslave’s “Show Me How to Live.” Miller would cover Queens of the Stone Age’s “Little Sister.” Corvese would cover The Beatles’ “Kansas City/ Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” or “You Can’t Do That.” Parry would cover Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”
In brief: Neighbors Moore and Corvese first started playing together after hearing each other play from their homes. Then, they met several other members through open mic nights at Kreuzberg, and were practicing as a band by early winter quarter of this school year.
“I think the girl/guy dynamic is unique to us, too,” Corvese said. “I mean, how many guy/girl bands do you know in SLO? … I don’t know, I think it lets us experiment, and you can kind of tell a more interesting story.”
Adding to that uniqueness is the band members’ different tastes in music.
“We all do have very different inspirations and tastes,” Parry said.
“Like, I like harder stuff,” Neie said. “Like hard rock and heavy metal-ish.”
“And I’m the hippie, like ‘60s, ‘flower power,’ you know … and Bryce is big into blues,” Corvese said.
Their different tastes can make agreeing on a musical direction difficult, at times.
“But when we do find something it’s just like: ‘That’s it!’” Parry said. “And it may not be everything that I like or everything that you like, but it’s something that we all enjoy.”
“I think something we pride ourselves on is that no one person writes the music,” Corvese said. “It’s definitely a collaborative effort.”