by Felicia DeInnocentiis | Staff Writer
At the 2009 Johnson Talent Show, a new musical group revealed itself to a peer-filled audience. This group, a collaborative cover band of underclassmen (aptly named Freshman Band), hit the student body music scene and made a successful debut. Since then, Freshman Band has played consecutive Talent Shows and other miscellaneous school functions, although they remain low-profile in the Stone Oak scene.
“We’ve been doing more local things, like small birthdays and things like that; just starting off seeing how our stage presence is,” bassist Jordan Ayala said.
Freshman Band’s covers are mostly classic-rock and alternative-oriented, including a well-reworked version of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication.” These covers can be heard on their Facebook and Youtube pages. The group’s existence- and the musical chemistry apparent in their tracks- did not develop overnight.
“It originally started as me and my friend Tyler Young, who was the bassist, and I was the drummer,” frontman and guitarist Thomas Cardwell said. “We didn’t have any type of singer or guitarist at all.”
From humble beginnings, the duo soon expanded into a trio, before growing to a rambunctious sestet. Cardwell learned quickly that quality must precede quantity.
“Ryan [Bailey] joined, and he was the guitarist… and then I added a bunch of my friends, where it was like six or seven people,” he said. “We played “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, and it was absolutely awful. [It wasn’t] working out. So we cut it down to three people.”
After a final rearrangement of members, the final cut came down to Cardwell and Bailey, with Seth Gipe on guitar.
“After Freshman year, the next talent show, we wanted to do something better, so we did the School of Rock song, and we added Jordan Ayalla to play bass. Now he’s our sole bassist,” Cardwell said.
Ayala is the last addition to Freshman Band’s lineup. Interestingly, these musicians have no official instrumental position, and switch places frequently to keep up practice with each instrument.
“I play drums, probably the best out of anybody in our group, and I play bass. We all basically switch instruments, because we all remotely play that instrument,” Cardwell said.
The song repertoire of Freshman Band is largely made up of rock covers. The band has composed few original pieces thus far.
“The cover part; that’s easy,” Ayalla said. “You know how the song should sound, you know how it goes. But with the writing stuff, it’s really about creating your own sound, which is kind of a concept we haven’t necessarily entirely discovered yet.”
The main lyrical writing force is backed by Cardwell, who has a stash of internal lyrics ready to be patch-worked into new songs.
“I have to give most of the credit to Thomas, our singer. He’s the jack-of-all-trades in the group,” Ayalla said. “He’ll give us a piece and he’ll say ‘you can do whatever you want, whatever you think will make this sound cool.’ That’s pretty much how we put it into a song.”
Cardwell believes this collaborative technique works well in the group. It was used in writing the song “Twenty First Century Blues,” which is riveting combination of steely guitar riffs overlapping tech-inspired lyrics, including a delightful binary code bridge.
As the band continues to build up their set list, their initial difficulties lie in marketing and playing live shows.
“Most of [the difficulties] are marketing, and having a manager to go around and find a gig. Because we have decent equipment that we’ve saved up- like, we had summer jobs- we have a lot of the equipment necessary. It’s just the connections [we lack],” Cardwell said.
Their sole base of marketing relies on demo CDs and spreading their sound to potential venues.
“[The demo] has three songs on it, and we actually gave it to a guy, a manager at Starbucks, [who] said he was working on getting a live music license. He said he’d call us,” Cardwell said.
The amiable quartet aren’t too sure that the band will last after graduation, but view it as a fortunate hobby to have.
“Find a group of friends that you know you can definitely be around for a while. I know that the group of us four, we are always hanging together, trying to figure out something,” Ayalla said.
Listen to Freshman Band’s set list below!