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Students perform in off-campus rock bands

Kain+Lakis%2C+who+plays+drums+for+an+alternative+grunge-inspired+group+called+Fire+Escape%2C+is+one+of+several+students+on+campus+who+plays+in+bands.+
Sophie Reed
Kain Lakis, who plays drums for an alternative grunge-inspired group called “Fire Escape,” is one of several students on campus who plays in bands.

The classmate sitting next to you in math class could be the next rock ‘n’ roll superstar.
AACC students who have their own bands off campus say a lot of time and effort goes into being in a band besides rehearsal. The first step, they say, is finding bandmates.
Haley Pogue, a first-year communications student, hit the jackpot when it came to not only finding two recruits, but identical twins, to join a band she was starting.
“I just Googled ways to find bandmates and this website came up and it was called, ‘find-a-musician.com,’” Pogue said. “It looked so sketchy. … I just was browsing, looking. I see, like, everyone has their own descriptions and most of them were like, ‘I’m 65 and I’ve been drumming my whole life.’ Not to be weird, but, like, I don’t want to be in a band with a 70 year old, you know?”
Soon, though, she came across a message that said, “Hey, I’m Jack. Me and my brother Cal are identical twins. And we’re like, we’re trying to form a band,” Pogue said.
“So I was like, ‘OK, are they going to kill me?’ Like, they’re twins? That sounds insane, right?”
After stalking their social media, Pogue made an hour drive to meet the twins at their house. No killing occurred.
The three decided to form a band and two days later, crashed Cal Tebo’s first-ever class at American University after making him 20 minutes late.
Afterward, they attended a college meet-and-greet, where they came up with the perfect band name: “Lying to Strangers.”
“All these girls came up to them,” Pogue said of the meet-and-greet. “And they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re twins.’ … They just started, like, lying just to be funny. We’re like, ‘No, actually, we’re doppelgangers.’ … We just came up with, like, all of these weird lies on the spot, just to, like, mess with them a little and at the end I was like, ‘Oh, we’re actually in a band, though. Like, that’s why we’re all together.’ And they were like, ‘What’s your band name?’ And then we all looked at each other. And I was like, ‘It’s Lying to Strangers.’”
Each band member has different musical tastes but the team has combined them and has adopted a mix of rock, indie and funk as their sound. Although the bandmates get along well creatively, finding time to rehearse can be hard because of the distance. Still, the band practices on the weekends, Pogue said.
Pogue isn’t the only AACC student who performs in a rock band.
Kain Lakis, a first-year creative writing student, started playing music at the tender age of 8 months old.
“My parents put me on a drum kit and I just bounced around,” Lakis said. “Both my parents play guitar. My dad still plays music. He’s in a band, too. And he is also a recording engineer.”
Lakis’ band “Fire Escape” started as three friends playing music in a basement but they have since released an EP called “Radiator” and a single called “Dugout.” The band plays alternative rock music inspired by ’90s grunge.
“Fire Escape” has played multiple live shows at venues like 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar and Gallery, in Downtown Annapolis. When they’re not performing live, the band rehearses in the basement of Lakis’ grandparents’ house whenever the musicians can.
“The actual playing live is pretty fun,” Lakis said. “Despite the nature of most of the venues not really being, like, fitting for our kind of music, we still get a good crowd. Like, we have a good amount of fans who usually come to our shows, and they enjoy it.”
Lakis said the band’s songwriting process centers around collaboration.
“I write the vast majority of the songs. … I don’t sing,” Lakis said. So if I write the music for a song [and] then someone else helps with the lyrics and the vocals and stuff like that. So it’s never really just one person.”
Bryant Pepe, known as Bryant Furey on stage, is a third-year earth sciences student who has played music for more than 20 years.
Pepe plays in “Mirrors and Wires,” an instrumental surf rock band, but is also heavily involved with the punk and alternative community. Pepe has played shows in New York, Philadelphia and other venues up the East Coast.
“So what happens in New York typically has a lot to do with what’s happening in New Brunswick and what happens in New Brunswick tends to have a lot to do with what happens in New York and Philly,” Pepe said. “Because of the proximity of three cities, they exchanged a lot of music, a lot of people and a lot of information, really. So a lot of these bands will go on tour and they’ll bounce resources off each other.”
Pepe noted the importance of playing live shows when it comes to building a sense of community.
“Punk itself is a movement of nonconformity, right?” Pepe said. “But the avenue for that is through the performance. That’s where you have the gathering of people and that’s where you impart your ideas. That’s where you share ideas. That’s where you share your art. .. And I think it’s really important to have those community spaces because it is just as much about the music as it is about the space.”
Pepe said live shows are not always traditional concerts in a stadium. Punk concerts sometimes take place in a basement or a garage.
“There are shows at skate parks, which are some of my favorites, Pepe said. “That’s usually free donation base, all ages, all are welcome. And the Holy Grail are house shows, which happens a lot in the cities and it happens almost as a way of life in New Brunswick. … A group of friends that are in a band will have a house that they rent or own. If you’re so lucky, and they’ll have their equipment in the basement and the band will be based out of there.”
Ian Wardenski, the Performing Arts Department chair and director of the AACC jazz ensemble, said members in smaller groups rely on each other more.
“It’s one person per part,” Wardenski said. “And so it’s very dependent on everybody knowing their part, right? And so one of the things that I talked to the ensemble about it’s not playing for the individual, right? But it’s playing with the individual, right? So making sure that you’re playing in a way that you can really support them.”

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