By Thomas Infante
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Students gathered in the Decker Social Space on April 18 for CUB Alt’s Alumni Band Night. The small group of music lovers and friends that lined up in front of the stage experienced a diverse arrangement of music from bands Kate Dressed Up, Cool Company and Debt League, who were all fronted by a graduate of the College.
First up was indie folk singer-songwriter Katie Miller (’14), who performs solo under the name Kate Dressed Up. To compensate for the lack of a full band, she uses an accessory for her guitar called a loop pedal that allows her to layer several guitar melodies on top of one another, seemingly playing several guitars at once.
“Most of my music is played with the acoustic guitar,” Miller told The Signal.
“I’ve been performing for my whole life,” Miller added. “In college, I was part of the Trentones and I performed at student soloist nights.”
Miller’s guitar-driven bluesy folk musicianship complemented her high-pitched and soothing vocals. She opened with her song “Keep me Close,” a love song that set an intimate tone for the rest of her set.
“I’ve been doing nothing for the last three years,” Miller said before playing her song, “Anxiety Blues,” which featured melancholy lyrics about the difficulty of opening up to people. The song featured a classic blues structure, allowing for Miller’s captivating vocals and poignant lyrics to cut through.
“I just try my best to observe the world around me when writing lyrics,” Miller said.
The final song in her set, titled “Spirit Bird,” showed the true extent of the sound Miller can achieve as a solo artist. She created a steady percussion beat by hitting the body of the guitar and looping it back. From there, she layered several guitar melodies on top of each other with near perfect timing.
Next up was hip-hop duo Cool Company made up of rapper Yannick Hughes (’11) and DJ-producer Matt Fishman (’12). Yannick graduated from the College with a major in graphic design, and Fishman earned a degree in music. Despite both being alumni of the College, they didn’t begin to make music together until after graduation.
“For me, it was a hobby that became serious,” Hughes said. “After college I started performing, and after about three years I met Matt who was making all these beats and needed someone to sing over them.”
Fishman’s production is reminiscent of ’90s alternative hip-hop, with some jazz and electronic influences present, as well.
“I’ve been making music since high school,” Fishman said. “I take a lot of inspiration from soul and R&B music, as well as whatever I’m listening to at the time.”
They performed “Faded,” a catchy song with a funky beat laden with heavy bass and synthesizers. The upbeat and catchy hip-hop quickly engaged the crowd.
Hughes’ combination of quick rapping and mellow crooning fit well over Fishman’s groovy and danceable beats. Their first song, “Oh No,” features Hughes rapping quickly, but with a smooth and laidback delivery. His lyrics about accidentally catching feelings for someone glide over the mellow synthesizers on the beat.
Although Hughes’ lyrics were pretty basic, their musical approach and production was diverse enough to keep the audience engaged. Their song “Do It Now” features saxophone and piano in the beat, as Hughes softly sings over it. The following song, “Why You Gotta Make Me Do It,” takes more musical influence from EDM and Dubstep than the other songs, but still fits in with the rest of Cool Company’s repertoire.
The duo closed their set with the song “Slice of Paradise,” an R&B song similar in style to singer Anderson Paak. Every sound in the song, from Hughes’ vocals to the jazzy production, evokes euphoria as he sings about taking a vacation with his girl.
The final act of the night was Alternative rock trio Debt League. The band is based out of Woodbridge, N.J., and was founded by drummer Zachary Nocciolo and co-singers, guitarists and bassists Brian Chesney (’14) and Joshua Spielman.
Only Chesney, who graduated with a degree in music education, is an alumnus of the College. The members of the band were friends growing up and have been performing together since high school.
“In college, I played in a cover band called ‘R. Barbara and the Gitensteins,’” Chesney said. “We played regularly at The Rat. We covered mostly ’70s experimental rock like the Velvet Underground and Steely Dan.”
Unlike the Gitensteins, Debt League’s music is original and takes much more influence from punk rock. The band opened with the song “Apnea,” off of its only full-length album “Akimbo.” The trio’s experience playing together was immediately evident, as they flawlessly matched each other’s pace and energy on the loud and up-tempo song. Chesney shouted lyrics and slammed on his guitar, hyping up the audience.
The next song, “Tangled Head,” began with the drummer and bassist forming the rhythm section of the song. Chesney’s guitar kicks in around the pre chorus, syncopating his strumming with the rhythm of the song. Like many of Debt League’s songs, Chesney’s lyrics are angsty and a tad depressing, but do not detract from the song’s energy.
For the song “Emulating You,” Chesney and Spielman switched instruments and Spielman took over lead vocals. Spielman’s singing was whinier than Chesney’s, but their guitar and bass skills were both solid. Musically, the song is uplifting and Spielman’s lyrics about lost love and drinking alone contrast from the peppy, buoyant song.
The band ended the night with “Green Eyes,” which began with a lively drum rhythm before the bass melody. Chesney resumed singing on this song, shouting intimate and lovestruck lyrics in between heavy power chords. In the last third of the song, the band slowed down for an instrumental breakdown, before a crescendo into absolute madness.
The three bands gave the audience a great sample of the different kinds of talented musicians that were, and always will be, a part of the College’s community.