Northfield has traditionally been known as a hotspot for producing a wide range of innovative musicians. Some of these musicians hailing from St. Olaf have been playing together for over 3 years in student bands. Campus Bands such as Air is Air, Maria and the Coins, Megatherium Club, Annie and the Screw ups and Merino Wool work to create, record and produce original music all on their own.
Coming from a diverse set of musical backgrounds, the sounds and aesthetics vary from group to group, but the message of creating original and authentic new music is the same. All of the bands work toward a common goal to create music they love and want to bring to the campus. The bands often work together and support each other on different projects, such as the DNNR PRTY album produced last year.
“It’s kind of a running joke that no person is in just one band; it always seems like this person drums for this band, but they’re the vocalist for this band, so there is a lot of cross-over.” Maria Coyne ’15, songwriter and vocalist for Maria and the Coins said. “In that way there is just a lot of support between the campus bands and I feel really lucky to be apart of that.”
Though their line-up has changed a little throughout the years, Coyne vocalist, Nick Baker ’15 bass, Harrison Hintzsche ’16 guitar, Zaq Baker ’15 keyboard and John Krohlokken ’16 drums have officially been playing together as Maria and the Coins since last year’s DNNR PRTY album.
In contrast to Maria and the Coins’ singer-songwriter ambience, Air is Air is a heavy rock, planetary-punk group. With a contrast of hard rock and ethereal sounds, Air is Air brings an entirely different atmosphere to the band scene at St. Olaf. Members Zach Harris ’16 vocals, Ben Ronning ’16 guitar, Aleks Seeman ’16 bass, Adrian Calderan ’16 keyboard and Colin Loynachan ’16 drums started the band as something fun to do outside of the music programs at St. Olaf during their freshman year.
Other students such as Christian Wheeler ’16 have developed endeavors as singer-songwriters. Wheeler performs and writes a wide variety of solo music, and also drums for Merino Wool. Influenced by artists such as The Beatles and Billie Holiday, Wheeler values both the melodies and the lyrics of his songs. Wheeler has also been working with recording, producing and collaborating with other bands.
“With my own music it’s great, and I can pretty much take it any place that I want to,” Wheeler said. “I can go as shamelessly in the 60’s direction as I want, I’ll do a song thats like 20’s vaudeville jazz if I want, I can just play out all my musical fantasies without anyone telling me no.”
In another collaboration effort, Wheeler worked with Annie Weinheimer ’16 in The Loose Cannons. Weinheimer, the head song writer, along with Loynachan bass and Kronnlochen drums, is working toward writing new and original songs and sounds this year with R&B and soul influences in mind.
“What I’m really excited about this year is we all have a cohesive idea that we want our music to have a purpose and a message,” Weinheimer said. “We want our feel of the music, our emotion and what’s going on in our lives to be conveyed in our songs, and have the audience to connect to that.”
Weinheimer also finds the interconnectedness between the bands at St. Olaf a good way to foster challenging each other and the support of music. Many members of St. Olaf bands play in more than one band. Wheeler is also involved in Merino Wool as a drummer with members Nick Baker vocals, guitar, Zach Westermeyer ’15 vocals, keyboard, and Ryan Heltemes ’15 bass.
As an Indie-rock band, the members of Merino Wool have been playing music for their entire lives, and all come from different musical backgrounds. All of the songs the group performs are original, with their head song writers being Nick Baker and Westermeyer. When writing songs, Nick Baker usually comes up with melodies first, and then adds lyrics. After that, the writers bring their songs to the rest of the band.”My favorite thing is when I finish a song, and I think I know what it’s going to sound like, and then I take it to the guys and it ends up being something totally different,” Nick Baker said. “Its awesome, because all three of them are really great musicians and really fun to work with.”
Opening acts for Fall and Spring concerts are a popular venue for bands to gain visibility. This fall, Megatherium Club will be the opener for Hoodie Allen. Megatherium Club Members Ben Marolf ’15 vocals, Elliot Tadanier ’15 guitar, Shane Allen ’14 keyboard, Sam Benson ’15 bass, Ben Lipson ’15 woodwinds and Jay Carlson ’15 drums have been playing together and adding new members since their freshman year.
Megatherium Club isn’t genre oriented and the members play whatever feels artistically appropriate to them. They believe it’s very important to reach the people their music is really going to resonate with, rather than reaching an extremely broad audience. For Tadanier it is about having their music be respected by the people they respect.
“I really don’t want people to feel ambivalent about our music,” Tadanier said. “You can love it, you can hate it – I just don’t want you to be bored with it.”
Megatherium Club members plan to continue with the band after they graduate this year. They feel that being in a band is what they always have wanted to do, and that their band allows them to create their own standard for success.
“We’ve worked really hard on it these last four years and it’s immensely satisfying when it’s finished,” Tadanier said. “It’s one of those things that when it’s done there’s no one else you can blame it on but yourself and that is one of the most rewarding things.”