“Do you just dress like you play the drums or do you actually play the drums?” Jackson Lewis ’19 said to Sam Saias ’20—who was wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt and aviator glasses—in the Deece a year ago.
Flash forward to the next fall, in a dimly lit but packed Ferry living room, and there they are, along with lead singer Meg Matthews ’20, keyboardist Ariana Bowe ’20 and bassist Lucy Horgan ’20, as Spud Cannon, debuting their first album for all the world to hear.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the band, Spud Cannon is a pop-indie band composed of five Vassar students and formed by Jackson Lewis. Recently, they released their first 12-song album, “Next Time Read the Fine Print,” which they performed at Ferry House on Oct. 20.
“I thought it was fun. Especially after doing a lot of smaller gigs. However, I wouldn’t say it was our best performance,” Matthews commented following the Ferry performance… While the performance at Ferry seemingly reaped effortless hype among Vassar students, it was the result of the band’s ongoing hard work. There is a long history between Spud Cannon’s humble beginnings and where they are now, and additionally where they would like to go.
It all began during the first semester last year when the band would practice three times a week in a secret location. This is where the band first started to mesh as the members got to know each other, settle into their respective roles and start the ardous writing process. In fact, the group formed in a very congenial, old-fashioned way—the members were strangers to each other. “I saw a poster that said ‘bass player needed’ with a number and so I just texted the number and started playing with them,” recounted Horgan.
From then on, it was all about experimentation, practice and writing. Moreover, they were united by a collective motivation that helped the band create their first album. Over the summer, Spud Cannon convened in Los Angeles to finish writing and record the album. “We had a
seven-day window to do something and a lot of people told me, ‘Don’t go for an album,’ but we just knocked it out. We wrote four songs in two days,” Lewis commented.
When asked about how they usually come up with songs, it became clear that there was a certain pattern and group dynamic the band has embraced. “Well, first Jackson always comes in and says ‘This one’s going to be our next hit,’” Matthews laughed. The band begins the process by coming up with a melody first. “It’s usually guitar, drums, bass and then sometimes a keyboard line over it.” Bowe commented. “Then we’ll start getting to the point where Meg will take her laptop and start going over into the corner and writing lyrics,” said Lewis.
After recording their album, the band took up the do-it-yourself touring lifestyle, playing small gigs all over the country. Commenting about when they performed in a fancy but tiny venue in Los Angeles, Matthews remarked, “We played so loudly that glasses fell off the shelf.”
Spud Cannon has also performed at other schools such as Bard a few times, and even a venue in New York City, but for their Ferry show, performing at Vassar was especially exciting for the band. “This was our homecoming,” Lewis commented. “We played so many weird, one-off, empty rooms, but this was home base.”
With their dual experiences of “empty rooms” and rooms packed with their original fans, the band still maintains its optimism and looks forward to some exciting projects and gigs lined up. They are scheduled to go to Syracuse this Friday to play for a record label that transforms albums into cassette tapes.
In fact, “Next Time Read the Fine Print” will be loaded on to a cassette and sold in some record stores such as Rough Trade in New York City, an epicenter known for getting new artists started throughout the city and in its other headquarters in London. In addition to the cassette tape, the album is also going to be featured on the radio by a company called Terror Bird that does radio promotional runs. “We don’t really know what is going to happen right now. Maybe through this, we’ll try and get some label interest and then we could make another album,” Lewis explained.
However, the band really emphasized that right now is a pivotal moment for them. While getting signed to a label and touring would be fun, they are trying to go with the flow because everyone has different plans to go abroad.
Lewis stated, “We are trying to do one more Vassar show, but to be honest this might be the last one. The band is staying together, but in a different capacity than what they’ve been doing.” Matthews agreed: “We are going to do what we are going to do with our lives and hope that this is something we can keep doing.”
Regardless of their uncertain future, the band still loves to perform, write and practice together. When asked what their favorite part of the band is, the group agreed that they liked their dynamic and those special moments in the creative process “when everything just clicks and it becomes a song,” as Bowe put it. This dynamic is truly special, as bands throughout history have been known to have fights that lead to their eventual separation. However, the comradery and collaboration seen in this group promise that they will be one of the exceptions.
Catch Spud Cannon’s debut album on Spotify and iTunes, and don’t forget to look for them at Vassar, as the next concert they play here might be their last. Who knows where the music industry, and the world, will take them?
“Also, please let everyone know that the band is just a side thing for Meg—she is actually a two-time lettuce-eating contest champion so regardless of what happens, she’s at least got that going for her,” Lewis smiled.