Student band spotlight: pop-rock five-piece Mayla40

Mayla40 consists of five members from the class of 2020: long-time friends Aaron Rothko, Ben Papsun, Tieren Costello, Dylan Lynch and Sam Cibula (not pictured).. Costello described the group’s sound as “The Strokes playing The 1975’s songs.”

Wide-eyed first years arrive at college with big plans. Some desire to join a sports team. Others aspire to get better grades than they did in high school. Of course, sometimes these plans fall through, and the dreams of those young and eager college students get swept away amidst a whirlwind of papers, projects and parties. Tieren Costello ’20, however, came to Vassar with one goal: form a band. And he wasn’t going to let anything stop him.

Within the first week of his arrival to campus nearly four years ago, Costello created the indie/garage band Mayla40 as its lead singer and rhythm guitarist, alongside lead guitarist Dylan Lynch ’20. Costello was so desperate to start a band that he was relieved when he met Lynch during first-year orientation. “That felt very, very natural right away,” Costello remembered. “I was texting my brother, like, ‘This guy is perfect.’” Lynch echoed, “We were both like, ‘We like pop music in a rock format,’ and that was it.”

From there, it took about a full school year before the group could reach full force, with Ben Papsun ’20 and Aaron Rothko ’20 joining in as drums and bass, respectively. Rothko was the last addition, and second bassist overall, to join Mayla40. Costello claimed that Rothko’s late membership was not intentional, given that he originally thought Rothko was in the class year ahead of him. “I thought, ‘Well I want this band all four years, and even though he is an incredible musician, I can’t have him in the band.’ Then, I learned way too late that he was a freshman with us,” Costello shared, chuckling. Although Rothko did not say much during the interview, when talking about his position in the band, he quipped, “Ever since we got this new bassist [Rothko], the quality of our music has gone down so much.” The room erupted with laughter.

Papsun was unable to join the band for the interview due to a scheduling conflict, which, the band said jokingly, is not an uncommon occurrence. “I asked Ben if he wanted to be in my band and he said yes, even though he doesn’t have time to be in a rock band,” Costello said. Lynch and Costello also fondly recalled their first practice with Papsun. “On the way to the first practice with Ben, we were walking to Skinner and Tieren was like, ‘Oh, well, I have something to tell you: Apparently this guy has only been playing drums for two weeks,’” Lynch laughed. Luckily for them, this was not the case: Papsun has been playing drums for several years, and his background in jazz lends itself to a well-cultivated, in-the-pocket playing style, accentuated with danceable grooves and energetic fills.

The group does, however, have a rather enigmatic fifth member. Filling out the lineup as the band’s “third guitarist” (he’s never actually plugged in) and de facto frontman, Sam Cibula ’20 is the comedian to the rest of the band’s straight man. Cibula’s answers throughout our interview were consistently absurd and hilarious; at one point, he joked that Costello had never played any music in his life before coming to Vassar. Later, he mentioned randomly, “BurgerFi is actually essential to the Mayla40 experience. Without BurgerFi, Mayla40 never would have existed.” His membership shows that while Costello took his dream to create a band seriously, he doesn’t have to take himself or his music too seriously.

The band draws influence from some of the big names in indie and garage rock. Costello revealed, “My freshman year, the only thing I wanted to do was sound like The 1975—which we don’t. But, when I came up with the idea for the band in high school, all I wanted to do was sound like the Strokes. So maybe [the band’s sound] lands somewhere in between, like, the Strokes playing The 1975’s songs.”

Mayla40 is remarkably adept at putting on a live show full of insane and hilarious antics, including Costello jumping off of chairs mid-song and counting all the way up to 40 before bursting into the fantastically hooky “Song in G.” But whether they’re telling hilarious jokes or playing incredible shows, there is one aspect of Mayla40 that makes them such a cohesive unit: camaraderie. Offstage, it’s pretty obvious that these guys really are all best friends. Despite poking fun at the other members, Costello remarked, “[I]t’s so cool to hear my songs being played by people who can play them so much better than me.” Friendship is what makes Mayla40 the mind-blowingly tight band that they are.

What will 2020 have in store for Mayla40? Costello said the band is currently working on a 13-track debut album, titled “Vain,” which will tentatively be released next year and will be produced by members of the Brooklyn-based indie rock group Adler Hall. In the meantime, while nothing is set in stone, the band will most likely play a couple of shows organized by the Student Musician’s Union (StuMu) throughout the year. Even though the future after graduation is uncertain, Mayla40 is optimistic that they will continue their signature high-energy and always-entertaining stage shenanigans outside of Vassar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *