Spuds, buds and rock ‘n’ roll

The members of Spud Cannon pose for a glamour shot. Courtesy of Spud Cannon.

When all is said and done, and our time at Vassar is long behind us, we will always have the shared memory of being in Spud Cannon. That, and the music we recorded during our four years as Vassar students. At least for us, the band extends far beyond the boundaries of Vassar’s campus—touring pushed us out of our comfort zones and took us from New York to Texas to California (and back again). Sitting in our unofficial tour van, we felt the band genuinely touching our lives, giving us a sense of confidence and belonging. We never thought we’d play to an audience beyond our family and friends, let alone tour the United States. But in truth, some of our greatest adventures happened at Vassar, where we were free to act out some of our wildest ideas in a community that supported us.

We wrote our first song, “Midnight,” in Skinner 412 during our first ever band practice in October of 2016, our freshman year. After writing a few more originals, our first live shows were in December; we played to an empty room at My Place Pizza in Poughkeepsie, followed by a Late Night gig at the Loeb. Back then, we were called The Black Jeans, but as time went on, we would adopt several names—Paper Dots, Second Hand—before settling on Spud Cannon, a name Lucy came up with. Our first show as Spud Cannon was in February at Battle of the Bands. The month after our first-place win, we crudely set up shop in Skinner and recorded a few demos. 

During the summer before sophomore year, the Skinner demos evolved into our first full album, “Next Time Read The Fine Print,” recorded over seven summer days in Jackson Lewis ’19’s basement. Back at school, our guerilla marketing campaign began—with our album release show set for Oct. 21, we taped paper cut-out potatoes all over campus. We hit Main, the Bridge, and other high-traffic areas; Meg even scaled the wall of the Bridge to place a couple potatoes where no one could reach them. When the potatoes were inevitably taken down, we put up more and came up with more drastic plans to promote the show. We taped flyers to every visible surface we could, put stickers in bathroom stalls and used chalk spray paint to stencil the quad with “SPUD CANNON 10/21.” This spread the word effectively (our album release show at Ferry was packed!), but at a cost: We got in trouble with Safety and Security, who assumed SPUD CANNON 10/21 was referencing a potato gun event, and Student Conduct met with us to ask that we scrub the quad of the stencils. As it turns out, “chalk” spray paint doesn’t come off as easily as advertised. 

During our junior and senior years, we released our second album, “Squeeze,” and were thrilled when Ben Scharf ’22 joined Spud Cannon as our drummer. But at the same time, we started to face the realities of graduating and navigating “real life,” both in and outside of college. Skinner management effectively kicked us out of our practice space; Ari went abroad in the spring of 2019, only to fly back for a disastrous Spring Break tour and miss two weeks of classes; and Jackson graduated at the end of our junior year. That, paired with internal drama, made it abundantly clear that keeping up with our band would not always be easy. But when you really love something, you find a way to make things work. Our love for making music and for one another gave us the motivation to keep going: In the summer before our senior year, we snuck into the Kenyon Squash Courts and recorded our third album in just a few nights, working nonstop between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. 

Our squash court production was still in the works when the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York. Self-isolation scattered the band between Poughkeepsie, New York City and Massachusetts, and we postponed our album release date indefinitely. Overall, the future is unclear—we’re not sure what will happen or when it finally will; all we know is that we miss playing music together and look forward to releasing our third record. We’ve grown so much during the past four years and experienced so many once-in-a-lifetime moments together. The future of Spud Cannon may be uncertain, but we are forever grateful for whatever it may bring. Until then, thank you for being a part of our adventure, tolerating our shenanigans and letting us share our music—because at the end of the day, all we can really do is keep listening.

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