In college everyone knows someone in a band. Whether it is your roommate, classmate, friend of a friend or maybe even yourself, someone in your life is in a band. That is just how college works. They probably play house parties and open mic nights. They probably play on-campus battle of the bands competitions and get some airplay on the campus radio station. They might release a self produced EP and put it up on bandcamp for “pay what you want.” But what if suddenly that band starts getting bigger? And bigger. Until they are selling out shows across the country and releasing hit albums. Suddenly your friends are famous and the garage band days are just a memory.
More bands than you think started as silly projects between friends in college before blossoming into something more. I’m sure it was hard for Freddie Mercury’s friends to believe it when Queen took off (yep, Queen was once a college band.) I started thinking about the people who I know that formed bands in college and the bands I listen to now, and wanted to see which bands I know and love started out just like my peers.
So, without further ado, here is a list of college bands that you may not have known were college bands.
Jukebox The Ghost
The guys in Jukebox The Ghost (Ben Thornewill, Jesse Kristin, and Tommy Siegel) met while attending George Washington University in 2003. The group played together as “The Sunday Mail” for two years before taking a hiatus. While on hiatus they worked on a different sound, wrote new material and from the hiatus Jukebox The Ghost was born. They released their debut album Let live and Let Ghosts in 2008 and have released two other albums since then. The band is now based in Brooklyn, New York.
In 2007 Joe Newman, Gwil Sainsbury, Thom Green, and Gus Unger-Hamilton met at Leeds University. During their second year of school, Newman and Sainsbury started writing and producing music together in their dorm rooms. This was the beginnings of the band Alt-J. Alt-J has a pretty unique sound which comes from their early days of recording in residence halls. Since noise had to be kept low, they couldn’t use bass guitars or bass drums. The band became more serious after graduation when the guys moved to Cambridge. They released their debut album An Awesome Wave in 2012 to rave reviews.
(photo via Cults)
In 2010 Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin met while attending The New School in New York City. While those names individually may not sound familiar, you may know them better as Cults, a buzzband that gained momentum after releasing a three song EP on their Bandcamp page. Their debut self titled album came out in 2011 and did well on college radio stations and was named by Pitchfork as one of the “Top 50 Albums of 2011.” Their track “Go Outside” was used on the sound track for MLB 11: The Show for Playstation 3 and they are supposed to have another album coming out this year.
Ra Ra Riot
(photo via WXPN)
Ra Ra Riot formed in 2006 while the members were attending Syracuse University. They started out playing house shows but garnered attention from their live performances at CMJ Music Marathon in New York City just six months after the band’s formation. The Rhumb Line, the band’s debut album was released in 2008 and the band continued to grow in popularity after touring with bands like Death Cab For Cutie, Tokyo Police Club and most recently The Postal Service.
Death Cab For Cutie
In the mid 90s, Ben Gibbard started making music as a solo artist. He was recording under the moniker All-Time Quarterback before releasing a cassette tape You Can Play These Songs With Chords as Death Cab For Cutie. After the cassette was successful, Gibbard decided to expand the project into a full band. Western Washington University was the location for Death Cab’s origin story, and the band released their first LP Something About Airplanes in 1998. The band have seven albums under their belts.
Vampire Weekend is the result of an Ivy League education. The band members Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Baio and Chris Tomson formed the band in 2006 while attending Columbia University. Koenig and Tomson began working together on a rap collaboration but eventually brought the other two on to form Vampire Weekend. They released their self titled debut album in 2008 after graduating from Columbia. They were all working full time jobs while trying to promote their music. Koenig was teaching middle school English at the time. The band released their third studio album back in May.