Arts & Culture

Burgeoning alternative band, The Layovers, shakes College Hill

Informed by members’ cosmopolitan backgrounds, band harmonizes diverse styles

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 27, 2017

Recognized as one of Brown’s most precocious musical groups, alternative student rock outfit The Layovers is paradoxically bound by its members’ differences. Under its only recently shed moniker ‘Paxsonator,’ the band released two self-produced demos, “Someday” and “Think of Me,” in 2016, and anticipates the release of a proper EP this year.   

An amalgam of “energies”

The Layovers is made up of Alejandro “Gango” Subiotto Marqués ’19, a magnetic Belgian drummer concentrating in Development Studies, Juan “JJ” Bellassai ’19, a light-hearted Paraguayan bassist and the group’s resident pre-med, Arthur Back ’19, a Parisian guitarist and beam of sincerity pursuing political science and Cameron “Cam” McKie ’19, a British singer and guitarist studying Mechanical Engineering.

United by their commitment to music and performance, the band members are each unique in their own disparate musical interests.

“Each individual song has its own individual energy,” said Subiotto Marqués, explaining the band’s unique approach to songwriting. All of the band’s songs start as solitary efforts composed by a single member  — a songwriting methodology which lends an idiosyncratic flair to each of their tracks. “The songs end up sounding very different. So it’s hard to label ourselves,” Subiotto Marqués added.

Bellassai, an avowed fan of Green Day and Blink 182, brings a pop-punk influence, while Back tends towards melodies reminiscent of softer southern and country folk in the vein of Jack Johnson. Subiotto Marqués singularly offers more hip-hop and funk-influenced tracks. McKie’s writing echoes contemporary British indie artists like The 1975 and Mumford & Sons.

“I actually learned how to play guitar through Mumford & Sons,” McKie said. A devotee of the British Isles’ indie rock, McKie evokes this more understated brand of music with his contributions to the band’s oeuvre.

A Hard Day’s Night

The group lamented certain obstacles the Brown environment presents to recording music — specifically, the severe paucity of practice spaces.

“There’s a distinct lack of equipment here,” McKie said, noting the lack of access to rehearsal rooms with the necessary gear, which are mostly restricted to Music and Modern Culture & Media concentrators. “There’s like one room in TF Green to practice in,” he added. “That room is booked all day. While there are more bands being formed everyday, the availability of practice spaces isn’t increasing with that.”

“Logistics make things really complicated,” Back said.

But The Layovers also experience the effects of a more universal source of undergraduate angst, encountering difficulties in balancing their band-related and academic commitments: “As a band, you need to be practicing constantly and booking regular shows,” McKie said. “But everyone has time pressures in school, which puts a damper on everything. It’s especially hard when the four of us are in different concentrations and our schedules conflict.”

Back views writing music as a cathartic release from the stress inherent in Ivy League life: “I’ve always loved writing, and writing music is one of the only times I can write nowadays,” he said. “I try to distance myself from school when I write.”

The Euphonious “Bubble”

On campus, The Layovers have played at a number of popular venues and events, Back said, noting a couple acoustic sets played at the Hope College residential hall and The Underground.

“We’ve played at houses on-campus that aren’t technically campus buildings,” Back added, referencing house shows that include featured setlists at the Finlandia Co-Op. “Those have probably been our best shows. They get really rowdy but are still very intimate.”

But the band has yet to expand past the Van Wickle gates. “There’s not that strong of a connection between Brown and the Providence music scene,” McKie said. “We operate in totally different spheres,” Subiotto Marqués added.

McKie offered a shrewd explanation of the disconnect between the two scenes: Brown’s location on the East Side’s tall and daunting College Hill ­— a situation that precludes easy transportation of bands’ equipment. “It’s got to be the geographic hill. Even if bands have the necessary gear, you still need to get all your gear down and back, as well as all the people.”

“The people in the bands here are also just older,” Bellassai said. “College-aged kid bands are more prominent in big cities like Boston or New York. Providence just isn’t big enough.”

Future layovers

The travel-related layovers from which the group derives its name are tinged with tedium and stagnancy — words that do not describe the band itself. While The Layovers may be fairly established on the Brown music scene, the four artists, excited for the future, are always looking to improve their act. “Lately, we’re trying to develop more of a stage presence,” McKie said. “Anyone can be a band. But to actually physically be yourself and entertain people while doing it, that’s the goal.”