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The bigger the better: Bilk Bonic expands Brown’s music scene

Members say any instrument goes, discuss finding community through performance

Bilk Bonic started as a cover band of the Anderson .Paak/Bruno Mars project Silk Sonic. Now at 23 members, the band is bending as many genres as it can into one group.

Courtesy of Bilk Bonic
Bilk Bonic started as a cover band of the Anderson .Paak/Bruno Mars project Silk Sonic. Now at 23 members, the band is bending as many genres as it can into one group. Courtesy of Bilk Bonic

When Brown students attend a Bilk Bonic performance, they expect to see certain staples on stage: an instrument of every kind present on the stage, countless band members overflowing into the crowd and an instrument dubbed by the band as the “BrewSonic Resonator.”

The Resonator is a simple wooden structure with beer bottles of various sizes suspended from it. The bottles, tuned to different notes, are an essential part of the Bilk Bonic experience. 

One of Brown’s many student bands, Bilk Bonic includes a string, horn, percussion and synth section, as well as a more traditional funk band and multiple rappers and singers. How is the band so multifaceted? It's made up of about twenty members.

“We wanted this to be the biggest band we could possibly make it, no matter what the costs were of having an excessive amount of musicians playing with us,” drummer and vocalist Kieran Pandey ’24 said. “People won’t believe that we have so many (members), so when we ask for nineteen backstage passes they’re like sure.”


Formed in the fall of 2023, Bilk Bonic is a student cover band at Brown inspired by “Silk Sonic,” an album by Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars. Current membership comes from all class years and includes: Kieran Pandey ’24, Lucas Washburn ’24, Makayla MacPherson ’24, Jennora Blair ’24, Mia Humphrey ’25, Connor Purcell ’24, Phela Durosinmi ’27, Triston Roberts ’26, Jesse McCormick-Evans ’25, Peter Sage ’24, JD Gorman ’26, DJ Pennix ’25, Alex Hernandez ’25, Will Hardy ’25, Ifenna Amaefuna ’24, Joshua Lobsenz ’24, Ashley McCoy ’24, Ian Hajra ’26, Ronan Zwa ’27, Siddu Sitaraman ’26, Oliver Grynberg ’25, Christine Alcindor ’25 and Dieudonne Makelele ’27.

Just about any instrument goes, Pandey said.    

The idea for the band initially came from Lucas Washburn ’24 — who plays guitar, percussion and the BrewSonic Resonator — after hearing another group cover Silk Sonic’s music at UCLA. 

“I saw them do the Silk Sonic intro and that rocked and I was like ‘Dang, why don’t we just do a whole band,’” he said.

Pandey described Silk Sonic as “highly influential with musicians at Brown and probably all over, just because it’s such a nice combination of modern R&B and funk and some pop.”

According to Washburn, the band’s original plan was just to dress up as Silk Sonic for Halloween and perform a one-off show. But Bilk Bonic quickly started to become a more permanent presence in Brown’s music scene. 

“It was so fun we were like we can’t not do this,” Pandey explained.

The group has since put on several performances around campus, playing on holidays, at fundraising events and even this past semester’s Spring gala. They have also expanded their repertoire well beyond Silk Sonic covers. “What we play is really up to the group,” Washburn said, adding that voting is usually part of the song selection process.

“Sometimes we all come in not knowing a song, but it comes together so well,” said Jennora Blair ’24, singer and rapper for Bilk Bonic. “That’s the beauty of it — we’re always just trying random things and seeing what happens.”

Beyond the original duo’s music, Bilk Bonic was also inspired by Silk Sonic’s performative nature. “Another thing I liked about Silk Sonic as a band is they’re funny,” Washburn said. Bilk Bonic seeks to embody a similar sense of humor during its own shows. 


Blair recalled the group’s collective decision to wear fake mustaches at one of their first shows.  “At a specific moment (in the song) we all pulled them off together,” she said. 

“We did a mannequin challenge on stage once,” Washburn said. In another of their gigs, the band just stopped playing and instead began to sing Silent Night together, Pandey added. 

“We wanted it to be a performance,” he explained. “We wanted to learn the songs and learn them well, but we wanted also to have enough time and space to then make it a visually entertaining event for the people in the audience.”

“The silliness is so distinct,” Blair said. “I feel like we take it seriously but then we don’t in some ways.  And that combination works really well.”

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Bass and synth player JD Gorman ’26 agreed, describing Bilk Bonic as the perfect combination of community and musical challenge. “Putting in goofy stuff like this is a really great reminder that the reason we’re doing this is because we all have so much fun with it, so let’s not lose sight of that,” he said.

In terms of recent performances, Bilk Bonic joined several other student musicians for Gigs on the Green on Saturday, April 20. The group also headlined “The Biggest Party in the World” — “a student-run arts and music block party event approved by the city of Providence,” according to Pandey. As is often the case, the size of the group has required some accommodating.      

“We almost weren’t able to perform at Gigs on the Green because the stage is just too small for us,” Pandey said. “We’re going to have ten people on stage at one time … and then the rest in front or behind and rotating onto the stage when a solo part comes up.”

Nonetheless, Bilk Bonic’s members expressed that the size of the band is also one of its greatest strengths. “If orchestrated correctly, having a lot of musicians on stage allows for incredible dynamics,” Pandey explained. “You can bring the music down real low and simple, and then you can build it all the way up into the feeling of an orchestra.”

“There’s so much power in our numbers,” Blair said. 

According to Gorman, any money that Bilk Bonic makes directly funds the band, whether that be providing a meal for members before a show or transportation to and from gigs.

“We’re doing this for fun and not really to sell tickets or anything,” Pandey said.

“I’m almost one hundred percent confident to say that everybody in the band is going to continue to have music in their life in one way or another,” he continued. “It’s all integral to who we are.”  

Rya Vallabhaneni

Rya is an arts & culture section editor from Albany, NY. She is a junior studying English and Literary Arts, and her favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.


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