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Shawnee Mission West's online student newspaper

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Rock & Rave: 2012 Rock 4 Hope Preview


May 5 is the big date – the day of the 17th annual charity concert event, Rock 4 Hope. With a lineup of bands and artists from various genres, ranging from indie to punk to even dubstep, there will be something for everybody. Here is a more in-depth look at some of the acts playing the show.

I Am Nation

Inspired by a ton of bands, especially acts like A Day To Remember and Rise Against, I Am Nation has a sound that, just like those two bands, fits snugly in two categories: aggressive and catchy.

I Am Nation’s borderline-Paramore sound emits chunks of catchy punk, what bassist Wyatt Lemmon describes as “energetic alternative rock.” Their live performances definitely back this up.

“We go at it 110%. Jumping around is always a big part of it – giving everyone a show to watch,” Lemmon said.

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The band started back when the members were freshmen in high school. After a few jam sessions, I Am Nation found their members meshing instantly.

“We just kept on building on that and now we’re getting ready to go on tour and stuff,” Lemon said.

I Am Nation’s songs range in power, from the punctuating rock anthem “Stick$,” a song where lead vocalist Liz Greub’s voice brings reminiscence of Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and the more melody-accentuated “Our Turn,” a sing-along sculpted around its immaculate hook.

No matter where the band goes with their music, they have high hopes.

“We hope that we can make a career out of it,” Lemmon said.

Emeri Eaton

Rock 4 Hope veteran Emeri Eaton has been around music for her entire life.

“The first time I sang on stage, I was three years old. My mom’s a singer, and my dad is also musical so I was raised around music,” Eaton said.

Having performed at Rock 4 Hope twice before, Eaton plans on changing things up this time around, performing by herself rather than with a band to back her up. With plenty of experience, Eaton looks forward to a fun new year.

“This year I’ll be free to do my own thing. I want to do some original songs, even though I am always a little nervous to do some of my songs because they are about the worst places I’ve been in my life. It’s sometimes really scary to to tell that type of story to a whole room of people,” Eaton said.

As to what people should expect, Eaton stresses some familiarity and some new material. Eaton is planning to find the right blend of a carefully planned set list with some fun tunes thrown in.

“I don’t really have a style of music. Not in a hipster way, but but I enjoy singing a lot of different types. I get inspiration all the way from classical and contemporary choral pieces to some of today’s artists music,” Eaton said.


Many years in music have payed off for the members of Vela. Branching off from playing jazz at Shawnee Mission East, these guys decided to try something new.

“We were all like, ‘Yeah, we don’t want to play just jazz so much,’ and so we just started playing in basements and started practicing and stuff,” Jonas Birkel, vocalist/guitarist, said.

The members of the band are into everything: Motown, R&B, 90s grunge, swing, and even more modern rock. Somehow, though, the band sees themselves as a blend of two distinct musical groups: Cage The Elephant and Nirvana.

“It’s heavier, it’s a little more distorted, and it’s a little more raw. It kind of plays on a more bluesier punk rhythm. But we draw stuff from Latin music. We draw stuff from blues. We draw stuff from all different styles,” Birkel said.

Vela recently played a show at the Granada in Lawrence, and they hope it’s a sign of things to come at Rock 4 Hope.

“Practicing in the basement is really paying off because we killed that show [the Granada]; it was awesome. There was a lot of people there and we got a good response from them,” Birkel said.

Though two of the four members of Vela will be heading off to college next year, they still hope to stay together as long as they can, record what will be their second full-length album, and possibly go on tour.

“It kind of falls into one of those things where it has to be what everybody truly wants for themselves, and how seriously we take that as a band,” Birkel said.

Sunshine In London

What began simply as a hobby for a group of normal teenagers has quickly transformed into a collaborative effort of five talented and inspired musicians, now known as Sunshine in London.

“Anthony [Balas, senior] and I have been playing together since sophomore year, but over time we’ve all gotten together and decided to give it a try since it’s something we all really enjoy,” Charlie King-Hagen, senior pianist and key lyricist said.

Sunshine In London can be described as spacey piano rock, bringing to mind an edgier Coldplay, with hints of Muse and Jimmy Eat World. Inspired by many of today’s alternative bands with piano influence, the band practices regularly to incorporate everything into their music.

“The practice times are rough with all of our schedules, but we usually try and meet once a week after school and practice as late as we can. We’ve played in front of small groups before, but Rock 4 Hope will be our first big crowd,” King-Hagen said.

The band plans on playing four of their original songs, while covering two others. Although most members don’t really see Sunshine in London as a long term project, they all share musical aspirations, and see the band as a possible stepping stone into a musical future.

“We’re glad we got to get on stage at auditions and give a good performance.

We all love music, the creative process behind it and the idea of expressing yourself with each performance. Basically, we’re just five normal guys that like to get together and have fun,” King-Hagen said.

DJ Eric

Although still relatively new to the DJ scene, junior Eric Ferguson finds a great interest in electronic music.

“I just started last summer, but I am really starting to get into it. I like dubstep because it’s energetic and there’s a lot of variation, and overall it just sounds awesome,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson is one of two DJs in the lineup for Rock 4 Hope, and will bring his new ideas to the table to match the experience of Jacob Darbyshire. He finds inspiration from quite a few of today’s electronic artists, such as Deadmau5 and Excision.

“I would describe my musical style as complex, involved dubstep, with attention to little details. I’m always drawn to the little details in songs,” Ferguson said.

DJing is different from bands in that it is just the DJ up there with a lot of equipment. The music is usually made with computer-based tools, and other electronic software.

“I just buy my equipment with money I earn from working. It’s a lot of money, but it’s something I like to put my money into. I usually buy from Guitar Source,” Ferguson said.

Although the music is made with a computer, most of the work is done by the human pressing the buttons.

“I’m really excited to see how it goes. It will be my first actual performance, and I’ve put tons of work into it,” Ferguson said.

Apples For Eve

Junior Jonathan Evans recently decided to start contemporary alternative band Apples For Eve to bring his acoustic prowess to life.

“It just started up this year; it’s kind of in its infancy,” Evans said.

The band consists of Evans and sophomore Grant Huber. Evans is primarily the mastermind behind the band – he plays acoustic guitar and sings – while Huber plays drums. Apples For Eve doesn’t play any covers, but instead only originals, which are all written by Evans.

“They all serve a deeper meaning. There’s a hidden message in them, even if its subliminal, usually about life – deep things. I think people can really learn lessons from them,” Evans said.

Just like some of the band’s biggest influences, including SafetySuit, Mayday Parade and Secondhand Serenade, Apples For Eve is all about pulling in their audience through an intensive use of emotions.

Evans’ hope is to someday make the band big.

The Irrelephants

What bearded leadman Michael Tahmasian jokingly categorizes as “indie folk rock with a post-jazz dance influence,” The Irrelephants are a band that proves playing music shouldn’t be geared towards a certain genre or audience.

“We don’t want anyone in the room to feel out of place in any way. I feel like with this project it’s really easy to come in and be absorbed in a way that a lot of other music acts wouldn’t,” Brandon Upson, guitarist/lyricist, said.

The band formed a little over a year ago when Tahmasian and Upson jammed at their friend and current guitarist Luke Winnett’s house. Though all of them typically listen to hard rock and metal, they wanted to try something different for a change.

“We definitely took that opportunity to go somewhere new and to write something a lot more soulful that a lot more people would value from,” Upson said.

Upson, who sings in the band, takes much of his inspiration for The Irrelephants’ sound from bands like Noah And The Whale, Mumford And Sons, and Blind Pilot. On the other hand, Tahmasian, inspired mainly by Beat poets and talk music band Listener, meshes his spoken word vocals with Upson’s singing. This creates something entirely unique, though that isn’t exactly the goal of the band.

“The Irrelephants isn’t about becoming something big or innovative. We just want to sort of connect with people and get friends more so than fans,” Upson said. “It’s just a really friendly, really happy atmosphere. It can be sad at times, but it’s also just very cathartic.”

Words: Tim Dodderidge and Alex Leininger
Photo of I Am Nation: Andy Gottschalk

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Rock & Rave: 2012 Rock 4 Hope Preview