Five Drexel Bands You Need To Know Now

Featured Image of Darla via Magdelena Papaioannou

Packed basements, sweating under low ceilings, peering to get a glimpse of the band from behind a sea of classmates; dancing, moshing, tapped kegs, and music. These are some of the ingredients for a night out in West Philadelphia’s music scene. You’d never expect the Philly Punk/DIY Community to find its way to this part of the city given that the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University are both some of the most expensive colleges in the state (the latter being the most expensive). And yet, my own introduction to Philadelphia’s music scene was through packed basements alongside my classmates somewhere in the middle of Mantua, hiking out to hear someone’s latest band or catch some other acts from elsewhere around the Northeast and beyond. What’s incredible is the amount diversity that can be found, no one genre dominating over the rest.

Couple the underground house show scene with Drexel’s student-run label, MAD Dragon Records, and the possibilities for greatness are limitless. Bands are able to take their first steps into performing live, learn the ropes of the record business, and grow to become real forces and influences throughout the city and, in some cases, the world. All this makes Drexel a unique incubator for some truly exceptional talent that are now making serious waves in the greater Philadelphia music scene. This list comprises of the next class of Drexel artists and bands who are about to take the next step from campus to the national scene.

#1. Darla

Darla, to me, represents everything that makes the Drexel music scene so special. What started out as a run-of-the-mill basement band billing themselves Philadelphia’s Premier Tom Petty Cover Band (PPTPCB) evolved into a Jock Rock Cover band inspiring crowd sing-a-longs to “Lips of an Angel,” before becoming to the eight piece jazz/funk tour de force that they are today. Richie Straub (Drums), Jake Fabian (Alto Sax), Wil Schade (Tenor Sax), Kosta Johnson (Keys/Production), Mike Morrongiello (bass), and guitarists Alex Marino, Brendan Monahan, and Jake Held are some of the most talented and dedicated musicians in West Philly (perhaps, even, the city!). Time and practice has allowed Darla to grow into a stronger, more cohesive unit as they rose through the ranks in Philly’s greater music scene. They’ve earned the distinction of opening for legends such as George Clinton of Parliament/Funkadelic and George Porter Jr at the Ardmore Music Hall and The Disco Biscuits at the Fillmore this past winter. Darla have contributed to other musicians in Philly, opening up their own production company, Darla Hood Productionsappearing on Josh Miller‘s From Within EP this fall among many others. Darla’s last release was their July EP  Let Darla Be Darla.

#2. Mr. Sampson

On paper, finding the words to describe a group like Mr. Sampson feels limiting no matter how you spin it. Producer/beatmaster extraodinaire Joe Haederle (pronounced Had-er-lee) and drummer Aaron Harel together form one of West Philadephia’s most dynamic bands, crafting their self-described “Hip-hop-Electro-Soul-Glitchy-Bass-Funk-Musik.” Haederle’s use of audio manipulations, original instrumentation, and beat splicing is unmatched, creating vast musical soundscapes that actually develop musically as well as alter whatever previous notions you held towards electronic music. Harel’s precision drumming provides a grounded presence in the mix that gives Mr. Sampson’s music a natural and live feeling that is as engaging as it is sophisticated. Together, the duo have had an unparalleled amount of success as a live band, sharing the stage with national touring acts such as Cashmere Cat, Big Sean, GRiZ, and Break Science as well as making appearances at Camp Bisco, Disc Jam, and Great North music festivals. Following up their 2015 EP, The Gathering Storm, with this year’s Tempest EP shows that Mr. Sampson have a clearly defined vision of their sound that is rare among groups as young as theirs. Going forward, you can bet that these two will remain a strong, distinct presence in Philadelphia’s electronic scene.

#3. OddKidOut

Dubbed the “Instagram Impresario” by Philly Weekly, Philadelphia-Native Butch Serianni (aka OddKidOut) is one of the most curious and exciting members of Drexel’s eclectic scene. Since beginning his career at 15 (!!!) as a studio drummer for Jeffrey Gaines, Serianni has played “just about every venue” Philadelphia has to offer, worked in the studio with local talents like Mitch Beer, gone to SXSW, and has joined other notable acts on the road. When Serianni arrived at Drexel last year, he decided to start uploading his J. Dilla-inspired beats that he had been creating as a hobby for the last few years. The results were immediate as Serianni’s OddKidOut project captured the attention of Fact Magazine, who asked Serianni to curate producers who used the #FACTInstaBeats to promote on Fact’s own Instagram. Serianni is now working on developing a record label and brand around his work and has gradually become a force that demands (and deserves) to be recognized.

#4. RFA

You’ll be hard pressed to find a band that’s as capable of throwing down tight, melodic rock music like RFA. Comprising of members Alec Powell, Brendan McHale, Christian Turzo, and Dan Cousart, RFA’s sound features harmonizing guitar riffs, chugging basslines, and vocals that capture the same early-Strokes sound that Julian Casablancas has been trying and failing to recapture for the last decade. The difference with RFA is that, when it’s coming from them, it sounds new. RFA have managed to put out three EPs over the last three years and, rumor has it, are preparing to announce a new project in the Spring on top of their staggering tour in April. As performers, their energy is absolutely infectious and unmatched, capable of moving an entire room through their onstage chemistry. The next time you see a bill featuring this crew, do yourself a favor and just buy the ticket.

#5. Mike Pays Heat

When members of the band were looking for an apartment on Drexel’s campus they asked the landlord of one buildings who paid for the heat, to which he responded, “Mike pays heat.” Influenced by 90’s emo rockers, Mike Pays Heat members Ian Hunter, Daniel Siper, Wil Schade, and Rish Singh debuted their 13-track debut album, Tape 1 Play, with the help of MAD Dragon imprint, Dead Medium Records. Combining the 90’s Emo Punk sound of American Football with the dynamics and no muss, no fuss sound of The Front Bottoms, Mike Pays Heat have developed into an act capable of endearing to even the most casual listener. Their music has not gone unnoticed, earning a premiere on New Noise Magazine and a write up from Canadian music blog, exclaim. Currently, the band is embarking on a massive 14-date tour, going as far as Ohio and Georgia on their quest to spread their music to the masses.

Honorable Mentions:

6. Plainview

7. Grayling 

8. Tessellations

9. Alyssa Joseph

10. Kashish

Did we miss anyone? Tell us in the comments below! And, if you’re into college bands, check out our Battle of the College Bands competition coming April 29th!

1 Comment

  1. Julia

    April 12, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Minor Setbacks???

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