Artist Spotlight: A Chaotic Coming of Age with Jake, Jackson, and Diego of Epitóm of Chaos

By Gilliana Hope

From left to right: Owen Bakker, Sam Forrester, Jackson Guha, Ellie Lutterman, Jake Bartelme, Carter Antin, and Diego León

Epitóm of Chaos debuted on April 14th in a blaze of glory. Adeptly named, the performance was a display of chaotic good energy that vibrated throughout the room. Originally named simply Epitóm, “of Chaos” was added at the suggestion of guitarist Diego León to articulate the range in their repertoire. Rounding out the band’s line-up includes vocalist Carter Antin, drummer Jake Bartelme, bassist Owen Bakker, keyboardist Jackson Guha, and violinists Sam Forrester and Ellie Lutterman. The night was psychedelic and highlighted how unabashedly they lean into the pandemonium, such as when violinist Ellie took the mic for a screamo-jazz of Stupid Horse by 100 gecs.

Shortly after the show, I sat down with Diego, Jackson, and Jake to chat about the origins and influences of the band. Founding members Jake and Jackson started as a Pink Floyd cover band, developing into the full-fledged band they are today through their “very diverse musical identities,” as León– an early addition to the mix– noted. While the members have a variety of artistic interests and backgrounds, Bartelme echoed the sentiment that they complement each other and purposely structured the band to leave space to honor and celebrate these influences, “it doesn’t hinder anybody’s ideas or styles, we take in everybody’s and that’s what makes the chaos work.” The experimental genre-bending can be heard in the band’s mix of progressive rock, hyper-pop, and ska-punk, to name just a few noticeable styles in their performance. Their music begs for improvisation at the helm, as “everything is never really set in stone,” according to Guha.

Along with their performance debut, the band gave the audience a teasing taste of what they have to offer through a couple of original works. The pieces they showcased smoothly bled into each other, the transition was so fluid that I barely registered it happening. During the first half, the violin and drums seemingly had an instrumental conversation, hypnotizing the audience through their interaction. I found myself unable to look away for fear I’d miss a crucial notation of their playful discussion. This composition, entitled Half Of The Day, was spearheaded by León and expressed dread over wasting a day in your life. The second portion was started by Guha and several members of the band contributed to its final product, fleshing out additional instrumental components and the lyrics. Their mutual goal was to ensure everyone had equality and a spotlight in the musical display. None of this would have been possible if not for the ability to mix with fellow creatives through their educational journeys thus far, Guha conveyed this as a significant part of their respective growth as musicians. “This band is kind of our coming of age,” Bartelme declared, and with another gig already lined up for May 23rd it is evident that there will be no stopping the spread of chaos.

(Some quotes have been edited for clarity and conciseness)

Album Spotlight: Grandeur by Mason Crow

By Gilliana Hope

Upon the release of their debut album, Grandeur, I had the chance to sit down with student Shane Hawkins— also know as the artist Mason Crow— to chat about his newest release, artistry, and, of course, TikTok stardom.

“Shane Hawkins is a student of Lawrence University who releases original music under the name ‘Mason Crow.’ Since the release of their debut 3-track EP, ‘WORDS TO LIVE BY,’ in February of 2022, Crow has been discovering more and more about their sound, finding their footing mostly in upbeat, electronic instrumentals, accompanied by fun, though often darker-toned, lyrics. Crow’s creative works also find their way onto TikTok, where the majority of their comedic content and following can be found. Both creative projects are alive and well, with new music and videos coming soon!”

GH: So, why Mason Crow?
SH (MC): Mason Crow is what I thought of when I was just like “I can choose any name I want, I don’t have to do Shane Hawkins” So I just liked the name Mason at the time and wanted to keep the bird theme so I just switched the bird from Hawk(ins) to Crow.

GH: Can you tell me a bit about your music-making process and you, as an artist?
SH (MC): Of course; I use the program Logic Pro X, which I found out existed through my older sibling– they were into it for a long time before I got it on my laptop. I got it and started just playing around with it pretty much… and then the playing around started actually sounding like music and I was like, “Wait what if I actually did this now?” That’s how I make instrumentals now, it’s just pretty much experimenting.

GH: Do you have anyone or anything that influenced you as an artist and specifically influenced your debut album “Grandeur”?

SH (MC): My biggest influence is The Living Tombstone. Some songs were directly inspired by them. Pretty much anything in that sort of genre– it’s kind of a weird genre to pin down– it’s like electronic with occasional rock or alternative elements. Most EDM doesn’t have vocals throughout so it’s hard to say what the genre is called exactly, but The Living Tombstone does it.

GH: Can you give a behind-the-scenes peek into your creative process?

SH (MC): My songs come from fiction; if I have a story that I want to tell I will. I find sometimes it’s better to try and tell it through song than like a novel or short story. I’m also intending to major in Creative Writing, so writing is definitely a big part of my life.

GH: Do you find that being a writer outside of music influences your songwriting or music-making process?

SH (MC): I think so, yeah, I’ve noticed it’s kind of interchangeable. I took a Creative Writing class in Winter term, and when writing poems I felt it was a very similar process to writing songs and vice versa; when I write songs it’s similar to writing poems.

GH: What was the original inspiration for “Grandeur”? Did it change throughout the process of making the album?

SH (MC): From the beginning when I first wanted to write an album it was a very different album than the one I ended up releasing. My plan as of a year ago was to make an EP called “Blood Moon”– which I did– and an EP called “Honey Moon”, which would’ve been acoustic. Then I realized I kind of hate making acoustic music. “Blood Moon” is all electronic and then I felt like I still had more songs I wanted to make, so I was like ‘I’m gonna make an album and there’s gonna be a couple acoustic songs on it but it’s mostly gonna be electronic;’ and eventually it just faded into a completely different thing than what I was initially expecting, which is what “Grandeur” is now.

GH: From your EPs to now having your debut album, do you feel your sound or voice or artistry has changed?

SH (MC): The biggest change since “Blood Moon” was that I started mixing and mastering the music myself, which is something I didn’t realize I was able to do but I feel like I figured it out fairly quickly. It’s not perfect, but by mixing and mastering it myself I’m able to get it sounding exactly how I want it. With “Blood Moon” I would end up sending very long messages about little things to the person mixing it before, so it’s very nice that now I can make it sound exactly how I want it to sound.

GH: Is there a song that particularly stands out to you as a favorite off “Grandeur”?

SH (MC): The opener and closer are the two big songs of the album; they’re twice as long as most of the others. “Share This Throne” is one of my favorites that I’ve ever written. “Immortalized”– the closing track– is part of a larger story I’ve been working on. So those are two of my favorites. “Protocol” is also really good in my opinion.

GH: How do you find that you balance the continuation of storytelling from “Blood Moon” to “Grandeur”?

SH (MC): I put “System Failure Part 2”, in the title. There was a “Part 1” on “Blood Moon”, so you can piece them together in that way. There’s also the general sound that I try to keep kind of the same. Each song I plan on having a different section of the story being told. It’s about a robot gaining sentience and realizing they’re a robot, and then beyond that, designed as a weapon. Part 1 is more about the existential part and Part 2 is more about the robot getting programmed in ways they don’t agree with…

GH: Do you pull any influence from the world around you or world at large?
SH (MC): It definitely happens from time to time. I really prefer writing just complete nonsense that has nothing to do with reality but occasionally… It’s more that an emotion I feel I’ll incorporate in, something that other people can relate to as well. My song “Butter Knife” is not really about me, but it’s about loneliness and other people who hear it can sympathize with it.

GH: Was there a particular song you found yourself struggling with a lot?

SH (MC): “Leave a Lamp On.” I wanted to challenge myself by having two verses overlapping each other.

GH: As a known TikToker, is there an intersection between ‘Mason Crow the comedian’ and ‘Mason Crow the musician?’

SH (MC): ‘Mason Crow the musician’ does not get very much attention from TikTok. I will advertise on TikTok when I release music and those videos religiously do way worse than my skit comedy. The people who follow me for comedy– for the most part, not always– follow me just for comedy. Occasionally, people will find that they really like both. Most of the time people will pick one or the other because the comedy is kind of ridiculous and the music is ridiculous too but in a different way.

You can find Shane Hawkins, aka Mason Crow, on TikTok @masoncrowofficial and listen to their debut album Grandeur on all streaming platforms.

(Some quotes have been edited for clarity and conciseness)

Artist Spotlight: The Synergy of Visual and Musical Art with Finn Frawley

By Gilliana Hope

When I entered the Art House on April 7th, I was met with a space that held an array of crafting and coloring options. From doodling and drawing to jewelry making and frog stuffing/sewing, many chose to take part in bringing their artistic visions to life while listening to Finn Frawley’s tunes In conversation with Finn, he reflected, “I love being at shows– especially small ones– where there are things to do. Having something to do with your hands is helpful to staying grounded.” The choice to infuse art into the concert space was also inspired by TCC founder Avery Riel’s concert at the beginning of the year. Although there was no pressure to take part, making it easy to sit back and relax as an observer of this intimate space.

Growing up, Finn was a multi-hyphenate instrumentalist; they started piano and upright bass in elementary school, before moving onto the guitar, throwing in a bit of ukulele and cello for good measure. Music was both a tool to express the experiences he went through and process them, which was helpful to his personal growth as an artist and human. This tactic is visible in the work Finn shared especially on pieces that related to his queer and trans identities. Some of the original songs included My God Is Pretty– a “campy expression of that queerness”, as he described it, that sought to ‘queer Catholicism” cheekily and playfully– and A Letter To Me, a poignant ode to the self that articulates “the hope that comes with being trans and the evolution in progress.” The latter, in particular, was therapeutic to perform, as it crescendoed in a visceral scream of ‘it feels so good to feel so good!’ which felt “really good!” to shout at the top of his lungs, Finn said, both truthfully and jokingly.

Without his collaborator MJ Corum, this event might have never seen the light of day. The duo– who are friends and roommates– had messed around a bit in the student-run SOL Studios and swore they’d do it again sometime, but that rain check was never cashed… until TCC was founded. Not wanting to do it alone, Finn asked MJ to join them, who he described as “super down and super supportive.” The feeling was mutual, as “writing with Finn was really fun and healing for me,” MJ explained. Having known each other for a few years now, they noted how much they’ve seen Finn develop in those years: “It was really satisfying to watch him play his songs.” Both artists also conveyed their gratitude to TCC for providing them with a space and platform to share music in.

Post-show, Finn took away several artistic mementos from this experience of what his friends think his music sounds like in visual form and their interpretation of him performing; getting a snapshot into their minds while he was musicking is something I am certain he does not take for granted. He is excited to bring more community-driven events like this into their artistic abode.

You can find Finn on Instagram or Tiktok and watch his TCC set on Youtube.

(Some quotes have been edited for clarity and conciseness)

Artist Spotlight: Polka’s Not Dead with Matthew DeChant

By Gilliana Hope

Matthew DeChant’s shirt said it best: “Polka’s Not Dead!” This is what I theorize the lead singer of Fish Fry Fist Fight (FFFF) hoped to prove on March 31st. If you passed through Warch Campus Center last Friday, you likely heard the echos of frenzied melodic rumblings through the building from the second floor. It was a conglomerate of foot-stomping, hand-clapping, and dizzying dancing in the Esch Hurvis room; this was precisely the goal of utilizing the space, DeChant explained, “people being able to dance was very important to us.” Typically a space where dance courses are held, the room served as a home for free movement of the body in wacky and wonderful ways. The vibrations from the ground as concert-goers felt the music only heightened the connective community experience. Whether one was a trained dancer or could not bust a move to save their life, I’m certain that anyone would feel comfortable enough to dance to the fast-paced beats played, a mix of rock, punk, and— of course— polka.

The band’s formation tied directly to the Tiny College Concert (TCC) series, an ongoing campus concert event programming founded by Avery Riel. DeChant always hoped to make FFFF a reality but found conflicts and outside factors— such as the pandemic— hindered movement. When he saw TCC starting up at the beginning of this year, it was “the perfect time for this weird crazy punk-rock-polka idea to finally happen.” Thus, FFFF made their debut, consisting of lead singer and accordionist Matthew DeChant, drummer Ryan Saladin, tubaist Lawrence Schreiner, trumpeter Alex Poplawski, and the dual-guitarists Gideon Lucard and Silas O’Connell. Their genre choice is unique in the best of ways, with a personal passion for it from DeChant, himself, “polka is very near and dear to me, I have fond memories of listening to polka bands and stuff like that.” A fan of punk-rock too, bridging the gap between Polka and punk was a natural combination, in his eyes. “It’s so focused on community and bringing people together,” he noted, appreciating how the genre leans into its existence outside of commercial-specific spheres.

Throughout the concert, several dance lines broke out among the audience members. When asked what inspired this, concert-goer Lauren Dahl described the night’s aesthetic as one that made her feel “like I was a celtic fairy just at a summer solstice celebration.” In agreement with Lauren was her friend Miranda Lawson, who said the festivities “reminded me of fun times with friends.” Reflecting on the event, DeChant recalled having conversations with those who came up to him after the performance and expressed the nostalgic impact of the night, which brought back childhood memories for local Lawrentians. “It’s just super cool how much polka music is still a connective memory among a lot of people from Wisconsin… to draw back on those old memories people don’t even realize they have,” DeChant said. The band’s joyously chaotic celebration was a perfect way to ring in the end of the first week of this new term.

(Some quotes have been edited for clarity and conciseness)