Two weekends ago, the Moonshine Collective — comprised of current Knox students and recent graduates — debuted their first concert at an off-campus apartment. The common area was packed, and windows had to be opened despite below-freezing temperatures outside. It was a successful first gig, and members of the band feel that the college environment fosters the perfect conditions for any interested group to have musical success. Sean Nolan, Josh Hosmer-Quint and Evan Lewitus (all ‘13) together with senior Haley Beeson and junior Scott Suiter form the quintet that is the Collective.
Forming the group
Most members have known each other throughout college, but it was only this year that they decided to form a music group.
“Josh and I were in Sigma Chi together … and I was always friends with Haley, too, and Evan has been my best friend since orientation week,” Nolan said. “And then we found Scott when we were looking for a bassist … he came to our practices and he’s just phenomenal.”
The founding members have been musicians for years, but never before thought about creating a large music group.
“It just never really occurred to us, you know? There really weren’t a lot of bands on campus,” Nolan said. Citing Poets and Peasants who hailed from Knox in past years as an inspiration, he added, “[Peasants] was such a big project that it never occurred to us to do something like that.”
Nolan remembers going to several Poets and Peasants shows with members of Moonshine.
“It was actually at one of their shows that we decided to form a band,” Nolan remembered. “We went to see them last spring term and they had [Hali Engelmann ’13 and Spencer Graham’s ‘12] band Common Law Fish … Me and Josh and Evan were all there and we decided right then and there, ‘We’ve gotta start a band!’”
All members, though none are studying music formally, have solid backgrounds in musical performance. “I grew up with 11 siblings playing music,” Beeson said.
Naming the Collective
Beeson and Hosmer-Quint were already established as the “Moonshine Kids” for a couple years prior to creating the Collective.
According to Hosmer-Quint, he called his girlfriend, Beeson, one summer night while spending time with a friend in Kentucky who makes his own moonshine to tell her their group needed to be called the “Moonshine Kids.”
“Josh, Evan and I thought, ‘Why not get Haley involved?’ and then we could have another singer and more instrumentation,” Nolan said. “We decided that since they were already a little bit established as the Moonshine Kids on campus, it would probably help to go off of that … so the idea was the Moonshine Kids, but with a whole band behind it.”
“The Moonshine Kids could still be the two of us if we play for open mics and duets,” Hosmer-Quint added.
Defining the sound
On top of Poets and Peasants, band members list Arcade Fire, The Arctic Monkeys and Dillinger Escape Plan as influences. They consider the genre as a complex of folk and punk. So far, instruments include Beeson on the mandolin and keyboard, Hosmer-Quint and Nolan on guitar, Suiter on bass and Lewitus on drums. Beeson also plays guitar and Hosmer-Quint is classically trained on the violin, which they hope to introduce to their sound in the future.
Metal is also becoming a component of the Collective’s genre definition.
“Once we figured out we were able to play [metal], we decided we should do more heavy and complex stuff … also, Josh and I have started listening to a lot of metal this year, but we’re trying to balance it out with pop and folk elements, too,” Nolan said.
Hosmer-Quint also mentioned a ‘50s-style cover in the works.
“I’m super excited about it,” Beeson said. “It’s called ‘North Side Gal’ by J. D. McPherson. It’s a newer Chicago band, but they do songs in the style of ‘50s pop.”
Perhaps most notable about Moonshine’s sound is a unique screaming harmonization that comes from Hosmer-Quint and Beeson during some songs.
“It’s been cool having that balance of Haley’s soulful voice and screaming with a harsh edge to it,” Nolan said. “They’re so used to playing together that it works very well.”
In addition to sound experimentation, the Collective hopes to bring guest performers to their future shows.
“Folk punk is how I like to describe a lot of what I write, and then Sean writes a lot of the melodic and heavier metal music,” Hosmer-Quint said. “But I don’t know that much about the divisions of genres, but the screaming goes along with the more visceral emotion in some songs.”
Nolan listed finding equipment, a PA system, instruments and locating a rehearsal space among logistical challenges for establishing a music group.
The band even went without microphones for a few rehearsals. “It hurts to sing that loud for a while,” Beeson said.
The group’s next performance will be at Fat Fish Pub for the next senior meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11 and they are planning on having senior Johnny Bergholtz as a guest performer singing a song by Animal Collective.
“I think [junior] Sam Scheurell will be doing a Why song for a show as well, but that’s still being worked out,” Nolan said. “There are so many good musicians here who could start bands.”
Nolan bartends at Fat Fish and lives in the apartment that hosted the Collective’s last show.
“A lot of finding gigs has to do with contacts,” Beeson said. “There’s a lot of contacts in the community that you get just from going to these venues.”
How do they plan on finding new venues to perform at? Both Nolan and Hosmer-Quint hope to use their first shows for exposure. The group is willing to perform at most any apartment or Knox event and hopes to make it on the Knox’s Lincolnfest lineup this spring.