In the fall of 2013, Nick Lerangis ’09, former member of Kenyon band Walk the Moon, was watching his solo music career crumble. He had taken a year-long hiatus from music after leaving Walk the Moon in the winter of 2011 but was trying to re-enter the scene with an acoustic singer-songwriter sound whose shtick was to use his iPhone to layer tracks onstage as he performed them live. Reportedly, one of his concerts only had three people in attendance: his girlfriend, his mom and Michael Schnapp ’08, who was on his own mission that evening. After the concert, Lerangis expressed his utmost gratitude to his audience for supporting him; he was floored, however, when Schnapp asked him to join his own band, the Hunting Party, based in Manhattan. Lerangis could only sum up his relief with the plea “Please save me from myself!” Since then, Lerangis has been part of this tight-knit sextet, who will be performing at the Village Inn on Saturday, Feb. 21 at midnight for an ALS charity event sponsored by Delta Kappa Epsilon.
Spearheaded by lead singer-songwriter Erica Lane, the Hunting Party dates back to June 2012 when Lane posted an ad on Craigslist looking for other musicians. Erik Hamilton ’08 saw it and suggested to Schnapp that they join (Hamilton and Schnapp had been bandmates at Kenyon); additionally, Dan Burke and a (now former) guitarist signed on. This gang made up the first iteration of the Hunting Party, augmented by David Letchinger in February 2013 and Lerangis later that year. The band currently consists of Lane (songwriter/vocals), Lerangis (guitar/vocals), Schnapp (bass), Hamilton (banjo/guitar), Burke (drums) and Letchinger (piano/keyboard).
The Hunting Party released their first EP, North, in October 2013, and are about to release their next four-track EP, Sirens and Lights.
Lerangis, Schnapp and Hamilton were all musically inclined as students on the Hill, evidenced by their extracurricular activities. Lerangis, a music major, was a Chamber Singer, Kokosinger and Motown band guitarist. In his first year, he joined the band Expert, where he met Nick Petricca ’09, with whom he formed Walk the Moon his senior year. Schnapp, a psychology and economics double major, had been part of the Sticky Bandits his first year. As social chair for Archons, he was also able to find gigs for his band. Hamilton, a brother of Alpha Delta Phi, later formed the group Cover Band with Schnapp while at Kenyon.
The Hunting Party has a gentle sound marked by Lane’s wide-ranging vocals, stretching from melancholic softness to strong and jazzy, which blends nicely with Letchinger’s piano lines. Tinged with some bite from Schnapp’s bassline and Burke’s backbone of a drumline, their music can shift between a low-key indie sound, like in their single “Chicago,” and boppy pop, exemplified by “To Be Us.”
Sirens and Lights, which includes both “Chicago” and “To Be Us,” takes a turn from their initial Americana folk roots sound, as Letchinger called it. “[Our sound] changed a lot in bringing in new people,” Lane added. “The stuff that we wrote with Dave… Our sound started to evolve there, even just by bringing in keys. It really started to bring out a lot more possibility.” Likewise, Lerangis brought a lot of pop influence to the band, which especially shows through in “To Be Us.”
Along with its sound, the band’s credibility has also grown. They just hired a booking agent, but had previously been managed by Burke. Schnapp also mentioned that they began playing mostly in apartments, but have now moved into a more professional rehearsal space where they can play around with sound more. Lane mentioned that playing in larger venues has influenced their sound: they no longer stick to “quiet, humdrum, folky stuff” and venture into more raucous territory.
Schnapp also commented on the intimate friendship among bandmates. “It’s just so fun to play and practice,” he said. “Even if we’re just drilling things to practice for a show, it’s just a really fun kind of thing where we just kind of can back off and listen and get excited about our own music.”
This tight bond comes from their love of writing, according to Late. Letchinger said collaboration pushes them all to be better musicians. “When someone writes something and it’s catchy and I’m like, ‘Oh, that sounded so good,’ the first thing I do is I go home and I’m like, ‘Now I’ve got to write something. Now I have to carry my weight,’” he said.
The group plans to go on tour (dates and locations to be determined) in July, and anticipate releasing their first full-length album in the next few years. Despite how dedicated the band members are, they must work around their day jobs and time for the band.
Sirens and Lights will be for sale this Saturday, Feb. 21 when the Hunting Party performs at the Village Inn.