by Elana Spivack
Even the most tight-knit of friends can have a hard time keeping in touch postgrad. Nicholas Anania ’14, Lily Zwaan ’14, Mikey Bullister ’14, Dan Rasch ’14 and Edek Sher ’13 use music to bridge the gap. In postgrad tradition, some of them currently hold temp jobs at coffee shops and restaurants, which allows them wiggle room for music-making. These graduates have adopted the name Food Collective and set a monthly goal to contribute one solo song each. Each month, Food Collective compiles these solo songs into a digital album.
While at Kenyon, Rhodes Sabangan ’14 (lead guitar/vocals), Zwaan (lead vocals/trumpet), Bullister (backup guitar/drums), Sher (bass), Marissa Hartman ’14 (bass) and Anania (backup guitar/vocals) comprised the band French Club, a “fun, indie, … kind of ska,” band, as Anania described it. Once they scattered after graduating, French Club had to geographically disband.
Anania decided to utilize the fun, funky feel Food had to keep in touch with his bandmates. Zwaan, Bullister, Sabangan and Sher moved in together in Providence, R.I. while Anania moved to a town south of San Francisco. The Food Collective project, which Anania suggested to his friends in December 2014, was not only meant to spur the friends to keep producing music, but it was also a way for them to support and check in with each other. The name references their other, laid-back Kenyon band, Food. Anania said that Food Collective’s online fanbase consists mostly of Kenyon students, alumni, and Facebook friends.
“Our crew is spread out,” Bullister said. “This is a way to keep in touch. … I’m definitely finding it hard to keep being creative and feeling good about what I’m making [while] trying to pay for an apartment and figure out random jobs for the first time.” Zwaan expressed similar sentiments, commenting on how the Food Collective project is a remnant of the Kenyon community for her. “We’re all working on our own music,” she said, “and I feel just as excited but scattered as I did at Kenyon. … In the craziness of postgrad, it’s cool to have something that’s regular, that’s my main thing for the five days or five minutes that I actually end up working on it.”
After college, some bands might try to stick together and find success as professional musicians, but Food Collective provides more of an outlet for this group of friends. “I take it pretty seriously but I also don’t take it seriously at all,” Zwaan said. Zwaan and Bullister capitalize on subtle, ironic lyrics and make joke songs. Zwaan, for instance, has an affinity for shopping malls. Her artist name on the mixes is “food court,” and some of her tracks are “gravel” and “mall cops.” “mall cops” has a fuzzy sound quality, and Zwaan inserts carefree-sounding wordless vocal melodies as the refrain. The song is catchy and not over-produced; it does not take itself too seriously.
The group does not necessarily try to coordinate styles with each other; each solo song speaks for itself and represents each artist’s distinctive style. “It’s a mixtape of unique voices, and voices that are trying to find their voice,” Sher said. He characterized Bullister as “funkadelic” with an experimental, eclectic style, while “Lily’s trying really hard to have fun and make more [music] while having fun,” he said. “Dan … can really focus and work on details. … He works a long time on each [song]. Nick … it’s like he picked up the guitar in a certain state of mind [and] just recorded it.”
The style and sound produced also speaks to the individual creative processes for each artist. Anania keeps his electric guitar in his house and comes back to it multiple times each day. “Every time I walk by it, I’ll just sit down and fiddle around,” he said. While usually nothing more than a few fizzling ideas come out, sometimes he strikes gold. “Like, one out of 10 times something cool will just pop out. It just kind of happens,” he said.
The importance of this project is that the members are simply creating something. “It’s a way to try out different processes,” Zwaan said. “You have to create something in the next month. See what the thing is that you come up with in, like, 30 days.” Anania also said the deadline keeps them all on their toes, pushing them to work on something sooner rather than procrastinate. Still, Zwaan and Sher laughed that they left their contributions to the last minute.
The beauty of this project is how it pushes each musician to create and contribute but in a non-committal way. Most of the members do not plan to pursue music as a career, but Food Collective allows them to keep it a part of their lives.
Their music can be found at foodcollective.bandcamp.com, and they released their most recent collection, Spring Mix, on March 24.