‘The Sharpest’ band in town

By Sarah Robertson

Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian

Amherst-based band, The Sharpest, brought their unique and experimental sound to campus this October when they performed at the Agricultural Engineering Building.

Stage left stood Vasili Kochura, vocalist and guitarist for The Sharpest, and opposite him, bassist Adam Barbati. In contrast to Kochura, who sang calmly and composed, Adam flailed around violently, getting a feel for the crowd.

“Personally, I really like when people are flipping out and stuff, I feed off that,” said Barbati.

Matt Huszar sat just behind Barbati and Kochura on his drum kit keeping a steady tempo before launching into their first song, an up-tempo track titled “A Sunrise” from their first EP “Charm.”

“It’s fun to play music where people will push each other and stuff,” said Huszar, “but it’s also fun when we can play a show and people will just watch and are there for the show.”

Somehow, The Sharpest has found a genre that can satisfy all of their musical preferences. Playing their brand of experimental math rock, The Sharpest has defined their band around being undefinable. Their songs feature changing tempos and sound effects that change so frequently that an untrained ear might think they are trying to play several songs at once.

The band’s sound has evolved drastically since their inception years ago. Having started off as an indie band, The Sharpest now sees itself more as a math rock group. Each of their three released albums has a distinctive sound and style vastly different from its predecessor.

“They are recorded at different phases in our lives, sometimes by different people,” says Kochura. “Each one is a good representation of where our band was at that moment.”

“And to be honest they are all different, they are all super different,” adds Huszar.

The Sharpest has released one full-length album, three EPs, and has a fourth album on the way. The first two EPs, “Charm” and “Seasons Happen,” were released with the band’s original vocalist and have sound much more like indie-pop music.

Their latest album “Tophet Chasm” was released in May 2012 after the band lost its original vocalist and began to focus on the more technical side of their music. Some of their favorite songs to play are “Chains” and “Echo Sacchi,” but as of late they have been playing their more recent songs as the new album release nears.

The Sharpest admits that because of their eclectic style and tastes not everyone “gets” their music. They draw influence from other math rock and post-hardcore bands such as This Town Needs Guns, Fall of Troy, The Mars Volta and Tera Melos. They say bands like this have made the math rock genre more popular, something The Sharpest aims to do as well.

“We are trying to be accessible and math rock at the same time,” says Huszar.

Kochura and Huszar first started the band five years ago during their senior year at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School where the two met. Together they went through years of trial and error, gaining and losing members and testing an array of sounds until they finally settled on their current trio. Barbati also attended high school with Kochura and Huszar, but officially joined the band just two years ago.

“Adam was our merch guy,” says Huszar.

Barbarti is currently a UMass student who lives off campus with his fellow bandmates. Huszar graduated from UMass last year, while Kochura is a graduate of Suffolk University. For The Sharpest, balancing their education, work and music means limiting their tours to summers and school breaks. During the school year, they play local shows in the Amherst and Northampton area as well as around central Massachusetts, but the band has gone on tour as far as Chicago and Baltimore in the past.

“As an indie band booking a DIY tour, we have to look at our resources collectively,” explains Huszar, “It’s important for touring bands to book cities where there is someone there to help bring people out, get supporting acts and sometimes promote, even if it’s just a Facebook event.”

One of the more difficult challenges facing a small independent band like The Sharpest is simply finding venues to play at. In Amherst, venues that cater to local bands are scarce and often difficult to work with, making a road trip to Chicago or New York City a viable option.

“I like going on tour not only because it’s nice to share my music with people around the country but it also restores my faith in humanity,” says Huszar, “People will just take you into their house and feed you and sometimes give you beds and it’s just so awesome.”

“Exploring is almost the coolest part of it,” Barbati adds, “Sometimes we show up to a venue and don’t know what to expect, it’s almost like a gamble.”

The band does not have any more upcoming tours planned as they are working on their next album, which is scheduled to be released within the next few months. Again, the short album is very different than what the band has put out previously, but they are proud of it all the same.

“This new one coming out is definitely a blend of the three,” says Huszar, “It is more poppy and clean and more well done.”

The Sharpest’s complete discography can be found on their Bandcamp page at thesharpestrock.bandcamp.com. All albums are available for download for free or pay-what-you-want.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at [email protected].