Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Step inside Watts’ Closet

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Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian

Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian

One thing that immediately becomes apparent when seeing Watts’ Closet in action is that this is a band that loves to dance. In an emptied out classroom in the Agricultural Engineering Hall at the University of Massachusetts last Thursday, the band danced through a heavy chunk of their nearly hour long set during a show held by Students for Alternative Music, which featured local artists such as Wydyde, Sexy Girls and Who’da Funk It?. It was not long before audience members followed suit and danced along to the progressive experimental indie music. The band ran through a number of songs including some newer material, like “Sweater Song,” a wistful tune which incorporates a lot of different musical styling’s, but is driven by a folksy-twang, and was recently released via their Soundcloud page.

The self-proclaimed “psych-indie-jam-garage-rock” group consisting of Ben Bosco (bass, guitar, vocals and keyboard), Jake Slater (guitar, bass, vocals and keyboard), George Condon (guitar, vocals, keyboard and trumpet) and Henry Condon (drums and vocals) has an incredibly vibrant sound. Much of their music can be characterized by afro-beat rhythms, progressive indie-folk styling’s and uplifting vocals, as in the case of songs such as “Sports!!!” and “Somewhere Sunrise,” which were released online in their “December Demo.”

The band was formed by Bosco, a journalism major, and consists entirely of UMass undergraduates. Bosco met Slater while writing a piece during his freshman year on the band Secret Jam Society which Slater was a member of. According to Bosco, Slater had been looking for something different which led to the two working on music together.

The duo spent time playing acoustic sets and testing the waters with other musicians before having casual jams with Henry Condon, and then eventually George Condon. The three met through the UMass Association of Musical Performance, a group devoted to bringing on-campus musicians together to facilitate the longstanding culture of local music making in Amherst. These collaborative sessions eventually led to the formation of Watts’ Closet.

Together they developed their musical style with a goal in mind. “We kind of want to do something that hasn’t been done a lot before, so we were going for a psychedelic island kind of sound,” said George.

True to their goal, the band frequently tweaks their songs and explores different arrangements as need be. “…Jake is the one who comes with a full song and we have to learn it. But usually one of us will just bring an idea and as a band we go through it and use what works and change what doesn’t,” George said of their writing.

“We’ve been changing stuff around with the songs all the time depending on where we’re playing. We had to do a TV spot in Newton at one time and we just figured out, ‘Alright, we want to play these songs but it’s like two minutes over. What do we do?’ So we ended up shortening them, rearranging parts, etc. and then just running the songs into each other as we usually do… we just change stuff up mostly,” said Bosco.

The flexibility in their music was apparent during Thursday’s performance when the band connected several songs by riffing out ragged yet lively interludes between tunes. This allows them to go through their sets seamlessly and play as much music as they can for the audience rather than simply ending one song before starting the next, or having to banter at the crowd too much. The band’s easy way of going through a performance may come from being veterans of playing longer sets, particularly at The Frosty Mug, a bar in New Britain, Conn. Watts’ Closet has played multiple sets as long as three hours at the venue, a veritable musical marathon in the world of performance.

“I thought it would be just a one-off gig… it’s just been like having a rehearsal on stage honestly ‘cause it’s a tiny little bar and it’s made us a lot better at playing out,” said Bosco.

These “rehearsals” have effectively given the band an avenue to flesh out their live performances and develop the very fine-tuned musical experience they’ve cultivated their repertoire into.

“Most of its [original] songs, we usually just use jams to connect songs,” said George.

“It’s like 90-95 percent just songs,” added Bosco.

“I’d say it’s like 75-80 percent,” countered George.

“Depends on what you’d count as a song,” Bosco said, laughing.

“If we have a jam it’s usually structured, so it’s kind of like a planned jam… we just plan out how we end it to make it concise, so we don’t get too loopy,” George explained.

“It’s just like learning some covers here and there and, well I mean we’re still starting out, but when we were first doing it, a lot of it was covers, but recently we’ve been adding a lot more originals, or y’know doing a lot more of that kind of stuff because the ones we write are pretty varied in terms of style,” added Bosco.

While their music is incredibly versatile, it’s not difficult to hear the influences of other progressive psychedelic groups rooted in their music, such as Delicate Steve and Tame Impala.

Another artist that has had an influence on the band, but not necessarily on their musical styling’s, is comedian, musician and loop sampler aficionado, Reggie Watts, who is also the band’s namesake.

Bosco explained the meaning behind the band name, “Jake and I were showing each other Reggie Watts videos over the summer and he had all these crazy sweaters and I was just like, ‘Dude his closet must be amazing, might as well name a band that,’ after ‘Weekend Jeans’ at least, that was our next name idea.”

Fans might wonder what is in store for this relatively young and uncommonly talented foursome, but the band sees their future in the simplest ways, “We’ll just keep playing hopefully,” said George Condon.

“We’ll figure it out…and you know with Watts’ we’ve got dates booked for the summer in various places,” said Bosco, right before turning to the marketing director of UMass Association of Musical Performance who was sitting a few feet away from him to discuss booking more shows during their upcoming tour. This gives the impression that even with a simple plan to just keep on playing their music; this band will be incredibly busy moving forward for a long time to come.

Sabrina Amiri can be reached at [email protected]

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