Artist Spotlight: The Baxbys

“But obviously, I’ll do anything for the band. So that always wins”

Artist+Spotlight%3A+The+Baxbys

By Astghik Dion, Head Arts Editor

all photos by Astghik Dion

I didn’t realize just how many people in their early 20s can fit into one basement until I had to repeatedly wipe the fog off my camera lens, due to the heat and humidity generated by the bouncing bodies around me. My hair clung to the nape of my neck, and I found myself tilting my head up to the ceiling to gasp for a breath of air. It was an early spring night, hardly more than 30 degrees outside, yet it was blistering hot. What seemed like thousands of pairs of eyes looked past me, teeming with energy — it was astounding how many different walks of life had managed to congregate in one room.

11 p.m. finally rolled around and the crowd gathered in that small Amherst basement seemed to let go of any weight they had been carrying. “We are the Baxbys!” Indeed, a name that everyone in the room knew, a name that could not mean anything else.

 

Drummer Chris Sciucco, 20, and guitarist James Miller, 20, found each other by pure chance, or rather pure fate. It was fall 2019 when the pair were freshmen at the University of Massachusetts and decided to go random for roommates, in the process stumbling upon living with the one person that would undoubtedly change the course of their life.

The duo immediately got along and visited one another frequently for jam sessions during the pandemic. It was then that the rest of The Baxbys met one another. Bass player Spencer Rosenfeld, 20, and Miller are friends from high school, having grown up within 1,200 feet of one another. Once Miller discovered that Sciucco also played music, he invited Rosenfeld  — a student at Northeastern — along to jam together. While guitarist and vocalist Alex Nordlund, 21, and Sciucco did not go to high school together, their dads were in a band together, called RUEZ. Through their fathers, Sciucco and Nordlund, who is a student at the University of Connecticut, were introduced to one another their sophomore year of high school.

“James and I each took a guy from our high school to jam,” Sciucco said. “And that’s kinda how we formed.”

The group played their first collective live show at Rosenfeld’s house in July 2021. They recall spending the entire summer repainting and sharpening up Rosenfeld’s pool in preparation for the huge “monkey watering hole” themed pool party they had planned. Since last summer, the band has played more than 20 shows.

“We seriously thought we were only gonna get three shows in the first semester,” Miller said. “And we ended up playing almost every weekend towards the end.”

The UMass community’s powerful support for The Baxbys is irrefutable, with lines for their gigs always spilling into the street. A Baxbys gig has become the new default Friday night plan for many — replacing The Spoke, fraternities and other parties that no longer compare.

“I don’t think we really expected to have as strong of a following around here as we do,” Sciucco said. “We came into this saying we want to do some shows and get our name out here, but I didn’t expect people to really be that into us.”

This fervent response from the crowd and half of the band’s location at UMass are large contributors as to why The Baxbys are deemed an Amherst treasure. The band mentions attempting to harness the same support at UConn and Northeastern, yet not finding the same resources, community or musical energy that Amherst has to offer. Nordlund and Rosenfeld commute to Amherst to play any chance they get, but the distance between members begs for sacrifices and takes a toll.

“You just need a ton of free time,” Sciucco said. “With half of us going to different schools, it’s something we never get.”

The band recalls several last minute show opportunities where Nordlund and Rosenfeld dropped everything with 10 minutes of notice to commute nearly two hours to Amherst for a gig. These sacrifices that come with distance do not stand alone, as they are accompanied by the difficulties that come with being college students in a band.

“My main difficulty is school and managing that,” Miller said. “Especially as an engineer, there’s a lot of stress involved, and then having to deal with our mission to succeed as a band is also a tough thing to do both at once. But obviously, I’ll do anything for the band. So that always wins.”

Although the band did not begin playing together until 2020, they had all been flirting with music independently long before. Nordlund developed a love of Weezer from a young age, and the connection was inevitable. His father was friends with the band members in the 90s and even had them play the entire blue album in his apartment before it was released. Nordlund also recalls his brother being in a band while he was in middle school, which inspired him to pick up the guitar.

“He wrote a ton of songs,” said Nordlund. “I always wanted to do that.”

Like Nordlund, Sciucco’s father introduced him to a love of music. He always played 80s rock around him and even owned his own studio for some time. Music was always present in Sciucco’s life, yet his biggest influences came later, through early 2000s pop punk.

“That was the first time I was getting into music on my own,” he said. “It wasn’t someone else’s taste that they were trying to get me into, I was finding these bands on my own so it was special.”

Sciucco and Miller both picked up instruments around the ages of six and seven, with Miller immediately gravitating toward the guitar. Yet, for Sciucco, it would be a few more years before his true love made itself apparent. Growing up, Sciucco recalls always having a drum kit in the house, yet never picking it up. It wouldn’t be until the age of 14 when he picked up his last and most beloved instrument.

“One day, it just clicked,” Sciucco said. “I got a rhythm down, and then I kind of just became excited to see how much I can build it. I always find that funny, I’d never had any interest in [drums] for the first 14 years. And then suddenly, I just wanted to be a drummer.”

Rosenfeld had been playing live music for the past nine years with the School of Rock in addition to playing the keyboard, but he did not pick up the bass until he joined The Baxbys. Through joining forces, the quartet began to push one another outside of their comfort zones and inspire each other to play larger roles in music than they had before.

“I really didn’t think about writing music until I met [Nordlund],” Miller said. “Being with all of them really inspired me to start writing.”

This disintegration of musical boundaries, and “roles” in the band, is to be expected in their upcoming debut EP. “Meet The Baxbys,” is set to be released on April 2.

“It represents the first jam sessions where we were initially coming together,” Sciucco said of the project.

“Meet The Baxbys” serves as a jumping off point for the group, with uncertainty as to where future projects will branch off regarding sound and genre. The band refers to the upcoming record as a “psychedelic pop experience,” and nods their head at everyday life and the good and bad experiences that come with it, as inspiration for the project. One experience in particular jumps out to Nordlund when unraveling what stimulated the debut record. The vocalist recalls a moment in his room two years ago when he found himself stagnant, staring at his wall and attempting to write a song.

“I had this thing on my wall,” Nordlund said. “I kept looking at it and getting really freaked out by it…stay trippy weirdo.”

Hence, the bands’ collective favorite track on the debut project, “Stay Trippy Weirdo,” was born. Most of the songs on the tape are written by Nordlund, with others being a team songwriting outcome.

“I couldn’t have done it alone,” said Nordlund. “These songs are nothing without any of The Baxbys.”

This sonic coordination between the band appears to stretch beyond the music, and more alongside the cemented respect they have for one another not only as musicians, but as friends.

“We all need to have significant creative input in each song,” Miller said. “That’s what makes it unique. All of us have different music tastes, when you combine all of them that creates something special.”

The band’s songwriting process involves occasionally writing on their own, sometimes together, yet always circling back to one another to bounce off ideas and make the necessary changes before their final cut. Only through this airtight synergy are the group able to communicate their auditory holy grails.

“The goal is to emulate certain feelings not only through lyrics but the rhythm, melody and everything,” said Miller about the upcoming EP.

For The Baxbys, music is and always has been the primary — and only — goal. Music without accessories, without superficiality.

“We’re focused on music only and we don’t want to get involved with any of the extra hassle,” Miller said. “The purpose of this isn’t to stand for anything, we could stand for things in our music, but the purpose of this is to just make good music.”

The moment the band first relished in the fruit of their labor came in the form of what should have been an ambulance, literally. When I asked their favorite live show they’ve played thus far, the band members shared sheepish smiles before simultaneously replying, “the heart attack show.”

It was the first show the band played in Amherst, and they began the night by setting up outside in the yard of the house they were performing at. Before long, they received a noise complaint, but proceeded to coerce the caller into letting them play a few more songs — until the police showed up. The band received help from others and moved all their equipment into the basement of the house and proceeded with the show. The basement was incredibly dense and proved to be much more packed than an open yard.

“We’d never felt that yet, we started playing and it was very loud, it was a lot of energy, it was super fun,” Rosenfeld said. “Then towards the second to last song, I had a heart condition called supra-ventricular tachycardia, and my heart rate went up to a very dangerous level.”

Rosenfeld was not taken away in an ambulance, and thankfully suffered no injury, yet the tale of what could have been lives on in “the heart attack show.”

“That was the most euphoric I’ve felt after a show,” Miller said. “It was our first real energetic show where everyone was really into it.”

In addition to “the heart attack show,” the band looks at the spring 2022 semester as housing some of their favorite shows. Sciucco said he loves the gigs they’ve played this semester, especially beginning to feel more professional. For them, it became feeling less about setup and more about rolling in and comfortably playing a good show.

“We don’t have to think about it as much as those early shows where we were nervous like, ‘Are we going to nail the song? Did we set up correctly?’” Sciucco said. “As we came back this semester, it feels as though we are already miles ahead of where we were last semester.”

The connection the band makes with the audience is unequivocally the most remarkable component of the live shows for the group. Meeting new people and making unique connections are something they all cherish.

“I enjoy the response from the crowd, it makes me feel happy that we’re giving people a good time without going to a stereotypical party where everyone just comes and goes,” Miller said. “They’re actually there to enjoy something.”

The Baxbys’ only desire is to be seen as the musicians that they are and constantly evolve themselves into the most skilled artists they can be.

“I want us to get to a very advanced point and not have to do anything except for art,” Rosenfeld said.

Sciucco mirrors this sentiment.

“I just want to be able to live comfortably as a musician, to be able to not worry about finances,” he said. “I like to live a very filling life, I can’t have a lot of free time. So, to be able to have time filled and live comfortably with music would be the dream.”

The goal for The Baxbys is neither fortune nor fame. It is merely to be remembered as four men who loved what they did — and did it well. The group wants to make their listeners feel a way they have never felt before, through their music, they want to inspire nostalgia and all the most vigorous feelings of simply being human.

“I want to do the same thing that Weezer did for me, hopefully to another kid,” Nordlund said. “I want one of my friends in college to have a son in a band and he forms a band with my son and it keeps going.”

To keep up with The Baxbys, follow them on Instagram and keep your eyes peeled for their debut EP, “Meet The Baxbys.”

You can catch the band compete at UMass Got Talent on Thursday for a chance to secure themselves as an opening act for Jack Harlow at the spring concert. The Baxbys will perform at the Monkey Bar at 10:45 p.m. the same night.

Astghik Dion can be reached at [email protected].