On a chilly night in November, a few amps, instrument bags and a drum set lie in the corner of an outdoor basketball court. Under the orange utility lights, four of the six members of West Emerald practice for their slot in this year’s Battle of the Bands. Junior Michael Simmons, a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, brims with contagious enthusiasm while talking about the band.
“I’m expecting a night of fun,” Simmons said. “I’m not nervous because I’m just really looking forward to performing in front of people and getting our music out there.”
Simmons and junior Luke Stirton write songs for the band and are passionate about their compositions. The band will play both originals and covers of well-loved songs from bands like Mumford and Sons and the Decemberists.
“Every band gets a thirty minute time slot [in Battle of the Bands]— that’s about five or six songs, so we’re thinking two originals, four covers,” Simmons said.
Along with writing original songs, the band enjoys incorporating various instruments into their repertoire. Sophomore Joe Galbraith quietly practices mandolin riffs.
“Come to Battle of the Bands to hear him rock out on the flute,” Simmons said.
Simmons added that they also play the xylophone, drums, the fiddle and tin whistle. In the past, the band has also featured euphonium and djembe cameos. While the looming Battle entertains students, it also influences the bands themselves.
“West Emerald came into existence for the purpose of playing at last year’s Battle of the Bands, ” Simmons said. “I knew I was going to start a band, I just didn’t know what kind of band.”
The band’s oldest two members, roommates Stirton and Simmons, have jammed together since their freshman year. Other members are new this year, and Galbraith joined only a month ago.
Sophomore Zachary Curtis is in high demand and will be playing drums for West Emerald and at least one other band.
“He’s the only drummer at UD that owns drums,” Simmons said.
Curtis played for a hard rock/heavy metal cover band last year, which placed second over West Emerald.
“It was debaucherous … I believe [band-member] Sal [Salvatore Caputi] chugged a beer mid-song,” Curtis said.
Unlike band battles in movies or in high-profile venues, UD’s event focuses less on competition and more on having fun while sharing music. Given the friendly atmosphere, members like Curtis, who play in multiple bands, are considered migrating artists rather that traitors.
“West Emerald is a very fluid band,” Galbraith said.
Lots of hard work and preparation goes into putting on a show, but for West Emerald, it’s more fun than hard work. The band closed the conversation with an impromptu song. In the shadow of the basketball hoop, Simmons’ rumbling bass melded with coordinated mandolin and guitar fingerpicking, while Curtis kept the beat. With the musicians’ fingers flying, one thing is certain: Battle of the Bands will be an event students won’t soon forget.