We’re all folked
Bands start a million different ways. Sometimes somebody responds to the perfect Craigslist ad. Sometimes an intrepid songwriter gets on the phone and calls up some of her favorite musicians to help her perform a few of her songs. But often the best bands don’t start as bands, but rather started as something else: friends.
Such was the case for Reno folk rock band Whitebulbs. The band members are all college aged, between 19 and 22, and most of them are students at the University of Nevada, Reno, studying technical, science-oriented subjects like electrical engineering and geology. They knew each from playing together in the North Valleys High School marching band. And they used to just jam together, just playing music for fun.
“Eventually we started trying out our own written songs and thought we had a really good flow together and decided we wanted to do a band,” said vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter Aaron Foelsch.
The band consists of Foelsch, lead guitarist Kyle Dazey, drummer Zach Compton, upright bassist Ken Shepherd and multi-intstrumentalist Andy Pavlu, who plays harmonica and trombone, adding some unusual instrumental colors. Everybody contributes vocals from time to time. Foelsch writes the bulk of the material, but Shepherd and Dazey also contribute songwriting.
The band members say that they’ve heard Whitebulbs compared to musical groups as diverse of Dropkick Murphys, Mumford & Sons and Mountain Goats. But Foelsch says big influences for him include Andrew Jackson Jihad and many of the bands in Reno’s own folk-punk scene, like Last to Leave and Deadly Gallows. Whitebulbs is definitely on the folk end of the folk-punk spectrum. The guitars are acoustic and the approach to songwriting is sincere.
“The most important thing in songwriting, to me, is emotional conveyance,” said Foelsch. “So, if there’s anything in my life that I want to share, or bridge a connection between people—I want fans and people listening to my music to be able to connect to it, or experience something new that they haven’t felt before.”
He says he writes whenever inspiration strikes.
“A good majority of my songs, I’ll be laying down in bed, about to go to sleep, and boom, it’ll come to me,” he said. “I used to let it go, but then I started getting up, grab the iPhone, start recording, try to get it out. It’ll usually be like I come up with the mood first, just based on how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking about whatever situation. Then I’ll put words to it after I’ve got the general feeling down.”
The band name was Shepherd’s idea.
“I was pondering an idea for a band name once, and I was looking around, and I looked at a lightbulb,” said Shepherd. “What is a light? Light is white, and light is everything.”
“Ken is our punman-slash-philosopher, apparently,” said Foelsch.
Compton plays different sizes of drum kit depending on the venue. For more intimate venues, he uses a stripped-down kit, just kick, snare and hi-hat, which he calls “The Pocket Jammer.” For “The rocker,” he adds a ride cymbal. For larger venues, like the Alley or the Knitting Factory, he plays a full kit, with toms, which he calls “The Party.”
Whitebulbs has a new 14-song, self-titled album, recorded at GCR Studios, a new local recording studio where Foelsch works. And they’re currently using Kickstarter to raise money for a West Coast tour later this summer.
“I just want to get out there,” said Foelsch. “I love Reno. It’s my home, but I want to spread. We just have so much fun, and we want to make everyone else at our shows have fun with us. Every show, we try to make it into a party. I want to bring that everywhere I can, anywhere people want to listen to us.”