by Summer Mengarelli
A brand new campus band was formed in December 2016. After a simple “Hey, we should do a pop album together,” sophomore Adam Lamb and junior Mandy Pennington began to co-write songs, a project that would eventually manifest into a lab band called A.M. — complete with an EP, an album, and multiple Blackroom shows. The band takes its name from Adam and Mandy’s initials and symbolizes the morning time, as well as the fact that the band’s first three songs were written between the hours of 12 and 6 AM. This imagery of a new day fits well, as A.M. has not only become a unique addition to the music scene on campus, but has also been a new experience for the musicians and producers involved in the project.
Both Adam and Mandy played keys and sang, while Brian Gertler, a 2016 Greenville alum, played drums, and freshman Drew Curry played bass. Mandy said, “This is probably the most skilled group of musicians I’ve ever played and written with on campus.” They also worked with two producers, junior Micah Dixon and freshman Noah Schlosser, throughout the studio recording process and the creation of live tracks. Though the band members and producers were not all close friends before A.M.’s inception, working on the project together drew them closer together. Adam said, “The team members we’ve been able to work with, band members and producers alike, have been such a blessing to us and have done really good work. That has made our job easier, as far as putting the pieces together, and it has made it even more fun for Mandy and me to see this style of music grow on campus.”
Adam and Mandy co-wrote all of the songs on A.M.’s first album during December and January; though many of them had to be written via FaceTime, all of the songs for their album were written by the start of the spring semester. Of their experience writing in an unfamiliar genre, Mandy said, “We set out in the beginning to write mainstream pop music with strictly electronic elements, but we wrote all of the songs on piano, so they ended up having a less mainstream feel once we were done producing them. The instrumentation is definitely something you’d hear on the radio, but some of our chord changes, lyrics, and overall complexity are not basic pop elements. Though it wasn’t originally what we set out to do, I think the style is unique, and definitely something that hasn’t been present on campus until this point.” She continued, “You know, you have the classic ‘Greenville sound,’ which is basically some form of rock. Recently, we’ve had The Great Indoors, Nick Bifano and the Innocence; even Union Grove is a form of alternative hard rock, but the campus is desperately lacking pop music. Bringing that to campus was something Adam and I set out to do.”
While A.M.’s studio recordings incorporate electronic bass and drums, their first live performance on February 14 featured only Mandy and Adam on vocals and keys. Adam said, “I was very pleased with our first show, and the dynamic Mandy and I were able to create with just our voices and a piano. Though it is very different from the style we typically play in a full band setting, it created a pleasant space to introduce our new songs in a more genuine sense.” Once Drew and Brian joined A.M. for live performances, the band’s sound continued to develop. Drew explained, “I was asked to come on board as bass player for this project to help fill out the sound, specifically for live shows. I think we’re able to capture a fun energy while on stage. We try to stay true to the original recordings of the songs, but enjoy throwing in some fun things when we play live.”
Mandy and Adam have both enjoyed their music evolving with the additions of Drew and Brian, as well as Micah and Noah’s help recording and producing. Mandy said, “Brian and Drew are the live manifestations of the electronic-type bass and drums we have on the recordings. We get a little bit of a different vibe having drums and bass played live, but it’s a vibe that we like a lot. Micah and Noah have been lifesavers in this whole process. Initially, Adam and I had the mindset of ‘we can learn Logic, we’ll make tracks, it’ll be great,’ but were not at all aware of the complexity or time commitment of making electronic tracks. I can honestly say I have spent more time on the music for this band than anything else this semester — it takes long nights in the studio night after night after night to create just one track. Adam and I could never have done it without Micah and Noah. They bring not only technological talent to the table, but they have great ears and come up with little lead lines or patches that bring our songs to life. Working with them has been a great learning experience for all of us.”
A.M.’s first single, “CityTalk,” was released on March 10. Mandy said, “Musically, it’s been an experiment for me. I’m a sucker for piano ballads, so it took a lot of focus (for both Adam and I) to write specifically in a genre that we’re not used to. I listened to a lot of popular artists and tried to ‘dumb down’ my lyrics and melodies, for lack of better words. It’s been a growing experience for both of us, but it’s such a rewarding feeling when you hear your song produced for the first time. When Adam and I heard the finished version of CityTalk, it was incredible. I thought back to when we first sat down and wrote it, and hearing the transformation was such a cool thing.” Soon after, A.M. released a four-song EP entitled “Aurora” on April 3, and they produced and released a full-length album on May 15.
“Give me ice and fire
Deeper and higher
Louder and closer
Shaking my bones.”
— Feel Again