From losing a member to scoring gigs at Cyber Cafe West, student band Liberty Belle and the Union Boys have faced many ups and downs in the past year. The alternative/hard rock trio features “Southern Belle” Laura Keim, a junior majoring in music, on bass and lead vocals, alongside Union Boys Andrew Williamson, a graduate student studying business, on vocals and drums and Harrison Teich, an undeclared freshman, on guitar. The trio opened this semester with a Late Nite show in the Undergrounds, illuminating the stage with glowing drumsticks and head-banging solos.
Release: Your guitarist left the project recently. What made you want to continue after losing an integral member?
Andrew Williamson: The music goes on. Me and [ex-guitarist] Graham [Mentis] talked about it, and he was fine with us continuing. He said he would help us find people to replace him and offered to teach them the songs.
Laura Keim: I want to pursue music in the future. Music is like my whole everything, and to me this band isn’t just for fun — it’s practice for when I do this for real. Graham understood that and it just wasn’t his thing, which is fine. It was sad losing him, but we got back up and we’re going strong.
R: Has Binghamton’s music scene changed how you play or think about playing live music?
LK: I think in a certain way, because at home I had an extremely strong following — my dad’s a music teacher and runs his own business. So every show I did, my dad and his entire business would show up and it’d be great, but coming here it was like I had to start from scratch. I hate to say I’m a daddy’s girl, but my dad was always there to support me, and when I came here all of a sudden, I was alone and I had to think differently about performing. It’s definitely made me grow a lot as a musician, and I think about music differently now because it’s all about keeping people engaged when you play live because if you don’t, well, they’re gonna come to Late Nite for the free chips and walk away, go take a bus Downtown and get drunk at frats. So we’re constantly thinking about keeping transitions short between songs, and saying interesting stuff between songs to keep the audience engaged.
R: What do you wish could be different about the music scene here? Is it welcoming enough for new bands?
LK: I wish it was easier to get people to shows. Honestly, there are plenty of opportunities to get shows on campus like Late Nite and club stuff like WHRW [90.5 FM], BUMP (Binghamton Underground Music Presents), Frost Fest and Spring Fling, but it’d be cool if we could get more students to be aware. B-line and Facebook are a good way to get us out there and get people to come out to shows. I think the scene is welcoming for new bands but intimidating. Last semester, we played the Battle of the Bands and nobody knew us and it was really intimidating at first.
AW: It can be kinda terrifying, but it worked out well for us.
LK: We’re moving our shows Downtown, making our way. We really like playing house shows because they’re fun and a lot of people come out to see the bands play.
R: In what way has working at the WHRW radio station shaped your band?
LK: I would not have this band without WHRW. I met Andrew there and we played together one night and I played him one of our songs called “B.D.” and he loved it and then we started this band. And Harrison was an apprentice so we also met him at WHRW, so funny how it all worked out.
R: Laura, you study music at Binghamton University. How have you taken what you’ve learned about composition into writing rock music?
LK: Composition-wise, not at all, but I take voice lessons here and I’ve learned a lot. It’s opera, so I’ve learned a lot of technique and applied it to rock singing. It’s great, I don’t get tired, I don’t need to breathe and I’ve got a lot of power now when I sing.
AW: I actually majored in music, and I did put some of what I learned into what I play. I was learning some really weird conceptual stuff in class, like “make the drums sound like falling down stairs,” and I’ve incorporated some of it into my own work and some with Liberty Belle and the Union Boys.
R: Lastly, any non-musical influences?
LK: All my songs I write about are about my life and my friends’ lives, so it’s extremely emotional. Sometimes I feel like my audience knows me so well and I have no idea who they are. The people in the audience know everything about me and they feel it. It’s all heart and feelings. It’s genuine.
AW: That’s the best part about us, I feel like it’s real. When Laura shows me a new song, I connect with it and it’s not just because we’re best friends; it’s like I can see into her and the people who listen to our music can see into her, and I think it makes us very accessible and I think people like that.
Liberty Belle and the Union Boys will be playing at Fitzie’s Irish Pub on March 22 and at Cyber Cafe West on April 5. They plan to put out their debut album in the near future.