Happy To Be Here is a new band comprised of four Binghamton University sophomores. The evolution of the group started in their freshman year and has since drawn the four together.

The band is comprised of Charlie Strecker, a sophomore majoring in psychology, Ryan Nostro, an undeclared sophomore, Sonnie Picallo, a sophomore majoring in philosophy and Lillian Butler, a sophomore majoring in music. Each member is well-versed in various music forms, with Strecker mainly on piano and guitar, Nostro on the drums, Picallo on bass, ukulele and vocals and Butler on guitar, bass and vocals.

Strecker and Picallo met in the fall semester of their freshman year through a mutual friend and started jamming together. After establishing their musical rapport, the duo performed at an open mic night in Appalachian Collegiate Center under the name “Go Funk Yourself.” After seeing them perform, Nostro, who was looking for a band to play with, joined as their drummer. Around this time, Butler and Picallo met in a philosophy class and formed their own “mini band” called Headaches. Knowing of Butler’s music talents, Picallo later referred her to sub-in for Strecker, who was sick the night before a gig. Since then, the four have found a musical connection that wouldn’t be the same without each piece they individually bring.

After connecting, the group’s final endeavor was coming up with a band name to represent their goals. They eventually agreed on Happy To Be Here, a name that represents their values and goals as performers.

Picallo said the band intends to make their music fun for a live audience to participate in.

“We play a good mix of originals and covers, but I think our sort of primary objective is definitely to make people dance,” Picallo said. “We want to make groovy, funky, but also pleasant music that can be enjoyed by a lot of different types of people. We make music that we enjoy playing and enjoy crafting.”

Even with this ambition and a positive outlook, there are unavoidable hurdles that come with such a commitment. Butler spoke about this and her personal workload.

“It’s super hard, not only having all different schedules, [but] there are just hours of [us saying] ‘Maybe we could meet at this time,’” Butler said. “I am in the Hinman College Council and work 20 hours a week. So it’s super hard, but that’s also just what college is, I suppose. Just balancing a bunch of stuff. And you make time for what you want to do.”

Their love for music seems to make this dedication all the more worthwhile, along with the enjoyment that they get when collaborating together. According to the group, the time spent not playing is just as important as their time playing as they can build their “rapport.” This rapport the group holds allows for a space to take musical risks, translating from practice to performance. Nostro highlighted the importance of improvisation during their rehearsals.

“We’ll take a single chord or key and just see what we can do and try to surprise ourselves and expand what we know, what we can do with our instruments,” Nostro said. “As well as a lot of impressions.”

Picallo added to this idea by speaking about the group’s notorious improvisation feature.

“One of the signature acts of Happy To Be Here is interactions with the crowd,” Picallo said. “We want to make sure that the process of songwriting is very collaborative. So oftentimes at our live shows, we’ll ask the audience for an emotion and have Lilly on the spot come up with lyrics and we’ll all come up with an instrumental backing to that in a span of less than a minute.”

The uplifting nature of their performances seems to work successfully in part to their engaging audience.

“I was in a band in high school and I will say the atmosphere back then until now is extremely different,” Nostro said. “In college, the crowd is cheering you on, like always. And they’re dancing, it’s always a good vibe.”

Butler, Picallo and Strecker each shared a similar story about how college has expanded their freedom to perform without judgment.

“I was also in a band in high school, and it was a Catholic school band,” Strecker said. “And I remember our only gig was a coffeehouse performance but I didn’t want to say the curse words because it was going to be an issue. In college, I just feel liberated musically, and also in how I act.”

The band said playing as a collective has furthered their perspectives as well, allowing them to expand as artists and musicians, creating songs and reaching goals that otherwise seemed less accessible.

“I’d say I am really, really happy to have found a group of people that I can collaborate with because I am really used to making music on my own and I really like being around other people to bounce ideas off of,” Picallo said. “The ability to work with other people who have different perspectives and who play different instruments means you get access to so many ideas.”

The rest of the group appeared to have a similar outlook to the group dynamic.

“Rehearsing with the band is, like, my favorite thing I do here,” Strecker said. “We understand each other and that makes the [creative] process so much more fun. When you are working with multiple people, songs just come together like that. It’s like a confluence of ideas that I think is very unique.”

This strongly rooted group dynamic has come a long way since their initial formation, which didn’t even feature a drum set at first. However, the band is pleased with their progress and recognition on campus and Downtown Binghamton.

“Just the fact that that is happening is a good sign,” Strecker said. “I think if we keep doing what we are doing, keep putting ourselves out there, I think that we are going to get bigger and maybe someday play in front of larger crowds. Personally, music is a passion of mine and something I want to do with my life. I want to be a music therapist one day.”

If you are looking for a fun time and music from a creative group of student artists, you should check out the upcoming performances of Happy To Be Here. They will be performing at a music festival on 17 Davis St. on Nov. 13 with a $5 cover to support their band. The band can also be supported through their Instagram.

“From humble beginnings of the laundry room and playing on pots and pans to now,” Nostro said. “It’s been exponential, so I intend to ride this as high as we can go.”