A lot can be accomplished in one week. A paper can be written, a book can be read and a television series can be watched. Or, friends with little to no musical background can start a band. KWK, a relatively new student band at Binghamton University, did just that when their friend approached them with a musical proposition: put on a concert for the first time ever in only one week.
The history of KWK starts with Carter McEneany, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, who taught his friends how to play instruments to form a band for a class presentation in high school. He played the drums and guitar for the past 11 years and his KWK bandmates joked he was ‘the conductor of this whole thing.’
“I’ve always wanted to be in bands with my friends,” McEneany said. “One of the things that link me and all my friends is we all like really good music. We all like listening to music and everyone finds out in due time that they like playing music as well.”
Jack Widor, a junior majoring in political science, was one of the friends recruited by McEneany to form a band senior year of high school. Widor, who joked his time playing the tuba did not count, was first introduced to music and taught by McEneany.
“We were a pretty ragtag band,” Widor said. “I didn’t know how to play the drums. Carter learned how to teach people how to play instruments from that experience and then he taught our band [KWK] how to play too.”
After graduating from high school, McEneany and Widor befriended their roommates in Mountainview College freshman year at BU. The students quickly bonded and lived together the following year, which is when the idea of forming a band became a topic of conversation, albeit in a joking manner.
Fast-forward to August 2021: the seven friends moved in together in a house off campus and everyone began dabbling in some instruments. McEneany then told the group of friends that he booked a show for their band to play at. The only problem was the band did not exist yet, meaning they had one week to rehearse and prepare for the stage.
“We were joking about how we should start a band, but this is when [COVID-19] was happening, so it seemed like a far-fetched idea at the time,” McEneany said. “When we moved into the house in August and I told everyone, ‘Hey, we’re going to start a band and we’re playing a show in a week. So, however we want to go about this, we’ll figure it out, but that’s the end goal.’ Nobody really raised any concerns or anything, so we just kind of went with it.”
The house they live in is perfect, according to the band, with a massive backyard for concerts and a basement to practice in. The band hopes to host collaborative shows with other local bands in the upcoming year after the success they have had the past two semesters.
The bandmates joked their third show was when their performances began improving, but the first two were a little rough. KWK played four covers at the first show and has been increasing its repertoire ever since. The band typically plays alternative rock and classic rock songs, with The Strokes and Grateful Dead as top choices to cover and inspirations.
Nico Miradoli, a junior majoring in business administration, is one of two lead singers in KWK and has admired The Strokes for years.
“I like The Strokes a lot because I grew up knowing their first album since my dad always showed me a lot of different alternative rock artists,” Miradoli said. “They grew on me even more last year from my friends playing them. Once we realized we could actually replicate these songs it became really rewarding.”
Widor discussed the influence of the Grateful Dead.
“The Grateful Dead have been influential for how we are as a band because on one hand we do shorter songs that are more complex like The Strokes,” Widor said. “But we also usually do at least one longer song that has more instrumental solo and free-form, which is also something a lot of our members like to mess around with.”
Since that first show months ago, KWK has played around 15 more shows with larger and more energetic crowds than ever. Their shows have mostly consisted of backyard concerts and house parties. KWK creates a strong connection with its audiences throughout a performance and likes to blur the lines between an audience and a band.
“We call ourselves a musical collective,” Widor said. “One of the favorite things people have said about our shows is we are just like the audience. We are just normal people playing and they get to watch.”
Regan St. Clair, a junior majoring in environmental science, even lost his microphone to the crowd in one show and the audience began singing the words.
“Our friend on the floor plugged the microphone back in and gave it to me,” St. Clair said. “The audience thought I was doing one of those, ‘Hey, you guys sing now,’ but it honestly just broke. The crowd was raging and finished ‘505’ for me. After we sang a song, everyone would scream for so long and it was insane.”
A one-of-a-kind seven-member band, KWK emulates rock star energy with an ambiance like the Beatles, tones of The Strokes and St. Clair’s stage presence inspired by Julian Casablancas. Their confidence and performances are strong and impressive, which is well fitted for a new band with novice musicians.
Anthony DiBlasi, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, learned how to play the bass to be a member of the band and started with zero knowledge. It was no easy feat to go from musical newbies to talented performers. DiBlasi and the band rehearsed and practiced tirelessly to improve their skills, even if it required a bit of convincing sometimes.
“A lot of the times our rehearsal energy is reluctant,” DiBlasi said. “Reluctant and angry, until we get going and it sounds really good and then we can’t stop.”
After getting the hang of covers, the band began composing their first original song, “Take.” The song is reminiscent of sounds from The Strokes, Grateful Dead and The Smiths. The first bits of the song was written by one of KWK’s guitarists, Logan Shepardson. McEneany and Max Lieberman, a junior majoring in business administration, who plays the keys and saxophone, built upon that. Finally, St. Clair and DiBlasi jumped in with the lyrics.
All in all, their songwriting process is highly collaborative and is the only song KWK performs where every member of the band is playing on it. The collaboration allows the bandmates to break some rules and include improvisation in their shows.
“My favorite part of the song is the jam,” DiBlasi said. “In between verses and chorus, we go into a two-measure jam every time. It’s the only part that changes every time.”
KWK is no stranger to mixing up a song to suit their own musicality and improvising mid-performance.
“My favorite song to play is ‘Mr. Brightside’ — because I like the way we switch it up from the original,” Widor said. “One, it’s easier to play and drum, [and] two, it sounds really good the way we switch it up in the end.”
The band hopes to perform on Long Island this summer but is excited to return to the stage next fall with new original songs under their belt as well. KWK hopes to release some original music in an EP on Spotify, which fans can look out for on their Instagram, @kwkband [HYPERLINK – https://www.instagram.com/kwkband/], which is also filled with edits and performance coverage filmed by their friend Matt Kaye, a sophomore at the University of Buffalo majoring in communications, videographer and an honorary member of the band.
The success KWK had this past year had destroyed the popular image of musicians having innate talent and becoming musical stars from a young age. Beyond future shows and original music, the group is ambitious and prepared to take Binghamton by storm, but they jokingly said fans should expect even more from them.
“We’ll definitely do a world tour by spring,” St. Clair said.