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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Spotlight: Members of Student Band Frank Reflect on Battle of the Bands Win

Members of Frank reflect on the band's history and look ahead to their performance at Green Key.

frank-bandmates.jpg
Courtesy of Izzy Vratimos

My favorite nights always include a performance by a student band. The sticky fraternity floors transform into dancing and stomping grounds, vibrating from the music blasting out of the speakers. I dance in the mosh pit with my friends as sweat streams down our faces and strangers slam against us. During these precious hours I forget about my classes, commitments and stressors, but the musicians put in hours of work preparing their sets for the shows. They learn the music, coordinate with the venue hosts and do a pre-show sound check. Although each show matters, there is one that requires extra preparation and dedication: Battle of the Bands.

Every spring term, a select few campus bands — who students vote for to enter and perform at the competition — participate in Battle of the Bands for the chance to open for Green Key’s headliner. At this competition, each band plays about three songs for an audience of students lucky enough to get tickets — this year, the tickets were rumored to have sold out in 90 seconds. Frank won this year’s Battle of the Bands, and they will open for Green Key headliner Neon Trees, an alternative band with hits such as 2010’s “Animals” and 2011’s “Everybody Talks.” 

Currently, Frank consists of eight members — singer Izzy Vratimos ’23, Isaac Weber ’22 on guitar, Ida Claude ’22 on electric violin, singer Sheil Sharma ’23, Eva Legge ’22 on piano, Eli Hecht ’23 on bass, Jason Wang ’22 on drums and Mateo Oyola ’24 on saxophone. 

Hecht and Wang met through Coast Jazz Orchestra at Dartmouth in the fall of 2019, according to Hecht. They then started playing music together, adding others to their group over time.

“Isaac joined [Summer 2021], and then Mateo joined at some point last year. And then over the course of this year, we’ve sort of been like, ‘oh, I know this person who wants to jam,’ and then someone jams with us, and if we get along with them well, we bring them into the band.” Hecht explained. “This is the fourth year of it, which is crazy. But it’s had a lot of different versions over that time, and this is a really fun one.”

Several of the band’s current members are new to the group. Hetch explained that at the start of the year only three members of the band had not already graduated, and the group had to recruit new members Vratimos, Claude, Legge and Weber over the past two terms.

“We honestly weren’t even sure that we were going to do it this year,” Hecht said. “[But] we started playing music together again and it was like, ‘oh no, we really enjoy this,’ and we want to get started.” 

Although this uncertainty is sometimes a source of stress, Weber said that he enjoys the fluid nature of Frank.

“I feel like there’s never been a really concrete plan of what [the] band’s going to look like,” Weber said. “But it always just worked out for the last couple years, which has been awesome.” 

Each time they thought the band was dead, new friends-of-friends joined, helping revive the group while giving each iteration its own fresh spin. They may still play under the name of “Frank,” but the Frank of today is almost completely different from the original Frank.

Despite the yearly changeover, the band has always been able to blend together and find their “sound” easily, according to Vratimos. 

“I think we were all kind of surprised at how well we meshed musically together,” Vratimos said. “Without even really extensive amounts of practice, it just clicked. It’s kind of cool how it was all, like, happenstance.” 

Their music may blend effortlessly, but their schedules do not, Vratimos said. They haven’t even found a time to celebrate their recent victory.

“It can be difficult to find a time that we’re all free because we’re all relatively busy people, and there’s eight of us,” Vratimos explained. “We do a lot of late nights and random pull-togethers if people can jam. We do like two hours a week, if that. And then we really use sound checks to our advantage.”

Flexibility is the key to Frank’s shows, according to Vratimos. A chaotic week before a performance may inhibit their ability to practice, but that limited preparation provides the band with more freedom to improvise during shows, which Sharma noted makes their performances particularly enjoyable. 

“It’s a very fun way to play music. Instead of locking every single thing in, [we] just … jam it out,” Sharma said.  

Even though the students have been playing with one another for different amounts of time, their strong technical and artistic backgrounds provide a solid foundation for quickly building trust, Weber said. 

Claude, a classically trained violinist, said that the deep respect and confidence they have in one another allows them to let go and have fun during performances. 

“This is so fun because I only joined Frank halfway through the winter, and it’s much more improvisatory, which is a challenge,” Claude said. “It feels really creative.”

“We literally just have to relax and trust each other,” Weber added. “That’s been so much fun because it’s forced me out of my comfort zone, as somebody who really likes to know what’s going on. To have that uncertainty has been uncomfortable, but now it’s my favorite part of Frank. It’s so much fun to get on stage and know that even if we mess up, it’s gonna be pretty cool because everybody’s so talented.”

The audience also helps create a lighthearted atmosphere by dancing, cheering and singing along. Frank tries to promote a fun environment by catering to the audience at each concert, according to Vratimos. 

“For frat shows, we try to choose a good amount [of songs] that are more dancey crowd-pleasers, [but] we still try to put our own spin on it,” Vratimos said. 

For Battle of the Bands, Frank decided to play three fan-favorites: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder and “Forget You” by Ceelo Green. Not only are these songs popular with the student body, but Frank has experience playing them at prior shows, Hetch stated. 

The week of Battle of the Bands was a chaotic week for the individual members of Frank, according to Hecht. 

“It was one of those weeks where we just couldn’t really find time to rehearse,” he said. 

However, he noted the positives of limited preparation, as “it led to a kind of freshness to the set.” Hetch explained that last year, Frank spent the entire week before the competition perfecting their set. They played well and made second place, but this year they approached the battle from a more relaxed stance.

“I think our attitude going into it was just to have fun and see what happens, and [we were] very pleasantly surprised and happy,” Vratimos said.

Legge summarized the band’s philosophy, stating that “sometimes … I forget that playing music’s supposed to be fun, and I’m doing this all for fun … Why stress about it? We’re all doing it because we want to.” 

Frank enjoys performing in fraternities, but all members spoke highly about performing for Green Key. Opening for Neon Trees on a large stage with professional sound equipment is a dream come true, said Vratimos. Various members shared similar feelings, but the one word they all had in common was “excited.”

When the drums begin to tap out a rhythm and the guitar strums its first chord on Friday’s Green Key concert, you can find me in a heated mosh pit, pushing to get closer to the stage.