Ithaca band Maple Hill just released its first full-length, studio-recorded album, titled “Headspace,” on Feb. 5, but its journey began 10 years ago when founding members St. John Faulkner, 20, and Kristian Wood-Gaiger, 19, first became friends.
The pair met through a mutual friend, and when they began playing music together, their bond quickly grew. Throughout their friendship, they became involved with different bands, always together, but none quite seemed to stick. They reached their sophomore year of high school still unsatisfied with their less-than-successful musical involvement, so they decided to take matters into their own hands.
“We had done some less successful bands before that we had sort of tried on, but we really wanted to take it a little bit more seriously with this one,” said Faulkner, who plays drums for the group. “Especially in terms of recording, we had never come out with something that we were very happy with. We knew that we wanted to do it the right way.”
After auditioning countless musicians, Ithaca local Max Gaeta and Lansing local Joel Beckwith were recruited to play lead guitar and bass, respectively, and thus Maple Hill was born. The band’s name was inspired by the former name of Wood-Gaiger’s apartment complex.
Maple Hill officially came together in summer 2012. They are self-described on their website as a “young, vibey alt-rock/pop-punk band.” They look up to bands such as Green Day, Mayday Parade and The Wonder Years.
“We’re alternative rock with pop-punk influences,” Beckwith said. “We’re melody based and very lyrical but also focused on heavy guitar parts and hard-hitting, full-band parts.”
Since its formation, the band has played an abundance of shows in the Ithaca area. In 2014, it released a four-song EP titled “A Moment Alone.” This past summer, the musicians extended their reach past Ithaca and toured the Northeast, playing shows in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The summer was a busy time for the members of Maple Hill. Not only were they touring, but they traveled across the country to record “Headspace” in a professional studio in California. Wood-Gaiger said they connected with the studio through another local band, State Champs, and were offered a deal to record that they could not refuse, so they jumped at the opportunity.
“It was amazing,” Faulkner said. “You take your three best friends, and you go … to California in the summer. You live and breathe punk rock in this studio — for two months — where some of the bands that you look up to have created their breakthrough albums, and it was just really the most inspiring thing that we ever could have done at that point.”
Wood-Gaiger, vocalist and guitarist, said the band had a specific concept for the album from the very beginning. The members wanted it to be cohesive and convey a certain message that represented where the members of the band are in their lives as young men learning to become adults.
“We want people to know it’s all going to be all right,” Wood-Gaiger said. “You can change your perception to make everything OK. You can change your headspace. That’s what it’s all about: changing your mindset for the problem or situation you’re in.”
The members cited “All I Dream About,” a hard-hitting rock ballad, and “Never Enough,” a fast-paced, high-energy tune, as some of their favorite tracks on the album.
In August 2015, Maple Hill filmed a music video for “Stomping Ground,” the sixth song off “Headspace.” The video was shot by Ithaca College sophomore John Earl, a personal friend of the band, and edited by Beckwith.
“I met Joel in 2014, and then we all started hanging out after a while, and then they asked me to shoot [the video] this summer,” Earl said. “Shooting was a great experience. The goal was to show how much fun Ithaca is and how it is their ‘stomping ground.’ We just wanted to make a video that showed how much fun the guys have together. We just went to some of their favorite locations, and I pretty much documented what they are like with or without the cameras.”
Maple Hill is looking for big things to come. Like other bands that have come out of Ithaca — such as X Ambassadors, the alternative rock band made up of Ithaca natives that has made it big in the mainstream music world this year — the members of Maple Hill hope to slowly but surely gain success and recognition as they continue to grow and make more music.
“Right now we’re all in college, so it’s difficult to organize and plan things with the band simultaneously,” Beckwith said. “But in the next few years, with the way the band’s been going, we’re all really hoping to become a more full-time touring band.”
Maple Hill will be performing its first show since the release of “Headspace” at 10 p.m. Feb. 27 at The Nines in Ithaca. The show is open to all ages with a $5 cover charge. Their album is available on Spotify and can be purchased at maple-hill.bandcamp.com.