Within the doors of Just Be Cause, a not-for-profit community center on West State Street, five band members wait for their show to begin. The small, wood-panelled floor fills quickly as audience members slowly stroll in, eager and ready for the concert about to take place. Red and purple fluorescent lights cast shadows upon the band members’ faces, creating a haunting ambiance, which will prove appropriate for the music about to be played. The crowd’s silent fascination is suddenly interrupted by the first guitar riff. The viewers begin to hurl their bodies to the pulse of the drums, entranced by the sound of the instruments.
These musicians onstage are The Anderson Tapes, preparing for their most recent concert on Feb. 28. The group, a five-piece Ithaca College student metal band, recently followed up its May 2014 single, “Sleep Paralysis,” with an EP of the same name during their concert at JBC. Merging different genres with heavy metal, the student band brings a distinct form of music to campus: metal with an experimental twist.
The Anderson Tapes formed when junior Andrew Cavaciuti decided he wanted to start a metal band in college after being in one throughout high school. He said his passion for the genre was not satisfied solely by listening to the music. He said he wanted to play again.
“I like metal the most, so I really wanted to start up a band here,” Cavaciuti, who plays electric guitar in the group, said. “I had wanted to start a metal band for a while, so I was keeping my eye out for [prospective band members].”
Cavaciuti brought up the idea to a fellow music student, senior Gabe Millman, who was also interested in forming a metal band. Cavaciuti then emailed Millman, juniors Andrew Nave and Lindsey Orcutt, and senior Alec Fiorentino about the idea, and shortly after The Anderson Tapes assembled. Junior Christian Kmetz later replaced Orcutt, the band’s bass player, who is currently studying abroad in Amsterdam.
The band, named after a 1971 crime drama of the same name, began practicing in February 2014, playing two basement shows in the spring and recording songs as it went. The members found time to practice despite their busy schedules, each of them contributing their own distinct musical characteristics, Fiorentino said.
“We all bring different influences to the table … we have different flairs that come from our own musical preferences,” Fiorentino said.
The band uses metal as a blanket-term for its genre, despite its incorporation of other cross-genre influences. Each member’s distinct taste provides their music with an eclectic sound that is inspired by multiple genres, including, but not exclusive to, other metal bands. These influences include mathcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan and hardcore group The Devil Wears Prada, along with hip-hop and classical music.
As a result of these influences, The Anderson Tapes’ recently released EP is “fast, dark, spastic and heavy,” as Fiorentino put it. Millman, the band’s drummer, said the explorative nature of the music will often lead them into new, often unfamiliar, musical realms.
“We’re all a little bit out of our comfort zones,” Millman said. “We’re all trying new things.”
Millman said his metal drumming, in particular, is inspired by genres outside of metal, notably hip-hop.
“I use the beat of hip-hop to help my drumming,” Millman said. “It may not seem obvious but there are actually a lot of similarities [between hip-hop and metal].”
Though each member brings their own musical perspectives, putting together a track often begins as an individual pursuit. The band’s musical process usually starts out with Cavaciuti coming up with a song idea, composing his idea on music production software GarageBand and then sending it to the others to learn by ear. The songwriting process, the band has found, is better done individually, though the members said collaborating is important later in the process.
“Without saying it, we realized the ‘not too many cooks in the kitchen’ process worked the best,” Cavaciuti said. “It’s the easiest way to write music.”
Once they get together, members add their own input to the song to figure out what works and what does not. The outcome of their musical process has provided an eclectic mix of lyrical subject matter ranging from science fiction, to personal relationships, to out-of-body experiences. With Nave in the front, the songs consist of heavy, gravelly screams, paired with chugging guitars and aggressive, accelerating drumbeats.
Once these styles hit the stage, the band makes certain to bring the crowd into its performance. With the moshers and jolting beat of the drums, Nave and the rest of the band enjoy interacting with the crowd. He said he believes the band and the audience must feed off each other and there be no “fourth wall.”
“Putting yourself on the same level as the fans is really important,” Nave said.
Cavaciuti backed up Nave’s sentiments and said keeping the band’s energy high encourages the crowd to respond in a positive, equally energized way.
“If you’re very active as a band, that ignites the crowd to be active, too,” Cavaciuti said.
This energy that The Anderson Tapes embodies in their performances is wholly kinetic. Movement and metal go hand in hand, and this is not just a typical head-bob or foot-tap: Their whole bodies move with the music in synchronized chaos, visible as they took the stage at JBC.
As Nave screams into the microphone, the audience follows along, feeding off of the band’s dynamic, kinetic energy. Nave’s enthusiasm is unwavering, his performance barely stuttering even when, in one instance, he left the JBC stage to vomit. However, dedicated to his performance, Nave immediately returned after, unfazed.
The audience, moshing insatiably, began to feel the rhythm with more intensity as the set went on, with feet often found midair. The pushing and shoving acted as crowd unifiers and provided a sense of release, one the band feels, and values, after performing, Kmetz said.
“Cathartic, for some people, is getting into a softer groove,” Kmetz said. “But in this case, our meditative way of being cathartic is screaming our pure rage and pulling every muscle in our body.”
However, the band’s passion for metal is not always mirrored in the local area. Millman, who grew up in Ithaca, has played in metal bands throughout his high school and college career. He said his experiences in the Ithaca metal scene have been less than ideal, and said he doubts The Anderson Tapes would find itself at home in some of Ithaca’s more well-known venues.
“There’s never been a good local metal scene,” Millman said. “We could never play at The Nines or The Haunt.”
George Larson, the booking contact for The Nines, said that loud music, such as metal, could turn away potential customers. However, Larson said he is not opposed booking the acts.
“I give almost any [local] band a shot because thats how you start,” Larson said. “It could be completely inappropriate for the venue but we’ll see how [the band does], its all a matter of people willing to come out and support you.”
Ultimately, Cavaciuti said a lack of interest he has seen for metal bands in the area often results in lower audience attendance. However, Fiorentino said the number of attendees is not the main motivator for why they play.
“It’s as much for our own satisfaction as it is for any listeners,” Fiorentino said. “I know we’re not going to draw a large crowd, [but] we’re not going to change what we do to satisfy someone else.”
Despite a local lack of interest in metal, Ithaca Underground, a not-for-profit organization that supports lesser-known local bands and eccentric music genres, booked The Anderson Tapes for its first non-basement gig Feb. 2, though that was canceled due to severe weather conditions. Their most recent performance was Feb. 28 at JBC, whereupon they released their EP on bandcamp.com.
Bubba Crumrine, the IU president of the board, picks the lineup for the shows. Crumrine said IU has been booking metal bands since before he joined the organization in 2008. Even with the limited audience interest, he believes local metal bands, through their own personal connections, can attract an audience for the bigger metal bands.
“Having local metals bands is really important to the metal scene here in Ithaca,” Crumrine said. “If there aren’t strong local bands, who bring all their friends and supporters to the shows, then our heavy shows don’t do well.”
The members of The Anderson Tapes, however, said their music is far more than the time on stage — for Cavaciuti, in particular, music serves as a way for them to explore their artistic creativity, invent their own style and find an emotional outlet.
“There is nothing else that makes me feel the way that music does and there never will be,” Cavaciuti said.