4 of Your Favorite Bands May Have Shared Your Starting Point: College

Here are some musical groups who had found their success after hitting it off on-campus.
November 23, 2017
10 mins read

Many bands came from humble beginnings, including some of the all-time best: John Lennon and Paul McCartney met as teenagers in Liverpool, Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl met through various music scenes as artists unknown to the world and groups such as HAIM and The Jackson 5 came about biologically. To people’s surprise, many bands’ members met while attending college together.

A formative time in the lives of many, college exposes artistic people to likeminded individuals they would have never met outside of those 4 years. Plus, more groups meet in college than you’ll initially be able to think of; your favorite band could have even written their breakout song in the common area of your school, and you may not even know about it. It’s even possible that the local college bands you can see for free now could be huge down the line.

So, for anyone in a band right now who’s seeking success with said group, here’s some inspiration. These are 4 bands whose members met in college.

1. Vampire Weekend

The members of Vampire Weekend met as not-yet indie gods when they attended Columbia University back in the day. Front-man and beloved Twitter-user Ezra Koenig was studying English when he met Music major and multitalented musician Rostam Batmanglij. The two, whose areas of study gave them an ideal combination for standout music and lyrics, joined up with drummer Chris Tomson and bassist Chris Baio to form the band that become a household name only years later.

They’ve produced several songs with mainstream appeal, such as the high-energy “A-Punk,” the ethereal “White Sky” and the brash “Diane Young.” Their overall sound might be classified as “indie,” but emulating African pop songs, punk and baroque pop prevent their music from being pigeonholed into one genre. With songs such as “Oxford Comma,” the most concise way to describe their music might include calling it erudite rock. Koenig’s smart lyrics and references give many of the group’s songs an intellectual breadth most other artists couldn’t achieve.

The band’s first album, released shortly after each member had graduated, has the most songs that are clearly influenced by their time at Columbia. “Campus” chronicles a speaker who leaves his dorm room and spots someone he’s interested in romantically walking across campus. “M79” is regal in sound, with eager strings playing at break-neck speeds and (at least in my interpretation) providing a soundtrack appropriate for a walk across any Ivy League school’s campus. These two songs in particular preserve the group’s humble roots as a couple of guys who met between classes or in their dorm one day before going on to receive worldwide acclaim.

2. Lucius

Not having any ties directly to Draco Malfoy’s father, this relatively untapped group produces music that’s indie through and through. Without a doubt they’re not nearly as well-known as Vampire Weekend (I only found out about them recently through Spotify’s Discover Weekly), but the group’s two fronting women Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe met at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Now based out of Brooklyn, the group’s look perfectly encapsulates the borough’s prospering art scene, whereas their music serves as a perfect contrast: their music sounds as if it came out of a soft, modern-day western instead of the city. Off of their first record, “Go Home” thrives off of Wolfe and Laessig’s powerful vocals, which play over the song’s bare-bones acoustic guitars and percussion. This trend continues throughout others of their songs, such as “Dusty Trails” and “Until We Get There.”

With blonde bobs and harmonies aplenty, the two women formed a close bond at school that strengthens the band tenfold. Appropriately so, the title track of their first album, “Wildewoman,” was about the fearless, uninhibited women in their lives. Gushing with sentimentality and sincerity, it also embodies a number of the group’s notable features: quirky country-ish aspects in an undeniably indie anthem, chillingly gorgeous harmonies and descriptive, even empowering lyrics to boot.

Although they may yet to have found their peak success, Lucius’ humble start shows in their sweet sounds even now. They prove that you can create art post-grad with your best friend from school, get noticed by NPR and the “New York Times” and still keep your nose to the grindstone, remembering where you came from.

3. Pink Floyd

Without a doubt the biggest group on this list, the Floyd got its start at London Polytechnic just two years before the release of its first album. Though Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason would inevitably come together on bass, the keyboard and drums respectively, at the formation of the band, the three were all just architecture students with a revolving door of other members. It wasn’t until Rogers’ childhood friend Syd Barrett came into the mix that the group’s production solidified into a more stable, marketable sound that they could take to the recording studio (and this is all before David Gilmour came about).

Their founding may have been somewhat tumultuous, but the once college-rockers grew to progressive and acid rock legendary before hitting their stride with “The Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here” and “The Wall” throughout the ’70s. Pink Floyd’s music doesn’t necessarily scream “college” (unless experimenting with increasingly exotic narcotics is your gig), one of their most omnipresent works culturally, “Another Brick In the Wall, Pt.2,” was described by “The Rolling Stone” as “the anti-institutional spleen” of an “unshakable disco hit.” Infusing rock with disco, the band roasted the system of education, which is something every college student has done a time or two.

4. Hootie & the Blowfish

Finally, I would be remiss (and a bad Gamecock) if I didn’t mention Hootie & the Blowfish. Darius Rucker and his crew met at the University of South Carolina and proceeded to break through the grunge-saturated state of music in the mid-’90s with blues-infused rock-country. The group has remained somewhat relevant (particularly to Columbians, especially USC students, who see them as hometown heroes) and functioning even 20 years after their biggest success.

Even if you’re not a Carolinian (or from anywhere in the Southeast for that matter), Hootie’s country vibes are accessible to anyone. I don’t even like country but can always get on board with “Only Wanna Be With You” and “Hold My Hand” because nothing outside Rucker’s accent could really lead you to categorize it as country music. It’s all soft rock with sentimental, sometimes critical, lyrics that fit the lighter aspects of the college experience and embrace their roots.

Who knew, right? Bands who went on to score number one hits, win Grammys and be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame may have first met on the quad talking about music they listened. It just goes to show that college is crucial not only in people’s transition into adulthood, but also in terms of who you meet, connect and have common professional aspirations with in your time there. Who knows, maybe the group from your school who’s worked through a few name changes and plays for audiences of none will someday join the ranks of those above.

Andrew Crossan, University of South Carolina

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Andrew Crossan

University of South Carolina

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