QB takes to the mic in NU band Whitsend

Tania Ganguli

The lights were low in a recording studio on the fourth floor of Northwestern’s Music Administration Building Monday night, and Whitsend was recording its first album. NU backup quarterback Alexander Webb held a microphone and crooned into it.

“You and I together, I won’t be just a memory,” he sang.

It started with two guys playing guitar in the basement of Foster-Walker Complex last winter. But before long Webb and music senior Casey Kannenberg created Whitsend.

“It’s a fusion of straight-from-the-soul rock-and-roll and a little bit of mainstream,” said Kannenberg, lead guitarist of Whitsend and drum major of NU’s marching band.

“It’s more complex than a lot of the stuff that’s out there on the radio.”

The “straight-from-the-soul” vocals come from Webb — think a less raspy version of Johnny Rzeznick of the Goo Goo Dolls.

Friends say they sound like the Goo Goo Dolls, but band members don’t like that comparison. They prefer to think they sound like the band Tonic.

“It took us a long time to come up with a name, we were at our wit’s end,” Kannenberg said.

Kannenberg and Webb make up half of the upstart band. Whitsend also features music junior Jake Nissly on drums and music sophomore Nick West on bass guitar. Webb says being part of a band is similar to being part of a football team, but don’t expect him to pick a favorite. For him singing in the band is a release from the pressures of school, life and football.

“It’s great to go there on Saturday and be part of the team and work with those people and be a part of something special,” Webb said. “And at the same time it’s great to put your heart and soul into a song with some other guys and have it all come together to make magic at the show or in the studio.”

The magic started last December at “Austinstock” which former NU center Austin King threw at Shanley Pavilion. At the time, tight end Sean Mansfield was their bass player. The night of the show, the band picked up a drummer, Jake Nissly. They all said the feeling they got after that show was better than any first show with any other band they’d been in.

“It kind of set off this fever amongst us,” Kannenberg said.

The band doesn’t look the same anymore, as Mansfield has recently been replaced by bassist Nick West. When West first met the guys he didn’t know Webb was a football player, he just liked their music and the band loved his talent.

“When I first met Alexander I thought, ‘Hey man, this guy’s got a good voice,'” West said Monday as Webb walked by singing and fiddling with his acoustic guitar. “And he’s sexy.”

West had only been with the band for a week when the recording process started Monday. The band members were impressed at how good West was — a friend who was there said it was “the salt, that little extra thing they needed.”

“When he gets into the bass, I wish I was that bass,” Webb said. “He tickles it.”

Their lives are busy: Kannenberg and Nissly have marching band practice, Nissly and West belong to various other musical groups and Webb has football practice. And Saturday mornings when the Wildcats have a home game, Webb, Kannenberg and Nissly all suit up and head to Ryan field.

Senior linebacker Pat Durr called the marching band the team’s biggest fans Monday, and Nissly couldn’t agree more. He said it’s a great way to experience college football, even though it does take up a lot of time. But it’s still not hard for the band members to find time for each other.

“What’s really cool about it is when Alexander’s done with football, and I’m done with practice, we really want to play,” Kannenberg said.

Some of Whitsend’s biggest fans come from the football team. Senior linebacker Doug Szymul said Whitsend is “awesome” and sometimes he even gets on stage and sings with the band. He sings backup when Whitsend does Bon Jovi covers.

Durr loves the band too, and called them a combination of Staind and Creed.

But would he be a groupie?

“I wouldn’t sleep with them or anything,” Durr said. “But I’d go hang out.”

Safety Dominique Price has their CD at home and listens to it all the time. When he took it back home to Kentucky, his friends were impressed.

“People back home think it’s a real band and I say ‘Yeah, I see ’em all the time,'” Price said. “I hope when they blow up he can give me some money.”