Q&A: The Syndicate, winner of Mayfest Battle of the Bands


Source: Noah Becker

The Syndicate poses after winning the Battle of the Bands last Thursday. The group will perform at Dillo Day on Saturday.

Rachel Yang, Assistant A&E Editor


The Syndicate has triumphed in Battle of the Bands and will take the stage Saturday at Dillo Day’s mainstage at 1 p.m. A version of the group named Syndicated Traphouse performed at Dillo Day in 2014. The Daily sat down with two members of the nine-piece band, Bienen senior and trombonist Cameron Kerl and Bienen and Weinberg junior Alex Warshawsky, the group’s bassist, to talk about their expectations for Dillo Day, future projects and more.

The Daily: How would you describe The Syndicate’s style or sound?
Alex Warshawsky: It definitely draws on a lot of different sounds and we’re trying to find our own. The one we stick with is groove music — we’re really trying to make people bounce and to get to that, we draw on funk, hip-hop and jazz mostly, in addition to whatever other influences.

The Daily: How does it feel to win Battle of the Bands?
Warshawsky: It was just so much fun this year, playing the last slot of Battle and the whole audience was loving it and it was super live and lit in 27 Live. Everyone was bouncing with us and then after we finished our set, the Mayfest representative (came out) and the crowd was shouting our name, so it was pretty clear that we did well.

The Daily: How has your sound changed since the last time you played Dillo Day in 2014?
Cameron Kerl: Our musical sound since then has become more cohesive and we’ve become tighter as a band, so we’re able to give a much more effective live show and over time we’ve built up a nice fan base.
Warshawsky: Since last Dillo we’ve written a ton of new music and we’ve developed our sound. … In terms of the Battle, we only had a week in between so we actually had a marathon rehearsal (Tuesday night) trying to figure out some new stuff. … Ideally we would have had a month or two in between Battle and Dillo to learn some new songs but it’ll be good because we can play some of our fan favorites plus a couple of new tunes.

Video by Jacquelyn Guillen/The Daily Northwestern

The Daily: Do you have any hints for what you’re playing ?
Warshawsky: I’ll just say a couple fan favorites and we changed up a really well known song, gave it a little reggae cover, and I think people will definitely recognize it and be singing along, so it will be fun. My hint for that is, “bounce bounce.”

The Daily: Do you have any favorite Dillo Day memories?
Warshawsky: The first year (I went) was beautiful out, we played and then I packed up and came back to the stage for Chance the Rapper’s set, which was incredible. I’ve never see that band live. They’re similar to us in that they draw from all these different influences. They come a little bit more from gospel, but it’s that same idea of using hip-hop as a platform but drawing off jazz and gospel and funk, so it’s cool seeing them do that live, in the model for what we’re trying to do.

The Daily: Why is it important for student artists to play at Dillo Day?
Kerl: It’s a great opportunity to get the kind of experience that these professional groups get all the time, and being up on stage like that is really eye-opening because there’s no other experience like that in school. Dillo Day, Battle of the Bands is great — it’s honestly been a great motivator for bands to come together and get a set because every year I’ll hear different bands at Battle of the Bands and they all have unique sounds and it’s always impressive to see that.
Warshawsky: There’s enough of a good music scene on this campus that deserves to be represented. For us specifically, which I can speak to, we’ve been working really hard at recording, making videos and playing house shows all the time and developing a following, so it’s fitting of Mayfest to recognize all that work and all of that following that’s accumulating and give us the slot, because we are a big part of the campus music scene.

The Daily: What’s next for the Syndicate?
Warshawsky: I know that Thaddeus (Tukes), for example has been working with Donnie Trumpet, and he was actually on (Chance and Donnie’s) recent album, “Surf.” … We’re trying to figure out how we can get a recording project done here at school, with the resources we have, and I think we have pretty good resources where we can make an EP happen real soon, hopefully this year.

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