Muse etc. talks eventful first year following recent demo release, playing Dillo Day’s main stage
June 1, 2023
The freshmen performers who comprise Muse etc. experienced a unique first year — playing at Dillo Day’s heralded main stage and releasing an EP, all within a few months.
Muse etc. is a collection of first-year students who formed a band in the first few weeks of Fall Quarter. McCormick freshman Timofei Asinski plays on bass, Bienen and Weinberg freshman Jeremy Berkun perform on vocals and multi-instrumental, Bienen freshman Alex Neuser plays on multi-instrumentals, McCormick freshman Eric Chen is on drums, Bienen and Weinberg freshman Oliver Koenig plays on saxophone and flute, and Bienen and McCormick freshman Jun Byun performs on trumpet and piano.
While the group performed on the main stage of Dillo Day on May 20, they only started playing at formal gigs in the middle of Winter Quarter.
Muse etc. recruited their friends, hallmates, peers during a cappella auditions and random run-ins on Sheridan Road to their band — seeing people who played music and wanted to “jam out” in the Bienen practice rooms on Saturdays throughout Fall Quarter.
Though the six just played together for their own amusement at the start, they started consistently producing music at the end of Fall Quarter. They began looking for a name, and after much deliberation decided on “Muse etc.” The name is a combination of their individual ideas, describing their approach to music as a group of largely Bienen students, Berkun said.
With Muse etc.’s growing popularity, the name has become more recognized.
“I’ve [heard of] a lot of people who can’t see the word ‘etc.’ without thinking of us now,” Neuser said. “It really sticks.”
Given the group’s diverse musical backgrounds, they draw inspiration from a variety of sources including Frank Ocean, Tyler, The Creator, John Coltrane, Steve Lacy, Tony Bennett, Miles Davis, and Nate Smith on drums, Chen said.
As Muse etc. continued to refine their style, they attempted to combine different elements of their individual styles to form what they describe as “fusion pop,” Byun said.
“Structurally speaking, it follows the typical form of traditional pop songs, and we hope to be catchy and memorable,” Byun said. “But we also have to include elements of uniqueness.”
As the six entered their first Winter Quarter, they began to take steps to advance from practice rooms in Bienen. They applied for The Daily’s “Notes from the Newsroom” series and recorded a video released on the site in February. They later played for the Cats Who Compost’s Snowstainability Ball at NU Hillel –– their first paid gig and their first time using an official sound system.
Toward the end of the quarter, Muse etc. played at a WNUR fundraiser, which Koenig called the “pinnacle of Winter Quarter.” They performed in an off-campus house with band BABYFREEZE and DJ Vitamin K. They remarked that the atmosphere created a unique environment, different from their other gigs.
“We love making music, and we are very perfectionistic about the music that we make,” Berkun said. “But in the end, we’re making music because audience members enjoy music and taking a break to listen. If we get to do that in a party setting and people enjoy it, that’s a privilege.”
They left the gig on an optimistic note, excited for Spring Quarter, Neuser said.
Muse etc. received many requests to perform the following quarter. Notably, they played at Associated Student Government Sustainability Committee’s GREENOUT –– their first time on a large stage. They were also selected as a contender in Mayfest’s Battle of the Bands, which they ended up winning, securing them a spot on Dillo’s main stage the next week. The group preceded headliners including RINI, TiaCorine, Briston Marroney and Offset.
Following their performance at Dillo Day, the group decided to release their first demo “Closure,” announcing it on Instagram on Saturday.
“When we got announced of the battle, our Instagram interaction blew up — there were so many new people visiting our channel,” Neuser said. “All of a sudden we had a lot more eyes on us, so we thought we needed to capitalize off of this opportunity and this attention to put music out in the world and build that [attention] further.”
The demo was primarily Neuser’s work. He said he was bored on a Zoom tour of Stanford in high school when a baseline “just kind of plopped into my head.” When bringing the demo to other members of Muse etc., they used a variety of styles and perspectives to produce the final product, Berkun said.
Before the formal release of “Closure,” the band received a grant of $16,000 from Northwestern for an EP. They hope to record next September and release it soon after, Koenig said.
Most of the bandmates plan to live in Evanston over the summer so they can work on the project.
“The plan for the EP is just to be as creative as we possibly can be, and whatever comes out of it will come out of it,” Berkun said. “Each individual song will be the best we can make it — they may be different styles, but they will come together.”
In addition to a full releasing EP, the members hope to play at venues in Chicago as their presence expands.
Ultimately, the six do not want to get too caught up in the direction of Muse etc. — for now they aim to make connections within the music community and continue on their current trajectory.
“We all have our own ambitions. We want to live in the present — enjoy what we have right now and take it one step at a time,” Byun said.
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