In the corner of Mills Record Company on Aug. 26, seniors Jackson Bush, Sam Fay, Billy Fox, Cal Knabe and junior Dakota Zugelder make their way to a makeshift stage complete with tangled cords, amplifiers and mic stands. About to perform in front of strangers flipping through vintage rock records and a few familiar friends, the five boys were all laughing as the set up their equipment on stage.
Bush flipped the switch on his keyboard. Fay resituated the mic in the stand. Knabe messed with the tuning of his guitar, while Fox did the same thing on his bass. And Zugelder plugged his headphones in order to better hear the pace of the beat.
Bush walked up to the mic. “Hey everyone, we are The Orbiters,” he said smiling back to his four bandmates. As he introduced their first song, “All the Small Things” by blink 182, the vibrations from the electric sounds of the guitars and hard-hitting beat of the drums could be felt by every person in the room.
“They had such a fun and exciting atmosphere about them that the crowd was able to catch on to,” senior Emma Renwick said. “It seemed like everyone was wanting to sing along with them, they’re such a great group of guys.”
Knabe and Fay had always discussed starting a band during their weeknight jam sessions; with how much they enjoyed music, the felt as if they weren’t doing enough to fulfill their passion. Finally on a whim, the two boys put their words into action and ran the idea by their mutual friends Fox and Bush last May. Between the four of them, they had a keyboard, bass, and guitar player and they all had voices talented enough to earn them the title of “Chambros” in the SME chamber choir. All they needed was a drummer to pull together the perfect sound. That’s where Zugelder came in.
“I’m the odd man out because all of these guys are in Chambers and all of them are great singers,” Zugelder said. “And then there’s me. I sound like a dying pig.”
Bush looks at Zugelder in astonishment. “But you’re the legend and arguably the best asset we have to the band.”
The chemistry apparent in the boys’ performances comes from their ability to combine all their innate skills. They all bring something different to the table, whether it’s Bush’s ability to hype up a crowd, Knabe’s behind-the-scenes logistics or Zugelder’s iconic hair flip. The boys are able to all collaborate and work together. All five guys are equals; they have no band leader.
“We all have different strenghts,” Fay said. “Everyone would think Jackson would be the leader, but Cal does a lot of the logistics and Billy is really the idea man, so we are all pretty equal.”
At first, choosing a band name seemed pretty straightforward, but the end result was a competition to see who could come up with the most amusing band name.
“We were joking about how [the band] Whiplash is a medical condition, so I looked up and bunch of diseases and we joked about naming our band Head Trauma, Mild Fever and Heat Stroke,” Fox said.
But eventually, after one of Knabe and Fay’s frequent talks about the cosmos and physics, the boys realized “The Orbiters” had just the right ring to it.
Practices and rehearsals became a priority. The location changes every session, from Zugelder’s, Fox’s, Fay’s to Knabe’s, but never Bush’s the guys explained with a disowning laugh at Bush. But with the boys’ busy schedules, forgetting about rehearsals, even the ones at their own homes, is more common than not.
“I had had a really late night, it had something to do with band,” said Zugelder. “In the morning, I heard my dog go nuts and my front door open and all of a sudden my stepmom walks down and goes, ‘You had rehearsal this morning didn’t you?’ and groggily I said ‘Yeah.’ Then there goes Cal walking down my stairs and I just said ‘crap.’”
“I think this is The Orbiters in a few words: ‘Where are you?’ ‘Oh crap’,” Bush said.
The Orbiters’ primary focus is rock music, but they will perform anything they have to work with. So far, they have perfected songs such as “Year 3000” by the Jonas Brothers and “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. Their goal is to work with more acoustic versions of songs in the future and even start working on a few original songs.
“I’ve been writing songs for three or four years, but most of them are garbage,” Bush said. “Occasionally I write one I can stand for more than 45 minutes, but there is an original I recently found that I think we are gonna play with and see what we can do with it.”
The boys have gotten endless support from friends and family members ever since they announced the band. Renwick was the one who booked them their first gig: performing at the Lancer Dancer Pancake Breakfast. Fox’s sister has agreed to help create a logo for the band. College freshman and East graduate Haley Lynch created a Buzzfeed quiz titled “Which Orbiter Are You??” for the enjoyment of fans.
But their most important encouragement comes from each other. Their unceasing support is present when they help Zugelder haul this drum set to and from practices. It’s clear when they adjust their own singing parts in order to let Fay sing the lower notes when he is plagued with a sore throat on performance day. They’ve discovered that starting a band is hard, but harder if you aren’t with your best friends.