By Naomi Harris
From fifth grade at Sandy Spring Friends School to high school to Battle of the Bands, Rent Party’s journey might have started off young, but they now have their eyes set on something big: opening for Art Attack.
The band is composed of Finn Cohan, junior contemporary culture and creative production the guitar and vocalist, Michael Silverglade, freshman music industry major and the bassist, Jack Kessler, marketing sophomore and the drums, and Ryan Conway, the other guitarist and vocalist. Even though they all go to four different universities — Drexel, University of Maryland, UMCM and New York University — they created their band in May 2016 and worked out a system of when to record and when to perform.
Rent Party is a combination of blues and alternative indie-rock, according to Silverglade.
What started off as fifth graders playing together turned into a band performing for a sold out show at the smaller stage at the 9:30 Club after Silverglade joined. Rent Party is one of six bands set to compete in SEE’s Battle of the Bands Monday for the opening spot at this year’s Art Attack. They sat down to talk about their progress, sound and goals for the future.
How did you guys meet?
Conway: The three of us played together, off and on, while we were in school. We never had a bass player — people just didn’t really fit. Then I met this kid (Silverglade) and he started getting really good at the bass. He was sort of our missing piece.
Where does the name Rent Party come from?
Kessler: We would come up with names every 10 seconds, and they were all hilarious, but none of them were very good.
Silverglade: I took this jazz history class last year and they told us about these things called rent parties — during the Harlem Renaissance in the ‘20s, musicians would have these parties and people would pay. They would use the money to pay the rent.
What are your musical influences?
Silverglade: Other people would say we sound like The Black Keys or Arctic Monkeys or The Strokes, but we listen to Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes.
Conway: We have a lot of stuff in the works that is more out there. As time progresses, it is going to be a lot more eclectic than right now. We just write what comes to our minds and then we play it — there’s no “oh, that isn’t our sound.”
Kessler: Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and then I like to occasionally listen to electronic or other weird things like that to get ideas for percussion that are rock-based.
What has been the evolution of your music from when you started until now?
Conway: We had an idea to be online and have a presence to grow since we are all not going to be able to do stuff. We got the equipment to record — it was pretty basic stuff but enough high quality to get people to listen to us.
Cohan: I think playing with these guys has given me an opportunity to express more of what I was going for musically. We have a specific idea, musically, and we have control over it. I think we know what we are doing and that feels good. Music chemistry is good to look for, and from playing with each other informally in fifth grade, we’ve prepared ourselves to be in a band. In that way, we got around that sort of awkward phase of being in a band because we already knew what we wanted to do coming in.
What would it mean for Rent Party if you are selected as opener?
Cohan: It would mean a lot. It would be a large opportunity to tap into another audience. It’s a really good way to connect. We don’t know who is going to be there yet, but it could be a really cool opportunity to put our foot in the door.
Conway: Right now, we think opening for bigger acts is how we can get somewhere. We want a bigger audience to see us and go, ‘all right, those guys are pretty good.’
How would it feel to perform in front of University of Maryland students?
Kessler: It’s definitely going to be tough because I believe the other bands are 100 percent UMD students and have been established for a long time or worked with the radio station. For them, it is more like playing in their natural habitat. So if we can do well, this can be a step into becoming a household name for UMD. There’s a big audience here.
Featured Photo Credit: Rent Party interviews with Writer’s Bloc. The band is set to compete in Battle of the Bands presented by SEE in the Baltimore Room of Stamp. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Naomi Harris is a senior multi-platform journalism and sociocultural anthropology double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.