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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

The Patchwork Life of Brother Keep

Nick Sessanna's basement wall has recently received a facelift, but not with the usual coat of paint. A five-foot by four-foot swath has turned into a testament to one band's past as they enter into the uncertain post-college world.

Created from memories pulled from photo albums and the dark forgotten corners of closets, the collage became the inspiration and album art for the bands latest, and first, LP, Patchwork Walls.

"We took all these things that were important to us, like pictures, drawings, just memories and what not. We made a little grid on my basement wall out of yarn, and we just paper clipped and scotch taped all this stuff together," Nick said of the efforts of band members Christine Krolewicz, Ron Walczyk, Zachary Vacanti, and Jacob Sessanna. "All of a sudden there was purples up here and blues down here and it fades into green and goes into yellow. We organized all these memories and all these things that were important to us by color. It became our patchwork."

While the group blends their lives together artistically, it also combines its varying alternative musical influences, ranging from Fleet Foxes to Smashing Pumpkins. Though the band finds common ground with Brand New and Manchester Orchestra, the members have their roots in the pop punk music that fueled them in high school. After listening to the likes of Motion City Soundtrack and The Used, Nick picked up the guitar while Walczyk took on the bass.

"I remember being 14 and 15 and just saying ‘I have to do this, I have to be one of these people. These songs mean so much to me,'" Nick said. "It really came out of just wanting to be a part of that scene, hoping that some day somebody would listen to our songs and be like, ‘Wow, I can relate to this.'"

With unfinished ideas left floating around after the dismantling of Nick, Krolewicz, and Walczyk's old band, Nick, his younger brother Jacob, and Walczyk formed up to flesh out a few songs, and eventually released an EP before turning Brother Keep into a five-person endeavor.

Brother Keep drew Krolewicz back into the fold for her vocal and keyboard abilities, while Vacanti helped fill the remaining gap on guitar.

A new band meant a new sound.

"Pop-punk was all about getting together and having fun at shows and jumping around and feeling energized," Nick said. "This indie rock scene is all about appreciating the music and leaning back against the wall and feeling [bad] about yourself. I think we found a decent middle ground between the two.

"For now we're definitely more into the emotion, like this huge emotional apex that Brand New can do. You can tell the guy is just so sad, like the things he's writing about, and then when you hear them you're like, ‘Oh my God, I hear how this guy feels.' So were definitely into more than songs that give you shivers because they are so angsty."

Nick, Krolewicz, and Vacanti graduated from college last May, and for the first time, the band members were faced with the choice of abandoning the music they loved, or staking everything on it.

"We're kind of at a point in our lives where it's like, I don't want to say, ‘Oh, let's just drop everything and tour and be in a band and be super famous all of a sudden,' because that's not super realistic," Nick said. "But at the same time it's not that realistic to say ‘Oh, I'm going to quit my band and get a job that pays $14 an hour and try to be happy.' I don't want that either."

The struggle between pursuing your dreams or falling into a life that pays the bills, but leaves a sense of dissatisfaction finds an outlet in Nick's lyrics. The fourth track Patchwork Walls, "Anything, Anymore" speaks words that leave college seniors lying awake at night.

"And I am puzzled by this paradox/ Every time I follow my heart I'm told to turn around and use my mind," Nick sings. "Do what makes you happy or pay off all your debts?/ What do I know? (What do I know?)"

The question of the long term future was gratefully delayed for the quintet as Krolewicz decided to pursue graduate studies in urban planning at UB, while Nick took up a part-time job at the CFA.

This leaves the band with ample time to spread its music, and DIY ethos, through Buffalo and the Western New York area.

"It's really important for any band to have a home base," Nick said. "If your hometown doesn't support you, it's going to be hard to find any place that will. We like Buffalo, we're happy to be here."

Although the sound of Patchwork Walls isn't necessarily lo-fi – the band wanted to have a slightly-produced sound in order to capture the auxiliary and ethereal background noises – the album was recorded in their garage attic with the help of Brian Russo.

"It sounds good. I would say it's comparable to what our friends recorded in the real studio," Nick said. "We're really happy with the way everything turned out… it's not super over produced."

The group put a lot of effort into deciding what would make the 12-track album's final cut, as well as how it would progress. With songs ranging from the quiet crush of ";" to the aggressive ton of "Masques," to the calm, albeit scathing, vocals of "Patchwork Walls," the album takes the listener on a calculated roller coaster of highs and lows.

What the distant future holds for Brother Keep is unknown. For now, however, the friends seem to be content playing the circuit of Buffalo venues.

"We come home from work and we're like, ‘Oh, I can play video games or I can write a song,' and this is something we look forward to. No matter what happens in our personal lives we can always turn to Brother Keep and be like, ‘OK, I'm going to have fun playing this today,'" Nick said. "If it does take off, like, sweet. We want it to, and we'd be happy to pursue that; and if it doesn't we're still going to pursue it, but it would be just specifically for us because we want to do it."

Brother Keep can be seen next at Mohawk Place on Feb. 26.

Email: arts@ubspectrum.com


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