Moody lyrics, angsty rhythms and transcendent vocals engulf the members of Previous Love as they practice in a soundproof basement in their own world.
Gary Sheedy, a senior English major, Steven Browne, a senior accounting major and John Perdue, a junior psychology major, formed the alternative rock band Previous Love in their early teens. Their music has found its way from Grand Island to Germany through curated Spotify playlists that have now earned them over 20,000 listens on the streaming platform.
And instead of opening for bands at The Forvm, which no longer exists, Previous Love is selling out standing-room-only shows at Mohawk Place.
But the numbers, while motivating, are of little importance to a band that is primarily concerned with the “intrinsic validation” of simply creating music that echoes what they feel.
“There’s a total catharsis just to performing and writing in general,” Sheedy said. “It’s a sort of personal self reflective kind of meditation.”
Previous Love’s genre is hard to describe. Members classify the group as an alternative rock band, but the sheer number of influences they attribute to its sound makes it difficult to categorize it into any concrete box.
The band’s sound is inspired by the jangle-pop, post-punk rock bands from the ‘80s, with an edge of ‘90s grunge. The heavy guitar says Blink-182 and the eerie disdain coupled with snappy, consistent drums screams The Cure. Members say The Smiths also hold a special place in their music education.
Perdue is the devoted drummer, working up a sweat in the corner of the room, beating away with a dramatic fervor that devours his entire body. He’s a core member of UB’s all-male a cappella group, the Buffalo Chips. His soundproof basement is where the band regularly gets together to practice.
Sheedy is the introverted guitarist who wanted to be a “singing ambulance driver” at the age of five, combing both his love of helping people and singing. He occasionally hides behind his beige hat but is incredibly easy to talk to.
While on stage, his reticent personality is magnified 10 times over.
“I feel naked if I'm not wearing a hat on stage,” Sheedy said. “I always make it a point to keep it down low. So people can't see my eyes, but I can still see, you know.”
Browne, the bassist, is the band’s certified “business guy” who tracks the band’s Spotify statistics and talks about almost everything in terms of numbers. Despite his logistical nature, he engages in the creative abstractions of the art he is so deeply involved in.
“As soon as fall hit, our numbers doubled,” Browne said. “We have kind of a more brooding, eerie and sometimes angry sound so it's not exactly fit for a great happy summer day when it’s 90 degrees.”
The band that almost wasn’t
Sheedy, Browne and Perdue, along with former member Charles Campanella, got together when they were in their teens and covered Blink-182 songs in their basements before deciding to create a band.
Born out of a “really young passion” for music and performing, Previous Love — then called Creek View after the street they grew up on — went on an indefinite break when Browne and Sheedy went away to college in Albany and Florida, respectively.
But Browne wasn’t happy, weighed down by a decision he felt was the result of an “obligation” to move away from home for college and “do that little thing.”
He soon moved back to Buffalo, along with Sheedy, who transferred out of Florida State University due to logistical issues with his program.
Both became students at UB, along with Perdue, who is a year younger than them and never had any plans to move away from Buffalo to begin with.
The band was back together.
But soon after, Campanella who had “responsibilities he needed to take care of,” left the band.
“There were never any real hard feelings,” Sheedy said. “We just wanted to support him.”
The Buffalo scene
The band is clearly in love with the Buffalo music scene, taking every opportunity to plug other local bands like Carpool, Ghostpool and Super American amid a chorus of eager “check them out” and “great Buffalo band.”
A friend of a friend was in a band called Head North. Perdue emailed to ask some “words from the wise,” only for them to offer Previous Love its first real gig opening for their band at The Forvm on Maple Road.
From then on, Previous Love followed in Head North’s footsteps.
“We did literally everything they did starting up. They gave us the name of who they recorded with and we went to them. They gave us their old amp so Charlie could play guitar,” Perdue said. “They were just so kind and they put us on so many shows.”
Despite the help Previous Love members got when they started out, the band still faced issues finding venues to perform in. Mohawk Place had shut down (it would reopen later on) and other venues like Town Ballroom usually hosted “larger” acts and national tours.
“For smaller acts, … going through them is tough,” Browne said. “Sometimes just because there's not as many shows available.”
Browne said Greg Burt from For the Music Productions helped local bands like Previous Love get booked at venues.
It was a struggle for a while, but the shows they played with other small bands remain some of their favorite memories.
Browne said those bands were some of Previous Love’s “first fans.”
“Sometimes, those other bands are the only people you really play for,” Sheedy said.
This was especially true when people would show up to see their friends in other bands perform and leave immediately after. But they didn’t really mind. Sheedy said it helped them form friendships with the acts they performed with, like Buffalo band Worse Things.
The band has grown in presence since its days performing at The Forvm, and recently performed at Mohawk Place to a crowd so large, the venue room couldn’t fully accommodate it.
“The crowd itself was so big that there was standing room only. You had to go to the next room over,” Hunter Ford, a junior marketing and finance major, said. Ford is a fellow Buffalo Chips member and met Perdue when Previous Love “was starting to blow up.”
Although he wasn’t previously a fan of alternative rock music, Ford still shows up to concerts to support the band, and in the process even began to explore more groups.
“They draw huge crowds. And every single time that I've seen them, they've never failed to impress me,” Ford said.
Despite their growing success, band members are adamant not to let the pursuit of stardom take over their lives. All three have jobs and school to worry about and Browne even has a job waiting for him at a local accounting firm once he graduates in May.
This “realistic” mentality the band has adopted was born from an early realization that being a “starry-eyed dreamer” doesn’t always lead to a glamorous lifestyle. Success and fame can be elusive, the group members said.
“Some advice that I got was along the lines of like, the happiest musicians are people who don't have to rely on it in order to survive and feed their family,” Browne said.
Tanveen Vohra is a senior news editor and can be reached at Tanveen.Vohra@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @TanveenUBSpec.
Tanveen Vohra is a former senior news editor and covered international relations and graduate student protests.