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Spring Sing Profile: The AM

Members of the alternative rock band The AM met in their fall 2012 Sigma Nu fraternity pledge class and will make their Spring Sing debut Friday at Pauley Pavilion performing the band’s original song “Wake Up.” (Austin Yu/Daily Bruin)

By Amy Char

May 14, 2014 12:00 a.m.

Momentarily stepping aside from a dinner during a vacation in Lake George, N.Y., Bryan Welch, The AM’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist, listened to a recording his bandmate had sent him earlier that day. The recording, which would become the band’s Spring Sing song, ended with “You get the idea” – and Welch did.

“It’s the first song that we had as a band that I thought could be a radio hit,” Welch said.

Nearly 3,000 miles away from the restaurant where Welch, a second-year English student, had made his realization, the band will perform its song “Wake Up” at this year’s Spring Sing. The alternative rock band’s performance showcases a classic rock instrument lineup. Recently, The AM has shifted to a more group-involved songwriting process.

The four band members met in their fall 2012 Sigma Nu pledge class. With three members living in the fraternity house and Welch living next door, drummer and second-year economics student Josh Caine said this helped the band develop musically because members can easily play together.

In what Welch said was a very arduous process, the members finally decided on the name The AM because guitarist Milan Rothfeld, a second-year music student, said it was 3 a.m. on the day the Spring Sing application was due and they hadn’t decided on a name yet. He also said they may have been subconsciously inspired by “AM,” the latest album from one of the band’s main influences, the Arctic Monkeys.

The AM began its musical career by playing covers, such as songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Weezer. However, Caine said the band members had all been separately writing songs, but finally sharing the songs with one other and making the shift to playing original songs was a big moment – “Wake Up” was the band’s first song. Caine described the song as a quintessential AM song.

“It’s more comprised of our style,” Rothfeld said. “It’s definitely got some rock in it and it’s also very melodic.”

“Wake Up,” written by Rothfeld, is about a man who has a relationship with a self-centered woman.

“She’s both what he wants and what he wishes he didn’t,” Welch said.

Most of the songs The AM play now, such as “Wake Up,” originally began as almost-finished songs written by one member. Rothfeld said this highlights the different styles of the band’s music from song to song, as the songwriters all had different influences. Greg Petersen, second-year bioengineering student and bassist, also said Welch’s dynamic vocal range allows the band to play a variety of songs.

“Most of our songs are pretty upbeat, but … they’re all pretty catchy,” Caine said. “That allows Bryan’s voice to come to the front and catch your attention. I think that’s the common thread between all of our songs.”

Petersen compared the band’s lineup, comprised of a lead guitarist, a rhythm guitarist, a drummer and a bassist, to four-piece rock bands from the ’90s and before and said the band tried to emulate the style of bands from that time period. They add a modern touch to that style along with funk and jazz melodies.

“The music we write is definitely R&B;, funk and very melodic … but we try to approach everything from a rock standpoint,” Rothfeld said.

Rothfeld’s songwriting approach for “Wake Up” also reflects the band’s rock influences. He had written the verse and the chorus in two different keys, but wasn’t sure what to do with the excerpts.

“I was like … I can just do what John Lennon did with ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun.’ … Hey, I can be John Lennon,’” Rothfeld said, jokingly. “No, I was like, ‘I’ll just put them in the same key and see if they work together.’”

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Amy Char
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