Posted by Jesse Shayne
Slim Charles, the winner of this fall's Battle of the Bands, has an unconventional history as a group, which contributes to its unique style.
The band consists of Dominic Green '12, Ben Mickelson '12 and Alex Jarvis '12, as well Ken Siu who is a former Skidmore student. The four members come from a wide variety of locations. Green grew up in rural New York, Jarvis in Philadelphia, Mickelson outside of Boston and Siu has lived in many places but spent the majority of his youth in Tokyo.
Their musical backgrounds are almost as varied as their geographic locations. Jarvis started playing the drums at age 12 and was in a band in high school that wrote and recorded original music. He's played many different genres and hip-hop drumming is one of his favorites.
Mickelson learned how to play the guitar at age 10, but wasn't always serious about it in his youth. He played jazz guitar in middle school and high school, and was a member of a cover band in high school as well. He also wrote some original music with his friends during this time. Recently, Mickelson played guitar for a number of musicals and is a member of the classical guitar ensemble at Skidmore.
Green picked up the guitar for the first time in high school. At this time, he jammed a lot with his brother who played the drums and the two of them performed with a few bands together.
"I never really played with good people in high school. Granted I wasn't good either, but I felt like there might be someone better to play with and fortunately I found them here," Green said.
Siu, who is a bassist, played with a few bands in Tokyo, including a relatively well established indie punk band. "Ken is way cooler than us musicially," Mickelson said.
Although the band members are serious about music, none of them are music majors. Green is a government major, Jarvis is a sociology major, Siu is an art major and Mickelson is an American studies major with minors in business and music.
"In terms of musical training I would credit my No. 1 teacher as Yacub Addy here at Skidmore... I just don't feel a need to make music into an academic endeavour," Jarvis said.
Even without an academic drive motivating their music, the band's members have come a long way in their short time together. Aside from Green and Mickelson, none of the band members knew each other freshman year and only Mickelson played in a band at the time.
"We're not friends who started a band. It kind of went backwards in that respect... but of course we've become really good friends since," Jarvis said.
Green and Jarvis met at an orientation program during their sophomore years. They were both at school a week early training to be peer mentors.
"We were just vibing over similar music interests and listening to music together. Since the Chapel was open at the time and not that many people were on campus we were just like ‘Let's go play right now.' We wrote two songs that day," Jarvis said.
?Mickelson joined in with them during the second week of school, and they later picked up Siu.
"I didn't know Ken at all. I just randomly walked by and then remembered that he said he played bass. I was like, ‘Hey man, you play bass, you want to come jam?'" Green said.
The band began working right away and played a number of gigs last year including Falstaff's, Putnam Den and the Trash Bar in Brooklyn.
Having such varied musical backgrounds sometimes presents a challenge when picking music. "It's all in the interest of making the best possible product. We're looking for the same thing but we have different ways of getting there," Jarvis said.
In fact, the band even has a hard time fitting its music under one genre. "Everyone calls us something different," Mickelson said.
The band members said they hope to record soon. They also said they want to play more shows outside of Saratoga Springs, especially in New York City, which would be convenient with their bassist already living there.
Over the summer Siu decided to take the fall semester off to live in New York City and will transfer to art school in the spring. He's still in the band and will continue to perform with the group, but Slim Charles is looking for a backup bassist for shows when Siu isn't available.
Slim Charles will continue to perform on campus and in Saratoga Springs throughout the academic year, including Oct. 15 at Falstaff's.