Tucked away on 8th and Ontario, Soundhouse Studios is seemingly quite on a Sunday night. That is, until one enters the hallway toward the practice rooms. Faint hums echo through the halls, but the room dubbed “The Hideout” has music blaring through the door. This has become a second home is for the gentlemen of UBC’s Rebel On A Mountain—affectionately called R.O.A.M—and where they make their extraordinary music happen.
There has been quite some change in the band. Forming in August 2012, Rebel On A Mountain—an indie folk rock band with many different facets—started off through the friendship of Christopher Rodgers and Kristian Wagner, two musical souls that met in another campus location: Great Dane Coffee.
“We met through coffee,” Rodgers reminisces. “After that we started playing music together, wrote a bunch of folk music and wanted to get a band together when we did our first EP [Extended Play].”
At that point in time, there were four other members in addition to Rodgers and Wagner: Two drummers, a keyboardist and a bass player. But, as time passed, these four members moved on to pursue other facets in their lives. Their departures allowed for the band to completely rearranged their set up, however, making room for R.O.A.M 2.0: two weeks before their big debut—and win—at UBC’s Last Band Standing competition.
Rodgers has moved now from lead guitarist to drums [his native instrument] and Christopher Goodchild has joined the ranks as the bassist six months ago. More recent additions include Philip Austrom, trumpet player; Sam Tudor, banjo player, guitarist and vocalist; lastly, Layten (Youssef) Kramer, guitarist and vocalist.
It was when Kramer and Tudor played alongside R.O.A.M out in East Vancouver coincidentally, that they decided to merge together. Austrom was introduced to the band through Goodchild.
There seems to be a pattern forming when there are new additions to R.O.A.M that Rodgers points out: even when he and Wagner came together two years ago to play and perform together, it was primarily an outlet for their creativity; they combined their music, but also had their own to work on. With the addition of Kramer and Tudor, it’s still the same outlet for all of them to share their music together, but they’re still able to have some individual flexibility.
“The current material Kristian has been working on is about a month old,” Rodgers says. “When Sam and Layten joined in, they also brought their own music. You could say we’re a bit like a musical collective. We all share the main stage; it’s about being together with our music and also being able to hang out with people that are dope.”
Tudor sums up the experience rather simply: “It’s a weird mix, but it works.”
The original duo, Wagner and Rodgers, have extensive music backgrounds: Wagner started out playing the piano like his siblings, but also picked up the guitar when he was 11 because his uncle handed him down an old guitar. Throughout his teenage years he’s been working on solo projects, until he met up with Rodgers. Rodgers started teaching himself to play the drums when he was 10, and took pipe band Scottish snare drumming, playing competitively in a pipe band until he was 18. With that experience, he was able to travel around the world playing in different championships, one of which he won. He also can play the guitar, electric guitar, and he writes his own music.
The other four men bring their own different music vibes to the “collective”: Goodchild started on the piano at six years old, and started guitar lessons when he was 10. He only started playing the bass to play in his high school jazz orchestra in Alberta. Tudor, growing up in a tree house in the middle of nowhere, has experience in what he calls “rural music making”, playing outside concerts and festivals, and was working on a solo album whilst in Vancouver. Kramer started out on the saxophone in sixth grade, moved on to the guitar in eighth grade, and hasn’t looked back since. He was also part of another band called Eerie Green, and has individual projects on the side. The newest kid on the block Austrom began playing classical trumpet in grade five, and has solely focused on his trumpet as his main instrument in UBC’s School of Music.
For them, R.O.A.M has not only become an outlet for creativity, but it has also become a way to exploit different paths they haven’t walked down before: Kramer was able to work on production and engineering for their newest release Futures; Tudor is able to work on his harmonies and banjo playing; Wagner is in charge with managing the band; Rodgers can work on his drum skills; Austrom gets to play outside of his classical training; Goodchild is able to approach the bass in a different light and brings new creativity to his playing style.
Their most recent triumph together was winning UBC’s competition Last Band Standing, earning them a spot to play at UBC’s infamous Block Party: the overwhelming realization that they’re performing at one of UBC’s biggest events, and on a professional stage for the first time, hadn’t quite sunk in yet. But just winning Last Band Standing alone has skyrocketed their recognition on campus, something they’ve worked to do.
“It’s been a combination of things,” Wagner says. “We had a lot of exposure in Place Vanier [a first year residence that Goodchild lived on and Wagner was a resident advisor for] and Blank Vinyl Project [a student-run music organization to promote musicians on campus] has been a backbone of that. We’ve also been playing a bunch of shows downtown, establishing a bunch of connections.”
Let’s talk about the future: there are endless possibilities for this incredibly gifted experimental funky folk band, but one never knows what might happen. While music is paramount to these six, their aspirations and ambitions stretch further beyond that. But there is a lot of momentum to take the band to the next level. Only time will tell where R.O.A.M will be, but there is assurance that they still have a future together, and who knows where the summer will take them!
Photos from R.O.A.M Facebook page