We stood shoulder to shoulder with our backs to the fire trying to avoid tears from the ungodly amount of smoke as we sipped our drinks at one of the bars we’d frequent in college.
“Well tell me how you started and why you make music.”
Calvin, the band’s frontman laughed and said, “Chloe, we started because of you.” Oh, right.
The band had already consisted of members Daniel Bradbury (guitar/backing vocals), Jack Catalanotto (guitar/backing vocals), and Kyle Cooper (drums/backing vocals) before Calvin joined them early summer of 2014. I introduced Daniel and Calvin and they started combining their talents to produce a very unique and promising musical escapade.
I remember the first time they performed together at Atomic Cowboy‘s open mic night in St. Louis. (Appropriately, the same bar we met at this past week to talk about the band.) Calvin Hawkins, better known as Calvin Tiger, rapped while Daniel played guitar and added some flavor here and there with his angelic voice. (And I never use that word lightly. His voice really is like being cradled on a blanket of clouds.) Kyle happened to be with us that night and invited Calvin to audition for the band. Later that summer the band recruited Dylan Dust on keys and Derek Read on bass. And Ursa Major was born.
But aside from introducing Daniel and Calvin, I really can’t take much credit. As they put it so eloquently on the band’s Facebook profile, “Ursa Major is a band brought together by serendipity and a mutual love for music. It is a band that is kept together by friendship and copious amounts of Bud Light.” Cheers, friends.
What really separates Ursa Major from every other trying-to-make-it band out there is their genre, or rather the inability to label them with any one genre. There are clear influences of post-hardcore, jazz and hip-hop. It’s the kind of music I can’t put into words. You’ll just have to listen to it on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify or 8tracks.com. I know it’s not their favorite song, but “Last Day of Summer” is one I’m pretty fond of and the music video is pretty damn good, too. Check it out.
In the short time that Ursa Major has been around, they’ve accomplished quite a bit and gained a decent following. They’ve played several shows including BARNFEST, which as Calvin put it is “the mecca of the DIY scene in St. Louis.”
“It was incredible. We basically just smoked and drank and listened to cool bands all day. And at the end of it we cooked hot dogs on a burning armchair, and then we passed out in a tent,” Daniel said with a new fervor.
Calvin chimed in. “My favorite part from the band aspect of it was that we got to play outdoors under the stars which is something that we hadn’t done yet. And it’s out in the middle of nowhere so there are a fuck ton of stars. But being called Ursa Major and having so many things relating to space…That was a moment where everything was syncing up and I thought this is it.”
I think it’s this genuine excitement and satisfaction these guys get from making their music and experiencing others’ that will help them with whatever is to come. Maybe a 2016 tour??
On a non-musical note, the band members also happen to be pretty smart and full of wisdom (sometimes), and they wanted me to leave you all with a few thoughts.
Straight from the mind of the talented and tipsy Daniel Bradbury,
- Support local music. You may not know their stuff as well as the big bands, but you can actually be friends with them and stand front row at basement shows. And it’s really cool.
- Be excellent to each other.
- “My name is Daniel Bradbury. I’m single and I live in St. Louis. Goodbye.”
He’s really quite the gentleman, ladies.
And from Ursa Major’s frontman and skilled wordsmith Calvin, “Never be afraid to be yourself because being myself has always gotten me where I wanted to be.”