Eclectic band looks to become household ‘Name’
“Music is here. Real music.”
Those words, from the group known as the No Name Band, form the message it intends to spread to both the UALR campus and the city of Little Rock.
This neo-soul band consists of six UALR students with a wide range of musical talents, whose instruments are as diverse as the band itself. The group features keyboard players Korey Fells and Kennion Gulley, bassist Chris Young, drummer Jeremy Metcalf, saxophonist Jacques Courtney and viola player Jalen Davis.
These college sophomores, juniors and seniors have majors ranging from biology and nursing to music and criminal justice, but fate seems to have brought the musicians together. None of the members knew each other before coming to UALR, with the exception of two musicians. Some met through a mutual friend or a pick-up game at the gym, others at Guitar Center or through a simple conversation about music. They all agreed, however, that it was their shared living space at West Hall that solidified their bond.
In no time, the guys realized they had the makings of band. Unable to settle on a fitting name, they decided it was best to wait for the right title to come to them. In the meantime, they are referring to themselves as the No Name Band.
Their first performance was on Valentine’s Day 2013 at Pulaski Technical College. Since then, they’ve gone on to play local venues like Vino’s Brewpub and secured a spot as regulars at the 521 Southern Café. The band said one of its largest crowds was at this year’s Delta Sigma Theta Man of DSTinction competition, where nearly one hundred people were in attendance.
The group performs its own versions of popular songs like Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice” or “Love on Top” by Beyoncé. Since they currently operate without a vocalist, the saxophonist plays most of the lyrics — or the ear candy.
“The bass and the drums are connected because they’re the rhythm section, they’re the driving force of what’s going on,” Gulley said. “Joc is just the sax player, he’s like the cherry on top. He comes in and plays the melodies and the songs, depending upon whether we have a lead vocalist at that time or not. He might lead the song and then again he might just come in and accent.”
Although the group is fairly sizable, the players manage to connect seamlessly onstage.
“We are on the spot people,” Gulley said. “Fifty percent of the music we play is always on the spot. We don’t know what it’s going to be before we get there. If you don’t know, you have to figure it out.”
The members said that their roots in church music are what helped them hone their improvisational skills. They can smoothly adjust when a singer instantly decides to switch keys. They also have the luxury of affording Fells’ talents as a classically trained musician who knows music theory.
“In my family, we make everybody start out playing classical music at like four or five,” Fells said. “I did learn that classical music was like the basis for all types of music.”
He can quickly identify the key a singer is in and use a number system to relay the message to the rest of the group.
“It’s like a way of communicating with each other,” Fells said. “If I say one, everybody knows what to play.”
The number system ranges from one to seven, corresponding with the seven keys on a piano (C through B). Like a well-coordinated basketball squad, the other players know exactly what to do when a number is called. It also helps that they’ve all been playing music the majority of their lives.
One of the group’s goals is to bring a new attention to music.
“I don’t think people on a college campus really appreciate it,” Gulley said. “They kind of just want to hear what’s on the radio. We’re going to lure them in with those type of songs but just to kind of bring more of an awareness.”
They also want to make their music relatable to all age groups.
“To make something where you can have anywhere from a seven or eight year old to their entire family, up to their grandmother, in the same vehicle and they can listen to our music and all of them can enjoy it,” Young said.
Hear the No Name Band perform live at the 521 Southern Café on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m.