The Orion

The Upstairs Neighbours bring the funk

Veronica Hodur

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Each member of The Upstairs Neighbours really feeling their instrument.Photo credit: Chelsea Jeffers

In a calm, welcoming environment, a jazzy beat sounds through the Saturday morning air as mothers and their babies bounce in time to the music of The Upstairs Neighbours while enjoying freshly baked muffins.

The Upstairs Neighbours, a local band made of Chico State students, play jazz-influenced pop at locations including Café Flo and the Saturday morning farmers market.

The band consists of sophomore recording arts majors Aaron Drange who plays alto saxophone, harmonica and vocals and Polo Hedriana who plays guitar and vocals. Junior recording arts major Alex Montes de Oca plays bass and sophomore music education major Phillip Drange plays percussion.

Sophomore composition major Roxanne Winslow is featured on trumpet for many of their performances.

The Upstairs Neighbours have been playing at the farmers market for almost a year.

“They’re more professional than many of the other bands we’ve had play here,” said Lance Alldrin, board member of the farmers market and owner of Alldrin & Sons Alaskan Salmon stand.

The Upstairs Neighbours play at a level where the vendors can still communicate with their customers, but everyone can still hear them, he said.

While performing, the band is generally surrounded by a small crowd of parents with children and other happy listeners.

One mother, Sarah Sautner, loves to have her children listen to live music because it’s a great experience for them. When she asked her oldest son Levi which of the instruments he liked best, he asked her to guess.

“The drum box,” Levi said, meaning the instrument Phillip Drange plays. Then he changed his mind. “All of these.”

The band began the fall semester of 2012, when the four of them came together to practice at Aaron Drange’s apartment. The band got their name from the fact that only their upstairs neighbors could hear them.

“They actually inspired us to do our first song which was a Taylor Swift cover,” Hedriana said. “They used to blast ‘Trouble’ all the time and we decided to play it back. They thought it was funny.”

The four band members all come from very different backgrounds with unique music inspirations.

Aaron Drange has always been influenced by jazz players like Paul Desmond, which shows through his vocals and saxophone playing. Hedriana has some harder influence from his days in a punk band in his hometown and both Phillip Drange and Montes de Oca are known to bring more of a funk style into the pieces.

“If you write a song and bring the lead sheet, we’ll play it, so it leads to different influences shining through every single song,” Hedriana said.

Their playlist consists of both original work and jazzy renditions of popular songs. They’ve begun to play a lot of straight jazz as well because it helps them get work.

“Flip,” an original song written by Hedriana, is unanimously the band’s favorite song to play.

Balancing school and band practice has been difficult, making practice at odd times during the day, according to Hedriana. They are all very invested in their schoolwork and try to keep up with both, sacrificing a lot of sleep in the process.

“We try and squeeze in rehearsals whenever we can,” Hedriana said. “We’re always playing music whether it’s with the band or not.”

Their extended play three-song album is available on their Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TheUpstairsNeighbours) and SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/the-upstairs-neighbours), and will soon be available on Bandcamp and iTunes.

Veronica Hodur can be reached at [email protected] or @VeronicaHodur on Twitter.

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The Upstairs Neighbours bring the funk