Q and A with student performers: The Wingmen

By Heather Hennigan

Contributing Writer

The Wingmen, a student band on campus, was featured last Friday night in Seventh Street Café’s Late Night series. The band members include Drew Picketts ’14 (lead vocals, rhythm guitarist, harmonica and kazoo), Alex Ororbia ’13 (lead guitarist, rhythm/funk guitarist, back-up vocals and band manager), Michael Mattei ’13 (bass, back-up vocals, rhythm guitarist, flute and manager), Andy Hritz ’14 (keyboard, saxophone, kazoo and percussion) and Tony Veloz ’14 (violin). 

Q: What type of music do you play/write? What are some of your influences?

A: Drew: “We play reggae, ’90s rock, blues and some originals. Everyone in the band comes from different musical backgrounds and listens to their own distinct genres.”
A: Michael: “In terms of the music we play, I don’t really like to classify us. Each member of the band likes to listen to and play completely different genres, and we just do our best to work with each other and add our own flavor. I’d say the biggest influence in our sound, though, is Drew’s love of reggae and ska, and also some punk influence. That’s definitely the bare bones of what we do.”

A: Alex: “Whenever I write riffs or song ideas for the band, I usually come from a funk perspective and draw from 90s rock composition and old classic rock riff ideas, and then mix in key change ideas to spice up the feel of the riffs and progressions. I like to write (i.e. brighten up a tune, create a sad bridge, etc.). The ideas (for a chorus, verse or both) that I bring to the band ultimately change to how the band functions as a whole and the resulting songs display a blend of those basic riffs, Drew’s melodies and lyrics, and Mike’s bass-lines. Andy has certainly brought in a different feel and style to the music we play. Not only is he good at creating the keyboard accompaniment (and bass-lines in certain cases) that we need for most songs, he brings in some progressive and classically influenced ideas into our writing. As a result, we have some pretty cool songs in the works. I would also say that Tony’s violin playing has added yet another dimension to our band’s style, putting in more interesting timbre in our music as well as some orchestral-sounding themes over top our progressions, influenced by his classical background and a love of improvisation. He’s told me the band is providing him with an excellent opportunity to improvise and experiment with violin playing in a unique way (especially trying to integrate it into our more funky rock style).”

Q: When did your band first form and how?

A: Alex: “Well, as I think back, Mike and I have been friends since our freshman year here at Bucknell. I remember him and I talking about how cool it would be to perform all of our favorite songs just even as guitar-bassist duo as early as freshman year.  Then I actually started a smaller performance group with a some music-loving friends who were interested in playing at Seventh Street, including a pianist and a guitarist, and we got a holiday party gig at Uptown where we needed to put together a set list within a few weeks. I met Drew at one at a meeting of the music club Mike tried starting up the 2010 fall semester, and he got a hold of me after I posted that we needed a singer on that club’s Facebook. I gave Mike a call one night and asked him if he was interested in joining in on a starting band with Drew and I (the other guys eventually couldn’t do it) and getting ready to play for a gig in just under a week. He accepted, and well, several days later we were playing at Uptown several holiday tunes that we modified like ‘Rosty the Snowman’ and ‘Jingle Blues’ and our own version of ‘Feliz Navidad’.”

Q: How did you come up with your band name?

A: Michael: “The name came from one of those instances where you’re just thinking about the day, and a particular phrase seems to describe it perfectly. I was walking back to my mod from practice (the first or second one, I don’t remember exactly) and I was thinking about how the band was going to work out and the role that each member would play (this was before Andy joined the band). It was obvious from the start that Drew would be the frontman, since he’s lead vocals. And Alex, he was sort of like the band’s wingman. He met me early in our freshman year. Then he met Drew later in our sophomore year (Drew was a freshman) and was like, ‘Hey, you two should get together and play some music!’ so Alex brought us all together and was, in my mind, dubbed the band’s wingman. A few seconds later, he received a text message that said ‘The Wingmen?’ and the rest is history.”

Q: Were you excited to be featured in Seventh Street Café’s Late Night series? How was it?

A: Alex: “Yes, I was excited to be a part of the Seventh Street Late Night series. I enjoy practicing for upcoming performances and crafting our set-lists for each gig as well as figuring out which original songs are performance-ready. I enjoy the laid-back environment of Seventh Street Café. Overall, it was very fun playing [there] and I hope the band gets to do more.”

A: Andy: “Oh yeah. Nothing beats being squeezed into the back corner. I can only escape by crawling under my keyboard … But in all seriousness, I like the opportunity to perform in front of peers without the pressures of having to sound professional or anything. We can jam and have a good time.”

Q: Do you ever get nervous?

A: Michael: “Generally, we’ve become really comfortable with [performing]. We just go in and have fun. We don’t care about our audience taking us seriously. We just want them to have fun with us and enjoy the show. We just wing it (pun intended) and play through mistakes and have good time.”

A: Alex: “I don’t usually get nervous for performances, given we have done them enough to know what to expect. We often joke that we certainly fit our band’s name since we often end up ‘winging some things and go into a performance after only having rehearsed some songs in our set only once or twice. But I love to improvise my guitar solos, so I feel it generally works out going in to some gigs with only a basic feel for certain songs. It can sometimes allow us to make a song we choose to perform more like a good cover, or our own version of it, rather than simply trying to copy it.”

Q: Any plans/hopes for the future?

A: Michael: “I have two hopes for the band. The first is that we work closely with other bands to enhance the musical community here at Bucknell. My other hope is that we can record as many of our songs as possible before Alex and I graduate so we can listen to them years from now and think back to the times we’ve had, but also so that friends and family from home can finally hear the band.”

A: Andy: “I know we’re trying to minimize our use of covers and shift to performing mostly original material. I’d like to write more for the band. I know all of us are trying to get an album out within a year.”

A: Alex: “I always hope for more gigs at Uptown or Seventh Street, and we would like to play a little bit more at some of the local venues of Lewisburg, like Bull Run Inn, Zelda’s Cafe, Cherry Alley, an event in Hufnagle park, etc.  Ultimately, we hope to phase out most of our cover songs with originals (we have plenty of works-in-progress at the moment) and just cycle in several of these covers for every show. One long-term band goal is to release an album of our original music and a few of our better covers within the year. We also have a Facebook page. Please visit our page and give us a ‘like’ to keep up on performance dates and sample songs we plan on posting there.”

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