After three years of funk, hip hop and success that made both local and national splashes, The Interstellar Elevators will celebrate the end of their career with a final show at Toquet Hall in Westport on Friday, June 15.
A Weston High School band that formed in 2009, The Interstellar Elevators have changed greatly since their inception. Starting off as a pop band with funk influence, The Elevators were soon inclined to take a different musical direction when it became hard for them to secure a lead singer.
At this point, the band’s leader and songwriter, Billy Richling, decided to step in as both lead guitarist and rapper for the group.
The band’s first show as a hip hop-influenced group was at the Weston High School Battle of Bands competition in 2009 — which they won. This event affirmed that they could continue to play funky rap music and experience a positive reception.
“The transition fell at the same time that my band mates and I were starting to appreciate hip hop as both a culture and an expressive genre of music,” said Campbell McClintock, long time guitarist, keyboardist and saxophonist for The Elevators.
“I think that if you looked through a sequential archive of all of the originals and covers we’ve played over the years, you can see a very organic crossover of genres in our style,” he said.
The band played a few shows during the 2009-10 school year, but the pace truly didn’t pick up until the band members’ junior year, when a local fan base had been established and more original music had been written.
By 2011, Billy had already composed several original songs for The Elevators, five of which the band included on their first professionally recorded EP entitled Paper on Plastic.
“It’s one thing to write music, but it’s another thing to see it through to a finished product,” Billy said. “This was a great experience for the group and it opened up a lot of new doors for us.”
The new EP made the band a musical force to be reckoned with, as the newly recorded songs and thousands of online votes are what allowed The Elevators to compete in the nation-wide School Jam competition. Along with seven other selected high school groups from across the country, The Interstellar Elevators played at a music convention in Anaheim, Calif., sponsored by NAMM (the National Music Merchants Association).
The band’s participation in the competition also brought in $500 for Weston High School’s music department.
To become a tight and skilled musical group, much time and effort is required. The Interstellar Elevators have taken their music and performances extremely seriously. And in their case, practice has made perfect.
“The Interstellar Elevators is like a gorgeous, if slightly [difficult] girlfriend,” Vincent Simboli, keyboardist, said. “While she demands all my time and attention and sometimes can be a bit difficult, I stay with her because I love her and without her there would be a hole in my life,” he said.
Other recent successes for the band include shows played in New York City at the renowned venues Kenny’s Castaways and The Bitter End, and having live performances and recorded songs air on radio stations including WPKN (89.5AM), The Real Radio Show on WRCN (103.9FM) and Staples Radio (90.3FM).
After going through years of musical growth, shifts in style and nearly 15 different band members (full disclosure: including this author), the band wants to end its career on a high note.
The Interstellar Elevators have certainly made an impression on the local music scene. This is evidenced by the huge draws they attract to their shows and the fact that their music is infectious: The audience is always singing along and dancing at their performances.
“I like to think that we’ve influenced the music scene in the area,” Billy Richling said. “When we started out, there were no other student bands at Weston High School and we had little guidance. Since our freshman year, many new bands have popped up and we’ve made an effort to guide them in hope that they’ll find success.”
All the band members are seniors at Weston High School (with the exception of Austin Alianiello, who is a senior at Staples High School) and will be moving on to college in the fall, which is the main reason for their upcoming “break-up.”
The Elevators also feel content with their accomplishments and are ready to move on to other endeavors. Two members of the band plan on pursuing music-related fields in college: Stefan Rehr, the band’s drummer, is attending Emerson College to study music business, and Austin is attending Wheaton College in Illinois to study music education.
“The band is coming to an end as well as it possibly can,” said bassist Jake Strauss. “I’m extremely impressed and proud of what we’ve done, but at the same time, I’m ready to move on to different musical projects,” he said.
The band encourages anyone with interest to come out and see them perform for the final time on Friday night at Toquet Hall. They will be playing an extra-long setlist and are incorporating several musical guests from Weston High School into their performance. Tickets are $7 at the door.
“I’ve learned so much from being in the band, more so than any individual experience in my life,” Billy said. “Being in a self-run group has given me confidence, drive and the ability to hone my musical skills. As a band, we always had to think what we could do to make things happen, and what we could do to make ourselves better, and I will definitely miss being able to do that with the group.”