Campus Folk Band Makes An Album

The Attic Stairs try to bolster funds received from the Student Arts Fund to record, press and design a vinyl record.

Not many bands even feature a flute player, let alone owe their inceptions to the reedless wind instrument. But the Attic Stairs, an all-Haverford-student folk outfit, are the exception. The collective formed when frontman Dan Wriggins ’14 (a multi-instrumentalist and singer) heard Evangeline Krajewski ’14 playing her flute in one of the practice rooms in Union Hall and knocked on her door inviting her to jam with him.

From that initial knock, their chamber-folk outfit grew to include fellow Class of ’14 members Charlie Birkel, a guitarist and ukulele-player, and Martin Richard, an upright bassist, as well as Alicia Resnick ’13, a banjo-, mandolin- and fiddle-player. With their lineup mostly solidified (depending on the occasion, they can grow to a six- or seven-piece group) the Attic Stairs began writing songs and playing their shambolic, acoustic, rootsy folk on and around campus together.

“I’d say the way we formed is pretty organic,” says Krajewski. “In the beginning of last year, we started just jamming together, and Dan wrote songs. Then we added more people [this semester]. We all just love music.”

While an Attic Stairs’ show can feature up to 16 different instruments, the band (think Mumford & Sons with flute or the circa-2002 chamber pop lineup of Bright Eyes) was still missing something: an album that would record its existence for posterity. So earlier in the fall, they petitioned the Student Arts Fund for the money needed to record their music properly.

“We have some space on campus for recording and students have done great projects there,” says James Weissinger, associate director of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, which overseas the Student Arts Fund. “But Attic Stairs are making folk music—they are recording accordions, flutes, banjos, fiddles and upright bass—and in order to make those instruments sound the way you expect them to sound on a record, you actually have to do all this complicated stuff in the studio to create that ‘real sound.’ So that really does require an engineer and the right kind of studio and the right kind of equipment.”

In its application to the Student Arts Fund, the band sought the money not just to record, but to press a vinyl record—much like senior Bennett Smith did last year.

“What we’re looking for is a community feel,” says Wriggins. “We are looking for something that sounds spontaneous and open—as if you were going into a room and people were just playing. There’s a warmth to vinyl that will complement that.”

But with so many ambitious student arts projects proposed this year to the Fund, which is funding six of them, the Attic Stairs couldn’t get the full amount of support they sought. Instead of giving up on their recording dreams or scaling back on their production costs, the band, at the urging of Weissinger, decided to do some fundraising of their own to make up the difference.

“I think it’s good that the Arts Fund is flexible,” says Weissinger, “so that sometimes we pay for a couple of big projects, sometimes we fund a lot of little ones, or sometimes we give seed grants to help folks get started on something and get the ball rolling, which is what is happening in this case.”

Through the online fundraising site Indie Gogo, the Attic Stairs are trying to raise $1900 for their project. (They are close to their goal; as of December 15, they only had $380 more to go.) They’re offering incentives too, so that different amounts will earn contributors different perks. For example, a $10 donation will get you a digital copy of the album, but a $75 commitment will get you the digital and vinyl editions, as well as either a loaf of rosemary sourdough bread made by Wriggins, or your choice of muffins or scones made by Krajewski. Big spenders ($1000 or more) can earn a private concert and get a three-course meal cooked by the band to enjoy during the show.

The band is spending their winter break in the studio, but their fundraising effort runs through February. Once the tracks are recorded, the Attic Stairs will turn their attention to ecological and artistic ways of making one-of-a-kind sleeves for their record.

“We’re going to make jackets out of [recycled cardboard] and stuff that we’ve got,” says Wriggins. “And then we’re going to have an event at James House to have people paint whatever they want on the album jackets. The music on the record is our primary goal, but another big goal is to have this artifact and to create a community art project.”

You can donate to the Attic Stairs fundraising campaign here.