"Give Me Some People I Can Jam With"
A Haverford housing questionnaire brought together the original members of Bazmati Vice, but the funk/rock outfit is still going strong and working on a new album.
Ahead of his sophomore year at Haverford, Andrew Szczurek ’16 had a simple request on his student housing questionnaire. “I said, ‘Give me some people I can jam with,’ and they delivered!”
John Kerber ’17, Clayton Brandt ’17 and Chris Gibson ’17 were placed in the same apartment with Szczurek, and Kerber says, “We quickly started playing music and writing songs, and by spring we were playing around campus.”
With Kerber on bass, Gibson on drums, Brandt on lead vocals, and Szczurek on electric mandolin (later on keyboards, too), the band christened itself Bazmati Vice and things moved fast—from covering “Under the Bridge” at the Dorm Olympics to playing original songs in Lunt Basement and competing in a Bryn Mawr Battle of the Bands. They added St. Joseph’s University student Chris Jackowski on guitar, and for the rest of their college years and on past graduation, straight through to the present day, Bazmati Vice has always prioritized crafting a sound and making people move.
“The big thing I got from those Haverford and Bryn Mawr shows was how much fun it was to get people dancing,” says Kerber. “We’ve tried to keep that attitude as we moved on to playing in Boston, Philly, and New York—we want to make music that’s fun and that people can dance to.”
That sense of fun runs through their self-titled debut album from 2017, the 2018 Rise EP, and the teaser tracks “Bonehead” and “Burning Blue” from their upcoming record, Onward & Outward. Though Gibson and Brandt are no longer with the band, a new lineup that includes drummer Eric Proctor and vocalist Ari Michaels shows the popping funk from the initial Red Hot Chili Peppers influence is still there, along with the jammy excitement of Phish and elements of jazz, classic rock, and contemporary R&B.
When COVID-19 zeroed out their gig schedule, the band made the most of having to slow down. “Our first album was rushed, and the EP we wanted to get out quickly to book more gigs,” says Kerber, who is 25 and lives in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood with Szczurek and Jackowski. They’d already laid down the tracks for Onward & Outward, and now they had time to really hone the songs.
“We’ve really been refining the mixes,” says Szczurek, 26. “It’s allowed us to be more detail oriented—I mean, what else were we going to do?”
The album will be streaming in the fall, and the Bazmati crew is itching to get back on stage. “It’s a bummer not being able to play gigs,” Szczurek says, but he’s hopeful they’ll be able to play safe, outdoor shows. And once they can perform again, Kerber says Bazmati Vice will be right back to doing what got them together in the first place: “Putting on a fun show and getting people dancing.”