The Washington, D.C. music scene is among the nation’s best, boasting stadium-sized concert halls and offbeat venues all within a few streets of each other. Georgetown students, however, need look no further than their own campus to find exciting new sources of music and performance. Bands formed by students often perform at venues on or close to campus, sparking a culture of artistic creativity all within the bounds of Healy Gates.
Almeda is a rhythm-and-blues and rock group formed by Georgetown students, featuring Dan Sheehan (COL ’17) on drums, Nick Quirk (COL ’17) on bass, Danny O’Brien (MSB ’17) on piano and guitar and Adaeze “Dez” Eze (SFS ’17) on vocals. The band has performed in a variety of settings, from house shows in Georgetown to restaurants in Adams Morgan. Almeda was voted the winner of the Adams Morgan PorchFest music festival in October.
Through SoundCloud and Bandcamp, Almeda has released an eponymous, three-song extended play and a single, “Wanderer.” The group plans to release another extended play titled “Piece of Mind,” in collaboration with rapper Kenyon Smutherman (SFS ’17). The lead single, also called “Piece of Mind,” will be released in the next two weeks.
The Hoya sat down with Sheehan, Quirk and O’Brien for an exclusive interview to discuss the band’s influences, recent releases and future plans. Their responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did Almeda form?
O’Brien: Me and Nick have been roommates all through college starting freshman year, and Dez was also on our floor. She used to sing and everyone knew that she had a great voice. Sophomore year, we finally convinced Dez to be in a band with us. And then Nick knew Dan from one of his freshman seminars and knew that he was a drummer.
Quirk: We did “Guild of Bands,” a performance organization and course at Georgetown, sophomore year and junior year. “Guild of Bands” is really good because you get rehearsal space and instrument amps, so we did that for logistics and it worked out really well. And then from there, we just moved on.
Can you talk about your process in creating a song or making music in general?
O’Brien: All of us take turns being the lead song writer on different songs, so it really depends on who’s leading it. For one of our new songs, Dez just came in and was like, “Guys, I have a song,” and she started singing this baseline. We just jammed. We figured our way around it. Whereas other times, me or Dan might come to the band with more of a developed chord progression or melody and then we work on it from there. But it’s almost always sort of spontaneous, working as a band to feel out our parts in real time as we play new songs. And then we sit on a song for a long time, play it over and over again, develop the little things and tweak it so that by the time it’s recorded, it’s got all sorts of overdubbed layers and it becomes a bigger and bigger thing the longer we go.
Quirk: I’d definitely say a lot of the cool stuff comes in the recordings compared to what we play live because live we’re only four people, but when you do recording, you can put background vocals and auxiliary percussion or horns on it.
How do you adapt to playing songs live after you have used those techniques in the studio?
Sheehan: It is challenging. One of the songs I wrote, when we play it live, I usually play keys and then Danny drums … That’s not what’s on the recording, but it’s what works best for the live performance. It’s just a matter of playing around with stuff.
O’Brien: It’s usually a matter of simplifying the arrangement a little bit and trying to make up for it in energy.
Where have you performed so far and what are your upcoming shows?
Sheehan: We’ve performed a few shows in Adams Morgan. We played at Bossa last year and we just played there again last week. We’ve also played at Roofers Union there. Back in the fall, we won Adams Morgan PorchFest, which is a festival where they have all these different bands play on porches around the neighborhood.
O’Brien: For PorchFest, we’re playing another show May 6. That’s probably our biggest upcoming gig, in Adams Morgan. There’s a good culture of music kids hosting things at their houses. It’s pretty connected. A lot of that is from “Guild of Bands.” People know each other, and so those have been some of the most fun shows, going to different houses and doing smaller gigs.
Do you have advice to other students who are looking to start a band?
O’Brien: Join “Guild of Bands.” If you’re looking for where to start or where to get the gear you need, look up “Guild of Bands” because that’s really the main way that Georgetown facilitates this sort of thing, and you’ll find the right people to talk to that way.
Quirk: Typically start playing some cover songs and then figure out your inspirations. First thing you’ve got to do when you start a band is figure out your inspirations.
Sheehan: That is a big part of it, though. Figure out what everyone listens to, and start listening to the same things and share your interests.
Who are some of your musical influences and artists you admire?
O’Brien: Lianne La Havas, Hiatus Kaiyote, Kendrick [Lamar], Allen Stone, Stevie Wonder.
What are Almeda’s plans for the future?
O’Brien: We’re basically on a recording spree right now. We’re recording as much material as we possibly can so that once we graduate and go our separate ways, I can just sit alone in my room and keep mixing them and keep releasing songs on SoundCloud for my mom.
Sheehan: Yeah, Danny’s a mixing god.
Quirk: Danny took some of the recording classes at Georgetown, so he has access to the studio equipment. He’s gotten really good at it, not only recording but also mixing and editing the music offline, so that’s a huge part of it, too, figuring out the recordings and the album artwork and all that stuff. It’s a huge thing to be able to do yourself.