This week, Geneseo witnessed the start of what is sure to be an exciting adventure for the newly founded band Straw Hat. Formed following the untimely death of Geneseo student Samual Nichols in May, the members of Straw Hat, in true Geneseo spirit, chose to honor Nichols by continuing to spread his love of music.
The band consists of drummer sophomore Marty Benzinger, guitarist and student at Monroe Community College Noah Elias and bassist and vocalist senior Jennifer Bender. The group will ensure that the memory of Nichols is incorporated into all performances by reserving the fourth spot, which would have been his. The band’s name stems from the infamous straw hat Nichols was seen frequently wearing.
Before beginning their sets at the Ephemeral Arts Festival hosted by the Office of Sustainability on Oct. 26 and during a house show held at 4 Main Street on Friday Oct. 27, Elias made sure to acknowledge the band’s dedication and commitment to honoring Nichols’ memory through their music. This feeling was heard by all in attendance who answered with rapturous applause.
The band’s set included original songs written by its members and combined elements of rock, funk and alternative music. Bender’s vocals had an almost ethereal quality above the driving bass-line. Benzinger’s drumming was a powerful addition to the tracks, as the steady beat featured many technique-heavy fills and added to the excited atmosphere and the sentiment behind the band’s style.
Nichols’ passion for music and how he enjoyed discovering new sounds echoes in the band’s material. Straw Hat, as Bender said, is “different than what you might hear normally in town with a lot of the songs created from [the band] messing around and improvising.”
The band hopes to continue performing in the local area, and expanding their repertoire. They also aim to encourage students and the local community to explore new types of music, all while remembering Nichols’ dedication to musical discovery. These motives are what drive and inspire the band.
“Straw Hat is influenced by each other and not so much [by] other bands. Subconsciously, different kinds of melodies that I hear throughout the day, including my music education, play a role in the music that I write,” Bender said. “Marty described us as an indie alternative with a little bit of funk and an extra little something-something.”
With Straw Hat entering the already strong music scene at Geneseo, students can be sure to experience a true range of talent and passion while perfectly exemplifying the Geneseo spirit of community and cooperation.u