Athens’ CLUBHOUSE Headed to Firefly Festival June 15-18< < Back to
June 15-18 marks the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE. Started in 2012, this year the festival showcases some impressive headliners – from America’s troubadour, Bob Dylan, to Chance the Rapper, fresh off the 2016 release of the Grammy award winning album Coloring Book.
Among the acts slated to perform is Athens’ own CLUBHOUSE, an eclectic outfit made up entirely of undergraduate students at Ohio University and the Ohio State University. The group found their way into the lineup by way of the festival’s Big Break Global Contest, which allowed fans to vote for various, smaller regional acts to perform at the big-name festival.
CLUBHOUSE’s roots can be traced back to the lobby pianos in Washington Hall on East Green, where drummer Zak Blumer was fiddling away at some tunes he’d taught himself to play via YouTube tutorials in 2015. Michael Berthold, the group’s keyboardist and an OSU student, was in Athens visiting some pals when he joined Zak at the piano.
It was shortly thereafter that bassist Ben Saulnier moved onto the same dormitory floor as lead vocalist Max Reichert.
“I remember that he (Saulnier) lived in Crawford his first semester, and then he moved onto my floor, right across from my room,” said Reichert. “I knocked on his door and asked him if he wanted to hang out, and he was just like ‘yeah, some other time,’ and a few weeks later we actually became pretty good friends.”
Reichert and twins Ari and Zak Blumer had known each other for some time, having been in the same public school system since the third grade, and had explored a series of musical projects before they both enrolled at OU.
“They (Ari and Zak) annoyed me a little at first,” laughed Reichert, seated next to Zak in Donkey Coffee on a balmy afternoon in early May, only weeks after the announcement that their group would be included in the Firefly lineup. “Throughout high school we became best friends. We did a lot of battles of the bands and that kind of thing together – and when we got to college, we wanted to take our music more seriously.”
That they did.
Throughout the past couple of years, CLUBHOUSE has performed at a number of regional venues, lighting up The Union in particular with their ferocious, precocious tunes.
Like many musical outfits that assemble themselves in the high school years, the core group consisting of Reichert and the Blumer twins went through a series of band name changes, including the clever Mirror Image – playing the fact that Zak and Ari are, indeed, twins — before they settled on their present moniker.
“So far as a band name, we eventually settled on ‘clubhouse,’ because Zak and Ari had this little shed, this little clubhouse, which was about the size of a single room in the dirty south (green of Ohio University) that we used to hang out in back in high school,” said Reichert.
Although CLUBHOUSE has only been around for a little under two years, the group has already gone through some sizable music and aesthetic changes.
“At some point our sound sort of shifted, and we started making music that sounded a little more ‘tropical,’” said Reichert. “Almost like taking ‘80s pop and morphing it together with EDM with some R&B influence.”
One of the group’s most recent efforts, the track “Kyra,” glistens with lightly applied synth-pop gloss all while utilizing an undulating percussive streak to maintain the tune’s momentum. Kind of like a boy band from an alternative universe.
“How we consume our music is a huge part of what we’re all about, and the sound that we aim to create,” said Reichert, who said all of the members of the group are avid Spotify users and consumers of digitized media. “We really listen to everything, to every genre that we can. We don’t want to box ourselves in, we want to make music that is like the music that we listen to: everything and anything from Whitney Houston to R&B to rap or EDM. We’re kind of like an Asian fusion place – we take inspiration and influence from every cuisine.”
Being that the group is made up of undergraduate college students, they have their hands full with a burgeoning music project and their various academic and social obligations.
“Being in a band and in college is horrible and amazing – it’s hard because you need to put time into the band and when you have two people in the band who are engineering or accounting majors – and one of them was working an 80-hour a week internship this past spring – things can be tough,” said Reichert. “Right now it’s nice because we have this solid social network of people who will always come to our shows – and it’s a blessing. Being in college is helpful in that way, but it’s also something that propels us and hinders us at the same time.”
“We’re kind of like an Asian fusion place – we take inspiration and influence from every cuisine,” – CLUBHOUSE vocalist and rhythm guitarist Max Reichert
“Honestly, I don’t think that playing at Firefly would have been possible without the network of friends that we have, they’re so supportive,” said Zak. “It’s humbling to have to be in school and in a band, but I’m thankful for the network that we have.”
The band is hopeful for the possibilities that performing this weekend at Firefly could bring them.
“Hopefully playing the festival will help take us to new heights, to the point that we are actually getting asked to play the festival instead of winning a contest to perform there – not that that isn’t totally legitimate and also a blessing,” said Reichert. “Right after we formed the band we went to Firefly together 2015, and we had such a great time. But it was frustrating because we kept looking at each other and asking ‘why aren’t we playing up there on stage already?’”