Co-written by Co-Editors in Chief Roxy Hudson and Ro’aa Alkhawaja
Hangman, a band composed of four students across the Poway Unified School District, rocked the show at the Poway Americana Festival on Sunday, August 22nd. Bass player and Westview Senior Johnny Levine, lead singer and Poway Junior Elle Walton, MC sophomore by day and Hangman drummer by night Jameson Powell-Espiritu, as well as Poway Junior and lead guitarist Ryan Bond promoted inter-school unity and local stardom with a unique set of classic rock and original music.
It all started at the Scripps Ranch School of Rock, a collaborative musical haven at which developing teenage performers can go to foster their musical talents and gain greater on-stage skills.
“We all met at School of Rock, Scripps Ranch, so it wasn’t anything really for school, and I guess all three of the schools that we go to kind of feed into that school of rock, and if you want to play an instrument, then that’s where you go. So we all met […] and I would say we were all the best people there,” Bond said.
The Hangman band members met by happenstance, coming together for the first time after being randomly paired to take the stage in front of the rest of the School of Rock community.
“[At School of Rock] for each performance there’s no specific set of people for every single song. It’s like we’re all playing randomly so we often don’t always play together. So this is the first time we actually played an entire set together,” Levine said.
The chemistry they had onstage was uncanny. Each member complimented the musical talent of the other. It is for this reason that lead guitarist Bond took the initiative to bring the four talented individuals together. And so began the band Hangman.
“Ryan kind of put us all together. Ryan was the one who kind of started it, and asked us […] which was really cool because I never would have done that myself you know, so it was awesome how we kind of came together like that,” Walton said.
Inspired by folk legends like Simon and Garfunkel and rock-n-roll superstars like Led Zeppelin and Rush, the four band members put together a unique setlist composed of classic rock, folk sounds, and original pieces with hints of both.
“It’s really a more collaborative process […] we take elements of all the inspirations we have for our specific instruments, we try and combine them in our playing [and] to make a song,” Levine said.
During practice sessions, each band member experiments with their instrument, playing individual notes and riffing off one another to create small jingles that eventually develop into catchy tunes to be showcased at their next performance.
“Sometimes […] they write a riff or something and they come up with the song and then I have like some old lyrics to put with it and it just kind of works you know, but other times like they’ll write the song first and then I’ll write lyrics according that, it kind of goes either way you know it depends on what happens,” Walton said.
Rehearsing for a total of four hours a week split up into two practice sessions allows the four high school rock stars to complete all their school work while still having enough time to perfect their craft. This consistent training has allowed them to collectively grow as musicians. Getting to know each other’s style off stage, translated to great chemistry on stage.
Taking the stage starts with a foggy mind and a racing heart, but after a few seconds they each zone in on their respective roles and come together as a harmonious whole.
“Eventually after the first thirty seconds I ignore the audience and focus on my peeps, that’s how we got through this one,” Bond said. “Really the thing that helps me most is the sunglasses. I wear them whenever I play in front of people, […] it helps me just kind of recede within myself but still feel in the zone.”
After the first song, the group gets more comfortable in their positions. When the nerves fade, that’s when the real rocking happens.
“It’s a really big adrenaline rush getting on stage, you just feel so confident. For me, it’s hard to explain it, I just […] don’t care about the little things. I’m solely focused on what I’m doing. I’m kind of in the zone,” Walton said. “It’s a lot of adrenaline but it really helps because it pushes me through. I have to remember to stay casual and stay comfortable on stage.”
They each have an obvious love for creating and performing music. They are motivated by the rush of performing and the love of creating.
“I think really it’s the performing aspect of it and also just collaborating and playing music with each other and creating stuff, like contributing to the world of sound, that’s really like the biggest thing that I think we can get out of it, it makes us happy,” Levine said.
Currently, the band is working towards expanding their sound and audience by recording their tunes and booking more gigs.
“We are looking at a few different producers to try and make a record, we already looked at one guy and we are still looking for other options […] we want to do this before I go off to college, and that’s coming very quickly so we have to work fast,” Levine said.
While the experience of performing is one of a kind, their greatest joy is seeing the excited faces of their many audience members as they step up onto the stage.
“It’s all about the fans,” Bond said.
To stay up to date on Hangman’s future plans and performances, follow @thebandhangman on Instagram and Facebook and subscribe to the same username on YouTube to view clips of their past performances.