The Communicator

The Left Lanes

A local student-run band talks about their journey through the world of music.

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Five Ann Arbor Public School students, three from Community High School (CHS) and two from Skyline High School (SHS), gathered in a house off of Dexter Ann Arbor Rd; the whole building echoed with music coming from the dimly lit basement. Posters of various musicians, including “The Who” and “Led Zeppelin”, hung on the walls. The floor was strewn with cords. This was a typical meeting of The Left Lanes, a local student-run band.

The end of the school year is when these people were all together,” said Isaac McKenna, one of the guitarists of the band. This was not McKenna’s first band. Around April, McKenna and Max Mellor, the other guitarist, formed a band, it didn’t last. “They weren’t bad,” McKenna said. “They just weren’t right for our band.”

Noah Hogan, the bassist, was the first to join McKenna and Mellor, having previously known them from the CHS jazz program. Following Hogan, the group invited Natalie Maxey, the singer, after hearing her sing through Snapchat. “Then I got Gabe [Wood] somehow,” Mellor said. “I just met Gabe at a park. It was wild.” By the end of June 2017, the whole group was together and already working on pieces.

The band has written seven songs in addition to various beginnings of new pieces. “We always have several different riffs and chords going that we haven’t written songs for yet,” McKenna said. This is how most of their songs begin.

“It starts when Issac and I are bored in Jazz and we write some chords, and we’re like, ‘These chords sound good and I like these chords,’” Mellor said. “Then we show [the band] and Noah adds some bass. We just jam on it for while and Gabe gives us some drums. Then Natalie, I mean I don’t know how [she] writes, [she’s] crazy.”

While the song is being constructed, Maxey is busy writing her lyrics. “I try to take in everything that [the band] is doing and the [corresponding] sense of colors,” Maxey said. She has synesthesia, a phenomenon in which the stimulation of one sense involuntarily stimulates another. For Maxey, the sounds produced by the band form colors. “I kind of listen to [the colors] and see how they work together and see what texture they have,” Maxey said. “I compare that to all the music I know, and the lyrics I have, and try to match lyrics with color.”

From these “jams,” they begin to figure out the song structure. “Our song structure isn’t always the normal intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge,” McKenna said. “We don’t usually do normal.”

The first song The Left Lanes wrote as a group was “I Got It, which was completed within the first few meetings. “I didn’t really know what to expect [in terms of] how it would sound with a band, and it sounded better than I ever could imagine,” McKenna said. “It was a pretty amazing feeling.” “I Got It” was a great starting point for the band.

Colors was the first song The Left Lanes shared with the public using Soundcloud—a online audio distribution platform. “We definitely needed some publicity, and [Colors] helped people to realize who we are,” McKenna said. “Otherwise, no one hears our music and it just stays in our basement.” Getting a song out there was a necessary step they needed to take in order to get gigs.  

A day after the song was posted, it had accumulated around 2,000 views. “I didn’t expect to get that many views,” McKenna said. “I think especially people in Ann Arbor have listened to it a bunch of times. It definitely feels good.”

The ambitions of the group now is to play a show. “It’s something that we want to do,” McKenna said. “We just haven’t had time.” McKenna, Mellor, and Hogan have played shows in the past, but not with this group. Maxey, who sings in choir, and Wood, who plays percussion, have never played publicly outside of school.

“I like playing live, so I’m excited to do that,” Hogan said. “Live shows is what I want to do.”

The band also wishes to grow their fanbase. “I just want to be big enough so that people know who we are and if you say, “Oh The Left Lanes,” people will recognize us,” McKenna said.

This band has become an important part in each of the member’s lives. “It’s really cool for me because I’ve wanted to be in a band for a such a long time but I haven’t really had anyone,” Wood said. “Writing music all the time is super cool.” This is Wood’s first time being part of a band.

“It’s just a fun thing to do,” Mellor said. “It’s serious in a way that we write music, but we just have so much fun doing it.” They believe creating their own music is a major part of why they enjoy this process.

“If we were a covers band I don’t think it would be the same,” McKenna said. “I think that creating art is a cool thing to do.”

In addition, the connection between the members is a valued aspect. “Every time I come in here I just feel so connected listening to music and listening to all the colors,” Maxey said. “It’s just great, and I’m glad to be in a group where I feel so connected.”

The future of the band isn’t set, but the goal “is to get good enough that Gabe can take a gap year,” Mellor said, Wood being a year older than the rest of the members.

“I only want to take a gap year if I have to,” Wood said.

“That’s what I’m saying,” Mellor said. “If we get good enough to where you want to stay, that’s the prime.”

The Left Lanes will be preforming at the B side on Nov. 10th at 7 pm for a hurricane Relief fundraiser hosted by the Neutral Zone.

Find The Left Lanes on Instagram @theleftlanes and on Soundcloud at soundcloud.com/theleftlanes

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