Limelight: Yarn Club

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Yarn Club is a student band inspired by Blink-182 and Green Day. Yarn Club is comprised of Matt Murphy ’18 on guitar, Sean O’Reilley ’19 on drums and vocals, Josh Jensen ’19 on bass, Chris Brunet ’19 on guitar and vocals and J’Remi Barnes ’19 on piano. The S&B’s Julia Echikson sat down with the band to talk about the student music scene at Grinnell College.

The S&B: How did Yarn Club meet?

Sean O’Reilley: Well, [O’Reilley, Brunet and Jensen], initially met the first-year because we were all first-years and we were all on the cross country team. So that’s initially how this started. Matt was a late addition

Matt Murphy: I was clearly good enough.

SO: But we brought him in second-year. … Me and Chris started just jamming late second semester, first-year. After we figured out we each played a different instrument that could form the core of a band, and since we were good friends by that point and we knew each other pretty well on the team, we started just jamming. And then we were like, “Oh, I wonder who else on the team plays an instrument that we could just jam with for fun?” And at this point it wasn’t even like a band. … We brought in Matt this year and consequently J’Remi to play the piano once Josh moved to the base. 

The S&B: You’re all athletes. How did this love of music come about?

MM: Sean and I played a lot of jazz back in high school. Sean is a great drummer.

SO: Matt is also a really great jazz guitarist. … He’s nailed everything we’ve thrown at him.

Chris Brunet: Yeah, I think most us come from pretty formal music backgrounds, and having the space to get together and just learn and play music that is a lot more relaxing and sort of just for ourselves has been good.

Josh Jensen: I played piano for a decent while, but it wasn’t super rigorous or anything like that. So for me, it was just kind of a good way to hang out with my friends and do something that I wanted to do in a larger capacity, but just never had a group to do it [with] before. Really the bass for me was just something that they told me to do because they needed a bassist.

The S&B: What are some of your inspirations?

SO: I’d say Blink-182 is like, at least for some us, is a shared inspiration. It’s pop-punk band from the late ’90s, early 2000s. They are still going, actually. Also, Green Day.

The S&B: How do you decide what songs to play — do you write songs, perform covers or both?

SO: Well, we’ve actually last year been exclusively playing some covers, but this year we’ve started to write a couple of songs. I wrote an original called “Dancing” that Chris wrote a really good cool bridge to for the guitar and the rest of the instrumentals. … Chris is actually working on another original that he’s primarily writing, and it has a really cool guitar riff, too. We’re looking to flesh that out in the coming weeks.

CB: I think Sean is a crafter of melodies, and he does a lot of lyrical stuff and the vocal lines and the rest of us just kind of come together underneath to write this structure. It’s sort of a good fit because … no one is controlling all … and we sort of get a good blend of what people want to put into it and own different styles.

The S&B: How do you feel your band fits into the campus music scene?

CB: I think there’s a lot sort of variety of what people are doing here on campus with their own stuff. I think as we start to write some of our own things [we definitely write in] a genre that appeals to people. A lot of people listen to it growing up as a sort of coming of age.

SO: Yeah. It’s easy listening to connect with it. Easy to dance to, and I think on a college campus that music is very popular.

The S&B: Where have you performed?

SO: We played Harris on 10/10. Last year, we played at the Slum. We played at Harris. We’re going to play at a Tiny Dorm concert in Norris in a couple of weeks.

The S&B: Do you plan on going off campus for any gigs?

SO: That’s something we need to look into more as the semester progresses. As we see how develop our originals become because … if we are going off campus, say we get some gigs in Des Moines or Iowa City, by that point we probably need to have a majority of originals. So in the future, we will definitely be looking for getting some gigs off campus, but right now we’re just focusing on developing an extensive repertoire before we travel to other cities.

The S&B: Do any of you want to pursue music after Grinnell?

SO: Maybe I’ll turn out to be [a] professional musician, or maybe I’ll be an economist working at a desk all day. Like, I don’t really know. Chris is considering actually adding [a] music major to his chemistry intended major. We’ve been in a couple of music classes together.

MM: I think for me, music is something that I really enjoy and something I’ve been doing for a really long time, but I don’t know if career wise that’s the future for me. I certainly enjoy it, and I’m going to keep playing for as long as I’m alive, which hopefully is a long time. Do

I intend to make a career out of it? Probably not, but I’ll keep on playing in bands like this. I’ll keep on playing with my friends because I enjoy that. If we can get more gigs, I would love that.

JJ: I think my answer would be the same as Matt’s.

The S&B: What are practices like?

CB: We cut out a big chunk and try to slam some stuff out.

SO: Put it all together. We invite some people to sit in because I’m a believer in practicing in front of people so that your performances aren’t a foreign experience to you, especially since you have a long [time] in between your gigs. … We just play through our songs, work out any kinks or any miscommunications between the four and the different songs. And then, mostly it’s just, running through our stuff until we feel comfortable playing material.

The S&B: How did you come up with your name?

CB: When we were originally starting to play, you had to reserve Free Sound. And at that point we were just jamming together, so we didn’t really have a name. Sean thought he would make a funny and make it sound like it had been checked out by a group of people who were knitting together. And so he just put down yarn club and it sort of became a joke that turned into a name and we just—

SO: Embraced it.

CB: Yeah. We embraced it just to sort of … I think something that’s sort of funny and light hearted and sort of—

CB: Reflected light and the seriousness of like of what we were doing at that time — just jamming between two, three people. 

SO: We’re not actually a knitting club. We are a band. We’ve been asked a couple of times, “Are you guys part of a knitting club?”

Members of the band Yarn Club play pop punk original songs and covers. Photo by Sarah Ruiz.

Members of the band Yarn Club play pop punk original songs and covers. Photo by Sarah Ruiz.