Learning Team: Into the future

Learning Team is a college band. There are no doubts about their intrinsic ties to Western; having met in the Ridgeway dorms, they played their first show at the Underground Coffeehouse, lived together on Myrtle St., and recorded their first EP in Fairhaven Studios. It’s an adolescence reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie, with current students and alumni of Western eager to believe that indie-rock flows in the water on campus. But deep down we all know that every band is composed of more than it’s beginning, as proud as we are to stake some claim in the art they create. In its newest release, Aporia Coda, Learning Team displays its readiness to transcend the boundaries of their previous work—to mark the EP with a style of its own.


Self-described as “upbeat indie-rock with folk undertones,” this local five-piece was formed as a fun, casual outlet that quickly became a project with a purpose. Learning Team is comprised of Emile Panerio, Matt Ogle, Lincoln Lute, Tyler Whitmire, and Alex Vlahosotiros. Now with two EPs under its belt, and tunes known by most indie-rock lovers in town, the band is set to release Aporia Coda, an EP the clan insists is more than an EP.


Recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle and produced by man-about-town Trevor Spencer, Learning Team has created its most cohesive and professional recording yet. Aporia Coda is anchored in the band’s philosophical search for what is to come and how to regard it. “Aporia,” denoting a philosophical state of doubt, describes “being college students ready to go into the future, with doubt in and skepticism of the sincerity of the world.” Not only a literary album title, the coda, in classical musical terms, signals a passage of a movement to a conclusion. The combination of the two sentiments was intended to convey a more intricate possibility for the future; “We’re not saying let’s stop being so doubtful…we are willing to look forward with hope.”


Panerio gives credit to songwriting influences like Ben Gibbard, staying true to a style that lacks pretension. In the band’s present state, comparisons can be made to Tokyo Police Club, as Panerio cites the dissonance between verse and chorus: “Our choruses are more indie-pop and catchy, while our verses are lyrically darker.” Each member seems to add their own musical influences; for Vlahositiros it’s Geographer, another indie-rock outfit that uses cello as a vital piece of the puzzle.


According to Panerio, Aporia Coda is more akin to a concept album, à la Radiohead, and less dislocated than most EPs, which often seem to consist of odds and ends of material. When asked about what makes this less of an EP and more of a short album, Panerio explained, “All five songs are very consistent with the theme because we had a lot of conversations about each song.” This consistency served as a creative outlet for the members to work more collaboratively than before. Both Alex and Emile described healthy confrontation as a vital tool in the creative process.


Matured songwriting is key to the underlying tones of the new EP, with “more darkness and…social confrontation,” as Panerio described. Listening to the first single released off the EP, “Coterie,” these sentiments are made abundantly clear. Though Vlahositiros pointed to more of a “progression” as a band than a departure, this track is especially more moody and layered than previous singles, while not lacking in the poppy, listenable qualities that initially engaged fans. Both Six Shooter and Daypack EPs are lighthearted and upbeat with tracks like “MLK” and “Oreo,” drawing influences from the similarly accessible, Vampire Weekend. Panerio attributed his thematic contributions to a shift from more sentimental and light-hearted lyrics to “being less self-conscious and saying what I wanted to say, taking us to thicker and darker places lyrically.”


The EP was fully funded through a Kickstarter project launched this past winter, making their recording experience at London Bridge possible through the support of friends, family, and community. This made the process that much more special, as Paniero remarked. “That’s where a lot of the organic emotional elements came from on the new EP—with the freedom to make what we wanted.”


The recording process took place in the midst of “dead week,” continuing through finals week, proving that though finishing school is a maintained priority for all, music is in the driver’s seat for now. The future of the band isn’t set in stone, but they foresee at least another year in Bellingham.


When asked about the main goal of Aporia Coda, and Learning Team’s presence as musicians, Panerio answered, “Sincerity is always the most important thing in the music we write, and [Aporia] really engaged this.” Their upcoming plans are to hit the festival circuit in Seattle this summer.


Learning Team will be playing an album release show on April 12 at the Wild Buffalo opened by the once-local, now Seattle-based, The Comettes, with The Horde and the Harem. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at holdmyticket.com