Xavier’s School: Mutants making music

by Kristen Stanovich

Releasing their first full-length album, setting up a tour and saying goodbye for now to one of its original band members: that may seem like a year’s worth of stepping stones for local band Xavier’s School to climb, but all this change is yet to pass in the next two months. Having been a band for more than two years, Xavier’s School has achieved everything a local band would wish to, and they’re not stopping there.

A culmination of a post-Get Up Kids cover band in 2014, frontperson Tyson Ballew and drummer Aaron Apple knew after they’d initially met they wanted the band to go further than that. With similar music tastes the band all agrees that their sound now was heavily influenced by the bands they all collectively admired.

“We never had a conversation like ‘this is the kind of band we’re gonna be.’ It was just loosely going to be pop punk,” Ballew said. “The fact that we are as emo sounding as we are is completely by accident.”

The other three chuckle in agreement.

Despite the “accident” it’s clear to see this band brings something distinct to the Bellingham scene. With comparisons to rhythmic stylings of bands like The Thermals and Superchunk, Xavier’s School is sure to bring its own flair to the stage with unique input from each member.

“I think our songs are kind of varied, too, which is nice,” Kayser said. “It’s not too boring, or stuck in one genre.”

As Apple’s bass drum beats hit hard, elevating Ballew’s shouty vocal stylings in band originals like “Honor System Soda” and “Mutant Creature” bassist Aaron Kayser brings impromptu, complex riffs, atypical of most punk bass lines, beneath the simplistic yet gritty guitar sound. Keyboardist Lauren Bunke’s sound is straightforward and on point, particularly for someone recently re-introduced to playing music within the last two years.

“I came in with no prior knowledge of how to even write a song,” Bunke said. “Getting into some of [our] later songs I can at least appreciate how I have grown in listening to the music and being able to apply a few notes [to] make it more elaborate.”

Following a recent recording session with Erik Wallace and Champion Street Sound Studios here in Bellingham, the band was able to measure just how far they have come from when they started. Their first full-length, recorded over two days, documented not only their hard work as a band, but how much they love making music with one another. Even after their recording duties were done, the members stuck around to support one another throughout the culmination of the project.

“Being able to be in there for a couple days playing these songs that we love,” Kayser said. “If I could just do that all the time, that’d be a lot of fun.”

In the coming months Aaron Apple, a local veteran whom everyone knows and loves dearly, will be leaving Bellingham for New York City, but emphasized that this in no way means he’s leaving the band. Xavier’s School plans to set up shows featuring Apple when he returns to visit, and even plans to set up more tours in the months to come. In the meantime, the band plans to refocus on writing new material to prepare for their next album.

And before Apple departs, there are more exciting things to come. Xavier’s School will release their album March 3 with guests So Adult, Scruffager and Fallopia at Make.Shift Art Space. Then the band takes off on a mini-tour through Seattle and Missoula later in March.

LIVE SHOW: Catch them Feb. 11 at Make.Shift, and March 3, also at Make.Shift, for their CD release. For more information about Xavier’s School, check out facebook.com/xaviersschoolband.

Published in the February 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine