When it comes to recording music, Dodge, McBain, and Greenborough hardly seem like ideal locations, but for Columbia band TOX and GUEST, conventionality has always been overrated.
The group, consisting of songwriter and saxophonist Eli Aleinikoff, CC '15, trumpeter Corey Dansereau, CC '14, bassist David Halpern, CC '13, vocalists Jon Perkins, CC '15, and Emilie Schattman, BC '15, and producer Sahil Ansari, SEAS '15, had never even played together when recording their debut EP, “Pixelated,” which was released in May. After Aleinikoff spent winter break of this past year writing music, he assembled a dream team of high school friends, fellow jazz enthusiasts, and on-campus performers to bring life to his creation, but the CU grind forced the five to record their parts separately.
When listening to “Pixelated,” however, you’d never guess. TOX and GUEST’s brand of confessional avant-folk is lush and melancholic, influenced in equal parts by Bon Iver and Aleinikoff’s childhood passion, Charlie Parker. Languid, washed-out guitar melds with mournful brass on opener “Dawn,” while the title track unites delicate acoustic melodies with wistful saxophone and a full choir. With such a full sound, the EP is anything but fragmented.
While the instrumentals themselves could easily stand alone, it would be criminal not to mention the band’s two vocalists. Emilie Schattman is a consummate folk singer who carries just the right level of emotional subtlety, and Jon Perkins is a paragon of adaptability, complementing Schattman's forlorn tones on “Pixelated” while proving an adept and dynamic frontman on “Bang."
True to their name, however, the band is equally defined by guests. A cursory glance at their Bandcamp page shows numerous collaborations on everything from lyrics to the cover art. “Since much of the EP was recorded in dorms,” said Dansereau, “people kept coming in and out while we were recording, which made for a lot of interesting collaborations.”
Surprisingly, the most productive location was Aleinikoff’s room in Greenborough. The high ceilings provided optimum acoustics, while a constant flow of friends and onlookers turned into what became known as the Greenborough Chorus, whose dulcet tones feature on the EP’s title track.
Columbia plays an essential role in more than just the recording process. All the members are keen to become a bona fide campus band, and they hope to play some shows at popular CU events. Their ambitions may be more modest than their reality, though. Their debut end-of-year show at The Underground was packed, performances across the city are due over the summer, and they’re even getting coverage from international music blogs (read at your own non-Italian-speaking risk). They may still be recording in dorm rooms when it comes to their next release, but that’s just the way TOX and GUEST like it.