Student band Chiller Whale makes debut performance

Quincy Schmechel | Contributing Writer

Like many student bands at Washington University, Chiller Whale made their debut at a KWUR party. At their first show Saturday, Jan. 19, the band’s set consisted of both more familiar tunes—covers of artists such as Big Thief and Houndmouth—and four original songs.

“We had a blast,” said sophomore Carrie Phillips, who plays rhythm guitar and is the lead singer of the band. “[It was] great, fun energy from the crowd. And [we] can’t wait to perform again.”

Besides Phillips, the band consists of one sophomore, drummer Lee Whitehead, and two freshmen, bassist Josh Valeri, and lead guitarist Emma Anisman. However, since everyone in the band is multi-instrumental, these roles are flexible within the band, just like Chiller Whale’s sound.

“Everyone’s bringing different styles to the table, from jazz to blues to rock to indie to country; so, it’s exciting to experiment and see what sounds good,” Phillips said of the dynamics brought to the table by the band’s members.

The band began to take form last September and October, when Valeri and Phillips met through a mutual friend who knew they both were hoping to find a band. After that, Valeri brought Anisman into the fold. Later, when Whitehead responded to a Facebook post, the group dynamic really took off.

“I was especially eager to start a band because music in a group is extremely different than music in isolation, which sounds intuitive,” Phillips said of her experience in the advent of Chiller Whales. “But I had very little experience playing with others and was eager to share my passion and learn and grow from other musicians.”

Over the last semester, this learning and growing together came in handy as the band worked on formulating their sound and on collaborative songwriting. Now, they have four performance-ready songs with some still in the making.

“It’s been pretty different every time,” Phillips said of the group’s songwriting process.

While many of the group’s songs arise from one member striking inspiration, writing a portion, and bringing it to the band for further development, Phillips says that other times “a song emerges out of a late night jam session where everyone’s trying things out and suddenly all the disjointed pieces fit together. That’s one of the best feelings.”

While finding a cohesive sound amid all the members’ various styles and influences was the true mission in the fall semester, Phillips says that the band has big steps in store for the future, starting with Battle of the Jams on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in Ursa’s Fireside.

According to Phillips, the audience at Battle of the Jams can expect “all your old favorites, plus a new song or two” from Chiller Whale.

Aside from that, Chiller Whale is hoping to take another step outside of performing to begin the recording process in the spring.

“We’ve had a couple folks in KWUR approach us about recording in the studio, which we’re really looking forward to,” Phillips said. “I think we’d start on Bandcamp & SoundCloud, then figure out the larger platforms,” she continued to say of where to find their music, “but it’s definitely within the realms of possibility.”

Bringing music to an audience is what really resonates with the group, but their endeavors are also just as personal as listener-influenced.

“Playing with these folks has brought me so much confidence, and helped me realize I can sing louder than I ever thought possible. I’m really grateful for all of them,” Phillips said. “Our music brings us endless joy, energy, even relief from the pressures of college, and ultimately we want it to do the same for our listeners.”

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