Sitting in the grassy courtyard outside their dorm last fall, Max Davey PO ’25, Matilda Kirk PO ’25 and Nicole Van Brugge PO ’25 felt that their musical arrangement needed something more. The trio had been playing around with vocal harmonies and their guitars, creating their own version of singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers’ song “Graceland Too.”
“This would sound so good with drums,” Kirk had thought as the three of them harmonized outside of Gibson dorm.
So the group sought out another member of their sponsor group, Aaron Morgan PO ’25, to add a layer of percussion to their rendition. The four of them planned to meet in the Walker basement practice room so that they’d have access to a drum set.
In the hours leading up to that jam session, Morgan had been talking to Hazel Escott PO ’25 and found that “Graceland Too” happened to be her favorite song. He invited her to come along and play her cello that evening with the rest of the group.
The five of them met that night and went onto spend the rest of the fall semester practicing “Graceland Too,” simply out of an excitement for playing together. At the time, they had no plans in mind for the group or its growth.
“We didn’t really know where we were going,” Kirk said.
Quarantines, online classes and the inability to gather in one room had prevented many musicians from being able to play together in this manner last year. This year, now back on campus and meeting other eager musicians, many 5C students have found time to create music again in the company of others.
“I think it’s because during COVID, everyone missed playing music with [other] people, and now, there’s the opportunity to [play music with others],” Escott said. “I’m [also] in chamber music now because I missed playing with people, and it’s amazing [to be playing with people again].”
The five Pomona freshmen met frequently during the first semester, carving out a space to play together. Venturing beyond just “Graceland Too,” the group started to arrange other covers in the early weeks of second semester. They seem to most enjoy adding their own flair and ideas to songs like Lizzy McAlpine’s alternative-indie ballad “Apple Pie,” as well as pop-princess Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
“We have totally different music tastes,” Kirk said. “That’s really cool because it could be pretty boring if we all wanted to play the same stuff, but we have to find a way to make everyone happy, and we end up with a really varied [assortment of songs].”
And the group is always coming up with new songs to play.
“If you look at our group chat,” Van Brugge said, “every two seconds someone [suggests] this song or this song and this song.”
During second semester, the group also began to experiment with originals, which they wrote collectively, as well as songs individual members brought into the group. They played for the sake of experimentation, creativity and being together.
Then, the group landed a gig through their sponsor at the Benton Museum of Art’s weekly event Art After Hours. With a concrete event for which to practice, the group got to work on a setlist — and a band name.
They went through a long list of potential names before settling on Drive Thru Therapy. They thought it sounded cool, and, in retrospect, the name gets at what they hope to provide their fans: a feel-good experience in a short period of time.
The March 10 event, hosted by the Benton, consisted of a marketplace for student artists to sell their artwork, and Drive Thru Therapy set up in the middle of the museum’s courtyard, playing a mix of cover arrangements and originals. And, of course, the band played “Graceland Too,” the song which brought them together. They racked up a significant crowd, who sang and danced along to the setlist and cheered on the performers.
“[A friend told us], ‘this concert actually was my therapy,’” Morgan said.
While popular already among friends, Drive Thru Therapy reached a larger group of students through their Benton performance.
“[Pomona as a school] has a really accessible way for students to play music,” Davey said. “We got the Art After Hours gig, and no one that booked us knew the slightest bit about who we are or what we were doing, and they’d never heard us play before. So, that complete, blind faith is so important to student bands.”
The band remarked that spaces like the Benton’s Art After Hours event make room for musical experimentation — something other parts of the college seem to lack.
“I think that it’s amazing that they have a space for [student bands] here,” Escott said. “I think that, as a school, Pomona College’s music department does not harbor creativity. So, I think that having this… opportunity really supplements the lack of creativity in the music department.”
Morgan also expressed some frustrations with the music department. Only those enrolled in music lessons can use the department’s drum set, but lessons are so impacted that Morgan could not even sign up for one. The Pomona College Music Coalition, student-run and located in Walker basement, has allowed for the band to have access to both a drum set and a space to play.
Lined up to play an event on April 14, which was canceled due to high COVID-19 cases, Drive Thru Therapy has yet to play another gig. However, they continue to gather in Walker basement a few times each week to practice together. Escott and Kirk have new originals to debut, and the band’s group chat maintains a running list of songs to arrange. The band looks forward to performing again after their experience at the Benton.
“It felt really great to provide entertainment, to provide a fun Thursday night,” Davey said.
Amidst frustrations with a lack of space to play — whether by COVID-19 or other limitations — Drive Thru Therapy has made a space on their own. In line with their band name, they provide a sense of enjoyment and relief as fast as it takes for a food order to reach the take-out window.
Editor’s note: Max Davey PO ’25 is a news writer for TSL.