Pitzer-based band The
Sweet Nothings performed an acoustic show at The Shakedown Café’s spring
semester opening Feb. 5.
The Shakedown Café, Pitzer’s student-run organic eatery
located in the Gold Student Union, provides students with local and organic
produce and is committed to sustainability. The café, which first opened
in the spring of 2007, is open Sunday through Thursday from 6-11 p.m.
The Sweet Nothings have played together since spring
2011. The band is comprised of students Shabahn Torres PZ ’15, Emma Giel PZ ’14, Kip
White PZ ’14, Micah Huang PZ ’13 and Samuel Javier Jones PZ ’12. A myriad of instruments including guitar, violin, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, drums and washboard create their sound, a unique
mixture of folk and rock.
Because the show was acoustic, The Sweet Nothings mainly
played folk songs that highlighted the banjo, harmonica and violin. The band
played a combination of covers and original songs. Among the covered songs were Irish folk song “Galway Girl” by Steve Earle, reggae jam “On
The Rivers of Babylon” and spiritual hymn “Down in the River to Pray,” which included
an improvised verse: “All hipsters let’s go down… down in the river to pray.”
Audience members who knew the lyrics joined The Sweet
Nothings in singing and dancing, giving the Shakedown a fun, community
“We want our audience to feel comfortable,” Huang said. “When we play a
show, it is a forum for them to express themselves. A lot of what we do has to
do with all being together. [The] audience has a big part in what we do. We
want to be positive and open.”
The Sweet Nothings have a vibrant presence on stage, and the
friendly bond between the band members is strong. Gies explained that all members
are close and hang out outside of practice. Aside from devoting hours a week to
playing together, the members of The Sweet Nothings often cook together and
sometimes do yoga together.
While all members of The Sweet Nothings are passionate
musicians, their musical experience is diverse. Geis and Huang have been
playing classical music their entire lives. However, Jones, Torres and White
are self-taught musicians who learned to play throughout their teenage years. Along
with a broad range of experience, the band members are all from
different parts of the U.S., ranging from California to Atlanta, Illinois and Texas. The different band members’ individual styles and energies work well
together on stage to create a close-knit and energetic dynamic.
Huang and Jones collaboratively write lyrics for the band’s
original songs. Both Huang, who is from Pomona, and Jones, who is from southern
Illinois, incorporate their different backgrounds and upbringings into their
lyrics. Huang is from a more urban and modern setting while Jones is from
a small rural town, but they both believe that their pre-college experiences are atypical among the students of the Claremont Colleges.
“We try to channel more of a small-town, white-trash
perspective because I think that’s something that Pitzer kids have never really
experienced,” Jones said.
Huang described how it is important for him to convey
current social issues within his lyrics. He emphasized that Pitzer, like most small liberal arts colleges, can be a bubble separated from the real world. Huang explained that he
uses his lyrics as a way to remind students that there is a complicated world
outside the 5Cs which should garner students’ awareness.
“Social issues are a big part of the discussions at Pitzer.
We want to keep the social issues [out in the open] and not swept under the
rug. There is a lot of stuff going on, good and bad,” Huang said. “We want to
keep the real world in touch with what we are doing.”
Sweet Nothings will be playing again Friday, Feb. 10 at the Grove