I walk down steep wooden stairs into a brightly lit basement. On one windowsill, there are at least five stacks of red solo cups, and where the wall meets the ceiling, there's a strip of blue lights.
There’s a haphazardly put-together bin against the wall full of Halloween decorations with a plastic white hand sticking out from under the lid, and around the corner is a mess of wires on the floor. A full drum set, speakers, an amplifier and two guitars are cramped into the space. A lined piece of paper is stuck onto the side of the drums with duct tape, and in blue ink, it reads “Ethan and Rehan.”
School of Arts and Science sophomore Ethan Block and Rutgers Business School sophomore Rehan Yadav have been friends since high school. Throughout both of their musical journeys and their friendship, neither of them thought that they would join the New Brunswick music scene with their band, ER, which stands for "Ethan, Rehan" (but they leave it up for interpretation, according to them).
I sit on the futon in Block’s basement while they set everything up for their rehearsal. He’s playing around on the amp. Block has played guitar for five years while Yadav has played the drums since he was in fifth grade, but both of them have had an interest in music since they were kids.
Yadav accredits a lot of his passion and talent for the drums to the School of Rock program in Lawrence Township, New Jersey, where he met his drum teacher who he learned from for years. Before ER, he was in a lot of bands with friends he made from the program, and that was where he learned how to perform.
Block and Yadav have great chemistry that translates to their music: When they get into the song they’re playing, it seems as if they're in a different dimension. The amp envelopes the room with sound, and I feel the music in my chest, but ER is electrifying.
They’re inspired by the dirty rock of bands like Royal Blood and cleopatrick, and they want to emulate that dirty, heavy, riff rock sound in an EP one day. “I want to get ... a funk rock sound like (Red Hot Chili Peppers) but more like Rage Against the Machine,” Yadav said.
So far, ER’s only performed covers of songs, and they occasionally collaborate with fellow artist Kitana Samme, who also creates original music.
Even though they only perform covers, the band has a powerful stage presence. Though Block only recently started performing, he is good at it because he’s always been good at public speaking, according to Yadav. I would have to agree.
“It’s a rush,” Block said. “(Performing) is what I love doing, and I want to keep doing that.”
While ER doesn’t have Spotify, Bandcamp or SoundCloud yet, they plan on doing so when they finally start creating their own music, according to the bandmates. But for now, they're focused on enjoying their time performing and finding gigs around town. So far, the band performed a set at Zookini Pizza & Restaurant on Sicard Street, their first time performing outside of Rutgers.
It's not worth it to see live music if you’re not physically close to the artist, and I can’t help but agree while sitting 2 feet away from them getting my ears blown out by their amp.
Like I said, it’s electrifying.