On Sept. 2, student band Grand Cousin, consisting of Robby Caplan ’14 on bass, Evan Low ’14 on drums, and Henry Hall ’14 on vocals and guitar, released its second music video, “Camera.” The video contains a single four-minute-long take that begins with the trio playing and concludes with a girl entering the shot and taking her shirt off. A little over two weeks later, the video has not only gained four thousand views on YouTube, a record for the band’s channel, but has also earned them a Twitter shout-out from University alumnus and Das Racist member Himanshu Suri ’07.
“[The tweet] was like ‘little homies, grand cousin,’” Low said. “It was awesome! He’s a Twitter fiend, and he has 26,000 followers; we’ve got 192, so we’re on our way.”
This stands as a benchmark achievement for a band that’s been active since the members’ third week of school.
“Robby and I went streaking our third day of school together, and then we found Henry,” Low said.
The ensemble came together under the working title of Grandfather, until their first show.
“We were about to go on stage for an open talent show, right before a Ju Jitsu team,” Hall said. “We didn’t have a name, and they were like ‘What’s your name?’ I said Grandfather, but there was already a band named Grandfather, so we had to change our name.”
Thus, Grand Cousin was born.
“We probably played three to five shows a semester since then” Low said. “We’ve played a lot of shows at Music House. That was our hood freshman year; we played all of our shows there, and it was a blast. It was packed, it was sweaty, it was way too loud, and it sounded terrible, but we always had a group of about fifteen friends who would come and have a blast, and it was just a party.”
Even though Hall is credited with most of the band’s lyrics, arranging and preparing for the shows always prove to be careful joint efforts.
“It’s hard to write good songs,” Caplan said. “The songs Henry brings us are amazing, but to take those and then arrange them in a way that works for the band is hard work, and we’re just trying to start really creating arrangements that we love, that we can play live.”
Ultimately, the fruit of all this careful planning and learning came when the group played at Psi U last semester.
“We had a great audience, and we were sandwiched between two bands, which was really nice audience-wise, and it sounded really good and everyone was really into it, and we were transitioning in between songs for the first time, and it really felt like a step up,” Low said.
In 2011, the band began their progression from a solely live band by recording their first demo with the help of New York-based Jared Paul ’11. Last year they went on to record their two new songs, “Camera” and “Let Me Know,” the latter of which will be released in the near future. Even before the final master of “Camera” had been finished, Jack Coyne ’13 and Sidney Schlieff ’14 helped shoot the music video.
Then, through a lucky contact, they managed to propel their video toward major attention.
“My other friend…lives in Los Angeles,” Hall said. “I don’t know what his story is, but he does something with Greedhead—that’s Heems’ label. Onitt’s the kid’s name. He knows Heems well, and he pushed and pushed our name, and eventually Heems listened to the video and shouted us out.”
Their Internet success was soon followed by another achievement. This past Tuesday, the group played at StageOne in Fairfield, opening for the band 2AM.
“My boss over the summer manages 2AM, and they needed an opener for the show,” Low said. “So I sent them all of our stuff, and they liked it. We were just all really excited to be playing off campus at a sweet-ass venue.”
Despite the success, the band has been able to take a humble retrospect on the whole experience.
“I would say that the show, and the experience of playing, was a lot like Wesleyan, to be honest,” Caplan said. “Whether that was because the audience was composed of friends from Wesleyan that kindly [attended], I didn’t feel a whole lot more nervous or any more pressured to perform well. I think that speaks to the standard we hold ourselves to, playing on campus.”
Now, with views for “Camera” steadily climbing and their new track “Let Me Know” set to debut shortly, things are only looking up for the band.
Of course, for its three members, the name of the game is to stay the course and keep up the work.
“I think the whole point of this is to try to get as much momentum as we can now,” Low said. “We want to get Wesleyan really excited about us. We released this new track and got three thousand views in, like, two days. That’s insane for us. We’re really excited to release the new track, and we’re hoping to record over the winter break. I think if we do get a solid amount of momentum going, then there’s a serious possibility we’re going [to] keep this going once we leave campus.”
The online version of this article was updated on September 23 to correct inaccurately reported names for Grand Cousin’s “Camera” video collaborators, originally reported as Jack Coin ’12 and Sydney Schlieff ’14, as well as inaccurately reported instrumentation, originally reported as Caplan ’14 on drums, Low ’14 on guitar, and Hall ’14 on vocals.