Student trio Altair was one of four bands representing the college at Saturday’s TriCo Battle of the Bands. Consisting of Nate Dow ’18, Shruti Pal ’18, and Stefan Laos ’17, Altair describe themselves as an alternative rock band.
The band got its start when Dow submitted a post to the Reserved Students Digest advertising his interest in starting a band. Dow says that Pal and Laos were among the first to respond to the notice. Dow and Laos met along with several other interested musicians, but by the second meeting, they had narrowed it down to Pal on bass guitar.
“Right from that moment,” Dow said, “we knew it was gonna gel really well because we all had very similar tastes and very similar goals musically. As soon as we started playing we could kinda tell that this was a good fit.”
Their next order of business was to choose a name for their group. They were playing a few shows in the 2015 spring semester, and needed to submit a name. Pal chose Altair as a filler name, but it eventually stuck.
“Shruti once joked about how she was thinking of ‘alt rock,” Dow said, “but who knows if that’s a true story or not.”
The name is also fitting as Laos, the drummer, is actually an astrophysics major, and Altair is the name of a star in the Aquila constellation.
Their alt rock orientation, they say, is owed to their major musical influences. They mention Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, and Arctic Monkeys as some of their favorite artists. They often cover songs by similar bands. They say their three staple covers are “Figure It Out” by Royal Blood, “Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth, and “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” by Arctic Monkeys. Dow announced that going forward into the next year, they plan on changing up their typical set by introducing fresh covers as well as some original music they have been working on.
Both Dow and Pal have been writing original songs which will be released in a few weeks in an EP. Three of the tracks on the EP were written by Dow and one was written by Pal. Both musicians approach the writing process in very different ways. Pal says her songs are primarily lyrical and that the melody and chords fall in line with the poetry of the song. Dow on the other hand says that he typically has a musical vibe he’s aiming for which dictates the lyrics.
“Usually,” Dow explained, “the musical structure will have some kind of emotionality that I’ll eventually match the lyrics with.”
All three musicians agree that forming Altair has been challenging and that they have been pushing themselves to try new things as a group. They began a year ago jamming and having fun, and now they are getting gigs and recording their first EP. Dow says that it has been immensely fun and a great experience. He says his bandmates are easy to play and get along with.
“In addition to being determined and motivated to get things done, we’re also very easy going,” Dow said. “I’ve been a part groups before that struggled to get their act together in terms of organization and commitment. [But] I’m really happy with how everything turned out. I couldn’t have asked for two better bandmates to start making music with.”
As a group, Altair tries to channel one of their most important role models, musician Dave Grohl. Grohl was never professionally trained, and to Dow and his bandmates this is proof that you don’t have to be a masterful musician to make something that expresses who you are as an artist and speaks to an audience.
“He’s made his entire very successful career just sort of feeling his way through rock and roll,” Dow communicated. “It makes music feel accessible. It can really just be about how much you want to do it and how much you put into it.”