Modern Rhombus is an all-senior student band composed of RJ Tischler ’16, Dan Creem ’16, Tyler Welsh ’16, and Joe Boninger ’16. Boninger plays lead guitar with Tischler on rhythm guitar, Creem on Bass, and Welsh on drums. The indie/alt rock band has been performing as Modern Rhombus for the last year, but the idea for the group was born years before.
The band members were originally brought together by a fortuitous combination of similar music tastes and first year housing assignments.
“Dan, Joe and I all met as first years living on Willets 3rd. We bonded over our similar tastes in music. Tyler and I became friends while playing with Dirty Mike & the Boys,” said Tischler. “We all individually wanted to form an indie/alt rock band and play original music, so forming Modern Rhombus was pretty natural.”
Several members of the band played in different bands of various levels of seriousness for their first two years at the college. After all of the members returned to campus in the spring of 2015 from study abroad, they decided to realize their collective desire to play in an alt rock band and Modern Rhombus was born.
The name, Modern Rhombus, was originally somewhat of a joke between the band members. Some members of the band even originally expected to change the band’s name.
“We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously, just a little seriously. So we settled on Modern Rhombus, or as I like to say, The Modern Rhombus, which is great because it allows for lots of geometry jokes. Math is a well from which we draw much of our symbolism,” said Creem.
Over time, however, as the band performed and wrote songs under the name Modern Rhombus, it began to gain actual meaning for the band.
“I think the name may originally have been sort of an ironic stand-in for a better name, at least it was for me, because it sounds like it could be profound but it really doesn’t mean anything,” said Boninger. “Over time, though, I think we’ve all become sincerely attached to it.”
When asked to describe the genre of the music they play, the members of Modern Rhombus returned answers such as “FaceNoise,” “Art Grunge,” and “Garage Door.”
“FaceNoise is a joke. Art Grunge is only half a joke. It’s a dumb genre but it actually sort of makes sense, if you consider it a mixture of art rock and grunge,” elaborated Tischler. “I wouldn’t ever seriously call us art grunge, but I think it’s funny because that definitely covers some of our influences. We all like grunge and we like different types of art rock.”
The influences of the band members are widely varied, but they all find common inspiration in alt rock legends such as Radiohead, R.E.M., and The Pixies. Boninger also mentioned influences including Lorde, Elliot Smith, and Wilco, while Creem mentioned influences including Death Cab for Cutie, El Mató a un Policia Motorizado, Algernon Cadwaller, Andy Shea, and The Guru.
“Andy Shea and The Guru were actually bands at my high school and I’ve listed them as a representative of all the bands that were on that scene when I was in high school,” said Creem. “Going to local shows with performers my own age really taught me to appreciate live music and inspired me to do it myself.”
The band’s sound is also characterized by the nature of their songwriting process. The band members write songs on their own, and then workshop their songs with the band, making each song both the work of a specific band member and the collaborative work of the band as a whole.
“The way it works is usually someone will say they’ve got a song or part of a song they’ve been working on, and we’ll jam on it, and then decide if we want to keep working on it,” said Creem. “If we do, then whoever brought it in will usually take the lead on it, but everyone will make suggestions as they see fit. So there’s a clear sense in which each song is mostly somebody’s child, but I think we all help raise it.”
Each band member’s songs also have a specific sound, which the band has identified as being tied to the instrument which that band member primarily plays.
“We’ve noted before that Dan’s songs sound like they were originally written on bass, Joe’s on an acoustic guitar, and mine on an electric guitar,” said Tischler. “Dan’s songs are very bass driven, with typically very interesting meter structures and interesting rhythms. Mine are a lot like an electric guitar, really hard hitting, they have a lot of different dynamics. Joe’s sound very acoustic, with very complicated chords, really interesting key changes, a lot of complicated music theory goes into those.”
The vocalist of each song is usually the writer, although the vocals, like the rest of the song are workshopped by the band as a whole.
“Typically, we sing the songs that we write. Dan, Joe and I write songs and then sing them ourselves. Often Dan and I will harmonize. We’ll add parts to each other’s songs and sing at the same time,” said Tischler.
Modern Rhombus performed last Friday night in the Battle of the Bands. If selected as a winner, they’ll be performing as a part of Worthstock in two weeks.