Chipped, dried body paint peeled from Ezra Tennen’s face as stage lights followed their descent onto his guitar.
The lights fade from pink to a yellowish green as Ezra looks to his left at his bandmate Chris Oliver carving out a pulse with his cajon.
They exchange a contagious smile before Ezra’s lips are back behind the microphone. He is barely heard over The Wardroom’s audience screaming to a cover of “…Baby one more time.”
Tennen and Oliver, both first-year students at King’s, make up the musical duo Coconut Sometimes. The group formed out of a jam session in front of a few friends last year in mid to late September. The two instantly felt a connection.
“What was great was that Ezra just got down to playing a song, which is what I wanted,” Oliver said.
“I didn’t want him to test the waters, I knew that if he just got playing I could do something over it.”
By the end of their first jam, they were stage ready. But, aside from open mics, there were few venues that the pair could readily access. Compelled to play for an audience, Tennen and Oliver decided to risk patrol knocking on their door and hold shows in Tennen’s dorm room.
“The first [dorm show] we played I was getting nervous before it started because there were a lot of people. A lot of people in this case was like 15, which may not be a lot for a normal show but the room was packed.”
Tennen gets up from his bed and walks to the left-hand corner of his room. He picks up his acoustic guitar and tosses the strap over his shoulder as if to re-enact the scene.
“We were playing here and people were sitting within a foot of us, some were leaning on the wall. It was getting hot and some of the people standing started to leave. Everyone was visibly sweating,” he continued.
The group’s minimal set up makes these room shows rather easy. Tennen plays an acoustic guitar and sings, his voice powerful enough that he doesn’t need a microphone. Oliver’s cajon though portable, remains crisp and angular without pulling away from Tennen’s performance.
The cajon adds a natural element to the bands sound that a drum kit just cannot. Unlike his musical connection with Tennen however, Oliver did not instantly vibe with the instrument.
“The guy in the music store said, ‘Why don’t you try one of these cajons, it’s like a little drum box.’ and I remember thinking ‘Man, that sounds boring, I just wanna hit my drums’ and then I walked in and tried it out and was like ‘Yeah, this can really work,’” Oliver said.
Even though Austin Soper, Tennen’s roommate, can hear the cajon punching through the wall of their bay dorm room every other day, he still makes it to every show.
“Chris and Ezra are so friendly and eager to put on a good show and make people happy,” Soper said.
“I get a first-hand experience. They will often come to me to take pictures, or ask my opinion on how it sounds. I feel like I’m (almost) a part of the process but I know that I am definitely separate from the band.”
By playing music where ever and whenever they can, Coconut Sometimes has started to make a name for themselves on campus (The name itself, according to Tennen, was “just two weird words that go together) and has played two shows at the Wardroom and one at the Lodge since their first open mic. But they have no immediate plans for an album.
“We just want to play. People are asking us when are we putting stuff out, which is amazing but it’s also scary. We would like to record, hopefully soon,” Tennen said.
The group has managed to develop a welcoming environment around them, especially among first-year students.
“Both of them are friendly faces and they are always out in the community,” Jessica Cholette said. She’s a fellow first year.
“Everyone knows them, they’re always smiling and they bring everyone together to the to have a good time.”
Oliver believes that it is this aspect of community that makes the band what it is.
“Instead of people getting to know our music and then coming to see us, I’d like to think that they’ve gotten to know us and then come to see our music.”