If you’ve been on campus the past few months, you’ve probably heard the name Water Walk. Tufts’ latest student band has played everywhere from Pi Rho’s basement to the Thunder Road Music Club to Johnny D’s. In April, they capped off a string of successful performances with their Battle of the Bands victory. Led by senior Melissa Weikart on vocals, the band includes Erik Broess on guitar; Aidan Scrimgeour on keyboard; Gabe Terracciano on bass; Grant Steinhauer and Matt Estabrook on sax; and Jackson Fulk-Logon on drums. Recently, I got the chance to sit down with the band and talk about the Tufts music scene, their upcoming residency at the Middle East, and Randy Jackson’s bass playing.
When I first saw Water Walk perform in the Crane Room last month, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d heard about the band through sax-player Matt Estabrook, who I’ve actually known since eighth grade, when we performed together in a memorable production of The Sound of Music. This, however, clearly wasn’t “16 Going on 17” anymore. Water Walk’s sound is a jazzy mix of complex rhythms and poppy melodies. Reminiscent of bands like Lake Street Dive and Hiatus Kaiyote, both of whom the band cites as inspirations, the band pays homage to jazz hallmarks while still sounding fresh. Lead singer Melissa Weikart effortlessly navigates between ethereal riffs one minute and powerhouse belting the next. The instrumentation is also no joke: with contrasting lines spontaneous enough to evoke jazz’s improv roots but tight enough to suggest hours of practice, Water Walk is impressive, interesting, and totally danceable.
As cohesive as the band is onstage, offstage is a different story entirely. Like any group of close friends, their conversation jumped around, frequently getting side tracked by inside jokes and tangents. For example, when I asked about the story behind the name “Water Walk” the room devolved into confusion about who actually came up with it. Eventually Erik told us, “I kinda threw it out there as a joke. It’s based on a John Cage performance art piece called ‘Water Walk’.”
This was apparently a revelation for Gabe who admitted, “I always thought it was a weird Christian thing.”
“Can we open for Reliant K then?” piped up Jackson.
Melissa volunteered that “We liked water as a concept” which was promptly met by rancorous laughter. Clearly, the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously.
“The cute story is that we [Melissa and Erik] met at Newport Jazzfest across the sea of people.” Erik explained, when asked about the band’s origin story. “Yeah we were like, ‘Oh my god we know each other because we were both music majors’ but we had never talked before and we jammed that summer. So there you go: birth of a band,” added Melissa. Erik then introduced Melissa to Jackson and Gabe, both of whom he’d known previously. In fact, Gabe and Erik had a long history of playing together in Tufts bands. “Beginning with Thoroughfare, moving onto Inca Mummy Girl, onto Blue Ives, and now Water Walk. Four bands in four years,” he mused. Grant was the only member to actively seek out the band. As he explained, he became involved with the band early this semester when “One time I inboxed Melissa because I thought she was so intimidating and I was like ‘Hey, I’m Grant and I would love to play music with you.’” Clearly, his leap of faith worked out. Grant then brought freshman and fellow sax player Matt to the band. “Grant and I have a very special connection,” joked Matt, “We have very similar mindsets…we are effective at communicating with each other but also bring contrast to the band.”
“I like it because I dance with them onstage,” Melissa chipped in.
“Yeah,” Grant added, “the only reason there are horns in the band is to keep Melissa company because she gets lonely up there.”
Collaboration, it seems, is a trend for Water Walk. Although the writing process begins with Melissa, when—as she explained—“I’ll bring in stuff I have the barebones of, keys and vocals, and say ‘these are the chords, this is what it roughly what it is,’ and then when Jackson brings the drums it completely changes everything.” Grant nodded in agreement, “I think it’s really cool how many different forms the song takes before we have the final project.” The band attested that their song “From a Whisper” is basically unrecognizable from its original form. A big part of the band’s creative success is, as Jackson explained, their own diverse taste in music. While they all agree on Kendrick, D’Angelo, and the Internet as inspirations, their personal favorites range from Gabe’s beloved “Dad-Rock” or “Father-Core” (read as classic 70s rock) to Melissa’s childhood favorite, Norah Jones. Even their guilty pleasures run the gambit. Matt secretly likes Gavin Degraw, while Erik is “really into Randy Jackson’s bass playing.” He revealed that he has, “the number one comment on a Randy Jackson bass instructional video…Its ‘He’s in it to win it Dawg.’ It’s been eleven years and it’s still there”
So what’s next for Water Walk? The band happily reported that they have secured a local residency at The Middle East for the summer. If you are in the area, be sure to check them out because with three graduating seniors, this will be the band’s last hurrah. Gabe summarized the bittersweet situation: “At the end of five years of being at this place and at the end of all sorts of different groups, I’m really gratified to be ending with this group of people.” Grant echoed similar feelings. “I think we are really lucky that we genuinely like each other,” he added, “everyone in the group really appreciates each other as people.”
Melissa agreed: “Personally, I really think this is a great end and culmination of the music I’ve done here. And I wouldn’t have met Grant!”
“Yeah, thank god!” Grant exclaimed.