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Broken-hearted Banderillas

High school musicians discuss the story behind the formation and eventual separation of their beloved band

SOUND+THE+DRUMS%3A+Senior+Connor+Mahern+jams+out+in+his+basement+where+all+of+his+equipment+is+set+up.+The+band+typically+practiced+at+Mahern%E2%80%99s+house+where+their+music+was+confined+to+the+unfinished+room.+
SOUND THE DRUMS: Senior Connor Mahern jams out in his basement where all of his equipment is set up. The band typically practiced at Mahern’s house where their music was confined to the unfinished room.

SOUND THE DRUMS: Senior Connor Mahern jams out in his basement where all of his equipment is set up. The band typically practiced at Mahern’s house where their music was confined to the unfinished room.

Photo by Dave Schrader

Photo by Dave Schrader

SOUND THE DRUMS: Senior Connor Mahern jams out in his basement where all of his equipment is set up. The band typically practiced at Mahern’s house where their music was confined to the unfinished room.

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It’s late at night, and the police have been called for a noise complaint. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. Inside, drums are crashing, guitars are strumming and a singer is belting his heart out to a cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” To most parents, this would be a nightmare. But Mr. and Mrs. Mahern are used to this–they’ve supported the band since the beginning.

The drummer.

At only eight years old, senior Connor Mahern began his drumming career when he piqued an interest in jazz. He had registered in a program at UIndy. Two lessons a week; three hours of practice between each lesson.

“It was a pretty intense setup,” Mahern said.  “I was taught by a bunch of college students who were really into music, so they kept me accountable for the work I put in.”

Mahern put his passion for jazz into his drumming, becoming an accomplished musician.  However, his interest in drums dwindled as he entered high school.  That is, until Mr. Small’s math class. That is, until Mahern started talking with another budding musician in Room 217.

The bassist.

Senior Dom Bleizeffer became interested in music during his early elementary school years while obsessing over Aerosmith. His desire to learn how to play “Walk This Way” led Bleizeffer to pick up a guitar and begin practicing.  Long before the Banderillas days, Bleizeffer started another music group with a fellow classmate from St. Barnabas.  This band, The Otherside, performed a few times before breaking up after the group of Warriors graduated from middle school.

“[The Otherside] dissolved because the other band members lost interest,” Bleizeffer said.

However, Bleizeffer noted that he and one of the band’s guitarists continued to get together and jam after the group broke up.  Though Bleizeffer never completely lost interest in his craft, there were times when he shied away from playing.

“[I went] in and out of phases where [playing] was interesting [to me], but I always ended up coming back to my music,” Bleizeffer said.

In high school, Bleizeffer often practiced by himself, both composing and playing along to other songs.

The singer.

When senior Jack Baker broke his pelvic bone, there wasn’t much for him to do. He was restricted to his house, and this confinement led him to seek out a way to express himself.

“I was bored and wanted something to do, so I picked up a guitar and started teaching myself,” Baker said.

During the healing process, Baker practiced his craft every single day for hours on end. Eventually mastering the guitar, Baker moved onto piano and the bass, and he even picked up harmonica.

“I enjoyed playing so much because music touched my heart,” Baker said. “Sometimes my music even moved me to tears.”

This love for music led Baker to Bleizeffer.  This love for music inspired the two middle schoolers to start a band, The Otherside.  This love for music prompted a conversation between both Baker and Mahern in Mr. Small’s math class, around two years after the Otherside had broken up.

After joking about forming a band for months, Baker and Mahern finally decided to make it happen. The two met with Bleizeffer for the first time in Mahern’s basement, the new location for practices and jam sessions.  The three sophomores, now collectively known as Deos, had started a new band, a way to satisfy the members’ thirst for making music.

The rhythm guitarist.

Senior Will Allen began his career by learning piano when he was eight years old and performing in recitals at St. Roch. Allen’s mother, who signed him up for lessons, sparked his interest in music.

“My mom hired her piano teacher from when she was a kid, so that’s where I started,” Allen said. “I learned church songs at first, which eventually turned into more mainstream music.”

Wanting to become even more indulged in the music world, Allen began to teach himself guitar his eighth grade year.

“I played along to covers at half speed until I became comfortable with them.” Allen said. “I built a basis by playing other people’s songs. Then I was able to write my own.”

Allen pursued music with the support of his family, and eventually formed a band with his cousins, Madison Gaskill (RHS ‘16) and Makayla Gaskill (RHS ‘16). The trio enjoyed making music together for a short while, but the band dissolved when the two girls went off to college.

The Banderillas.

Not long after Baker and Bleizeffer decided to induct Mahern into Deos, Allen joined the boys for a jam session landing him a spot in the band. Changing the name to The Banderillas, the group of four now had a fresh identity, and each member took on a different role that contributed to its success.

“Jack was the ringleader of the group while I was the voice of reason,” Bleizeffer said. “He came up with crazy ideas for the band, and I kept him grounded.”

Receiving much praise from their gigs at coffee houses and local restaurants, the members decided to take their talent to the annual Battle of the Bands competition at the St. Jude parish festival. They went on to win the competition, a distinguished honor for the young band.

“Winning Battle of the Bands was so thrilling,” Baker said. “My blood was pumping, and the crowd was cheering, so it was pretty emotional.”

This victory was one of the last times that the band performed together in front of a large crowd. As the boys transitioned into their junior years, busy schedules began to interrupt practices, which started to occur less frequently. The bandmates began to separate, turning instead to solo hobbies.

The drummer.

After Banderillas began to split, Mahern channeled his continued love for music into songwriting.

“I drew inspiration from life experiences,” Mahern said.  “I wrote a song called Days in May for my grandmother [who had passed during that month].”

Mahern released some of his originals on Soundcloud, where anyone could listen to his music for free. He release an EP called “Thinking in Time”, which talked about many of his personal experiences after the band broke up.

Heading into the future, post graduation, the drummer wouldn’t mind starting another music group.

“If I can get a group of guys together that like to have fun and jam out, I’ll form [another] band in college,” Mahern said.

The bassist.

Since The Banderillas have fell apart, Bleizeffer has continued playing the bass in his spare time.

“I have an amp and four guitars in my room, which is where I practice,” said Bleizeffer. “I play mostly by myself, but some of my equipment is still at [Mahern’s].”

Bleizeffer does not want to perform anything solo and misses the glory days of the Banderillas.

“I definitely had fun playing with the band,” Bleizeffer said. “I miss our impromptu fifteen minute jam sessions.”

Just like Mahern, Bleizeffer would enjoy having another band in college, as long as he finds a group who is just as passionate about music.

The singer.

Baker continues playing guitar and singing for hours during every chance he gets, which is daily. He often thinks back to the times when the band was still able to jam, when the boys’ schedules weren’t so busy.

“I love making music, having fun with my friends and being able to express myself [with them],” Baker said. “I just wish we all had more time.”

The rhythm guitarist.

Allen also continues practicing by himself by using software to play along with a full band. He reminisces over the days where the Banderillas got together often to jam out.

“I wish we could all get to a point where music is our priority again,” Allen said. “We’re all just so busy that there’s not enough time to get together.”

Allen is still involved in music outside of the band and often plays for the choir at his church. The guitarist will continue composing and practicing solo until the band can reunite for more music making.

The band members are all on the same page. They all prefer the group setting, the jam sessions, the long nights in Mahern’s unfinished basement. However, until the members’ schedules clear and they are all available to play, they will have to continue practicing solo.

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