Walden Lane's sound is hard to pin down, and the band likes it that way
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Mike Favaro, 21, on piano, Alex Vina, 20, on bass, and Jesse Brugger, 21, make up Walden Lane, a band with Walworth County roots. Janet Ewing Kobishop/www.janetewingkobishop.com.
LAKE GENEVA -- Many bands labor to produce an exact sound and precise beat. Not so for Walden Lane. For this Lake Geneva band, popular at local haunts like Foley’s and Thumb’s Up, the journey really is the destination.
With Alex Vina, 20, on bass, Mike Favaro, 21, on piano, and Jesse Brugger, 21, on drums, the goal is to go wherever the music takes them.
“I guess what’s different is that the music doesn’t always sound the way you expect it to,” says Favaro, a music major at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “There’s a lot of free-form improvisation going on. It doesn’t always work out, but that’s kind of the fun of it. But when it does work out, it’s great.”
Vina has no one-size-fits-all answer when asked to characterize the band’s sound.
“We play a wide, wide range of music,” he says. “We play funk, jazz, jam, bluegrass, reggae. It’s hard to describe when people ask that question.”
The group’s first paying gig, which didn’t pay much, was held at the Geneva 4 Theatre.
What the trio remembers most wasn’t the standing-room only crowd, but that three songs into the gig, Brugger’s internal cardiac pacemaker and defibrillator went off. He was born with hypotentric cardiomyopathy, a ventricular thickening that prevents him from doing any heavy lifting, and has left him permanently unable to work. Music is about the only physical exertion his doctor allows.
“It was pretty crazy,” recalls Brugger.” It hurts. It’s a lot of electricity hitting your heart. You don’t feel good. It’s like a mule kicking you in the chest.”
A return trip to his cardiologist led to some readjusting of his internal dial as though it were just another piece of the group’s production system. The medical equipment allows Walden Lane to keep on playing.
Listening to the band play a nearly six-minute rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Reggae Woman,” you hear a unique sound not overpowered by any one instrument.
Upbeat and melodic, you immediately tap your feet and hands to the unfolding rhythm. When Vina departs on the bass for a destination unknown, Brugger and Favaro seem un-phased.
They allow him a half minute or so to find his footing and then join him, playing with a faster tempo. An unplanned sound, to be sure, yet it sounds like it’s always been there.
The three met in elementary school and formed Walden Lane while attending Badger High School. After graduation, Vina moved to Florida to study with music legends like Jeff Carswell, bassist of the Jaco Pastorius Big Band.
When Vina returned to the area, the three of them hooked up again.
“We read each other really well,” says Vina, “because we’ve known each other since we were little kids.”
Walden Lane’s goals are decidedly humble.
“We just want to keep making music,” Favro said.
Does Brugger find it ironic that the music Walden Lane loves to make mimics the beats of his own weakened heart — when left to its own improvisational wiring?
“I’ve never thought about that before, to be honest,” he says. “It’s funny now that you mention it, though.”
Read more in the e-edition of Weekender HERE.