The close-knit winners of this year’s Musikarmageddon are a fun and quirky, high-energy, alt-hip-hop-funk band
The baby grand was silent with anticipation on a Saturday night in September as the crowd and competing bands waited to hear the fate of the Musikarmageddon finalists.
When local group Weekday Warriors were announced as victors, a tremendous cheer erupted from the audience—and from Dan Lord, the band’s drummer, who stood triumphantly on a large speaker with his arms raised in celebration.
The four band members—Lord (known by friends as “Lord Dan”), singer and guitarist Russell Kutys (Russell “Que”), bassist Isaac Moore, and guitarist Deej Jalil—came onto the stage, bear-hugging each other and swapping repeated high fives—three per person, to be exact, which is their “secret” handshake.
“It was really gratifying,” says Lord.
The band had come a long way from their first-ever show at JB McGinnes Pub & Grille two years ago, when all members had the flu, with temperatures reaching 102 degrees, according to Lord. But by the time the high energy alternative-rock-hip-hop-funk group from Newark entered Wilmington’s battle-of-the-bands, they were brimming with confidence.
“We knew we had a pretty good chance of winning,” says Lord.
Musikarmageddon 2015 presented perhaps the most diverse group of bands in the event’s nine-year history. The competition offered audiences country, pop, heavy rock and hip-hop, among other genres. At the Sept. 26 finals, local bands Poor Yorick, The Jolly What, and It Is What It Is faced off with Weekday Warriors at the baby grand.
The Warriors joined the ranks of such noted past winners as Minshara, Glim Dropper and New Sweden. Their on-stage energy may have won them the victory—Lord says the band likes “to get people dancing” and includes rapping by Kutys—but the glue that holds the guys together is their friendship.
“The reason we have such strong connections to each other? We’ve all known each other for a very long time,” says Lord.
He was the drummer for Jalil’s band, Echo Mission, in 2009, and he and Kutys have been playing music since 2011. And Lord remembers playing shows with Moore’s old band, My Worst Critic, years prior to that. Another friendship factor: most of the members have been roommates at some time or other at a Newark house dubbed “The Bungalow,” which is currently home to Kutys and Lord and doubles as practice space and recording studio.
The band itself was born at open mics at Mojo Main, the dimly-lit Main Street bar that took the place of East End Café for just over three years before closing its doors last March. The location is now a trendy craft beer bar and restaurant, Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen. The friends hosted trivia and open mic nights at Mojo, and the band held its first album release party at the bar.
“Our goal is to make enough money to buy Grain on Main back and restore it to its dive bar glory,” Lord jokes.
Kutys and Lord came up with the band name on a typical Monday three years ago. The friends met up in the afternoon on Main Street for a few beers. They threw back one, then another, and then another, then launched an unofficial beer crawl down the street in broad daylight—an activity typically reserved for Friday or Saturday evenings for weekend warrior partiers.
The band started getting shows in Newark, Wilmington and Philadelphia while recording a number of EPs and albums, including September 2014’s Quantum Collapses, a 16-song CD recorded at The Bungalow and mixed by a friend, James Drake. Their newest EP, Three High Fives—a reference to the greeting band members exchange whenever they see each other—was released this past summer. It’s a collaboration between Weekday Warriors and others who “want to make good music with other good friends,” says Lord. “That’s what we did with this album.”
Newark musicians like Poor Yorick and Melissa Forsythe from the band This is Weird were among the artists who collaborated with the Warriors, who in turn often participate in their friends’ albums.
“We’ve all been friends since the Mojo Main days and we continue to work together to help each other out,” says Lord.
The Warriors’ current project is Uppers, Downers and All Arounders, an album slated to be finished by summer 2016. It’ll be a collection of the band’s most recent songs, says Lord.
The friends are excited to take their quirk and humor to new places. They have three Saturday shows coming up in the area: on Nov. 7 at 1984; at School of Rock’s Fall Jam Nov. 21, and at Wilmo Rock Circus Nov. 28.
And for the record, despite the band’s carefree name, all members—mostly UD graduates—are employed professionals, and ironically enough, the majority hold daytime office jobs.
“We first started promoting the band as ‘the drunkest band on Main Street,’ but now I feel like we’re much more mature,” says Lord. “I don’t think we’re going to be the next Beatles, but at this rate if we can continually grow our momentum over the next five years, we’ll be touring around the East Coast.”