For many musicians, coming up with a band’s name can be the hardest part before any music is even made. But for local band The Manatee Room, the inspiration came from an unusual study spot.
The band, consisting of Kallan Imhoff on vocals and guitar, Zayn Dweik on bass guitar and Rob Shield on the drums formed in early November 2017. Imhoff was enrolled in a fencing class with Dweik, an Ohio State linguistics class with Shield and suggested that they get together for a jam session one day.
Shield pitched the name and said he was inspired by the manatee exhibit at the Columbus Zoo that he visited throughout his sophomore year in order to relax and do homework.
Although Shield graduated from Ohio State in May 2018, the Columbus-based group still performs regularly. Dweik, a fourth-year in economics and psychology, said he hopes the band will practice and record regularly over the summer.
Despite having school, work and other extracurricular activities, the three are still able to fit regular practices and performances into their rigorous schedules.
Imhoff and Dweik are both double majors, and Dweik has a double minor as well. Between the three members, they hold two jobs and four leadership positions within Ohio State organizations. Most of Imhoff’s free time is spent with Advocates for Women of the World while Dweik is chief of staff in Undergraduate Student Government.
Dweik said it is difficult to balance these obligations with the band’s late night performances, but it is worth the sacrifice for those who care.
“When you do have all those prior obligations and school to worry about, it can be hard to get in that mindset for performing,” Imhoff said. “You want to devote all the energy and time you can into your art, and sometimes having all those other things to worry about can prevent you from spending as much time on your passion. But we make time because we love it, and I think that’s what’s most important.”
When they do schedule time to practice and create new songs, it’s always a collaborative effort. Oftentimes, Imhoff comes with a compilation of lyrics in her notes and a feel for the type of beat to accompany it. She writes about her personal life, but also takes inspiration from indie films and poets like C.P. Cavafy.
Shield said he uses drums to give the song its energetic backbone, and Dweik said he adds a “beautiful marriage of rhythm and melody” with his bass.
Each band member played marching snare in high school and they have similar tastes in music. Yet the group’s sound is inspired by multiple genres.
Shield has an affinity for classic and 1990s rock groups like the Foo Fighters. Imhoff grew up on R&B and alternative music, and names Miguel as her favorite singer of all time. Dweik said he has a love for jazz, thanks to his grandfather, but is heavily influenced by the punk rock scene.
“I hated music until I heard Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’. It changed my whole life,” Dweik said. “It’s just such a cool world. There’s just so much energy. Even now it makes my heart race just thinking about it.”
When it comes to performing, Imhoff said she looks to the band Walk the Moon for inspiration when it comes to stage presence, energy and influence. She said she dreams of opening for them on tour one day.
“They’re a party when they play,” Imhoff said. “We kind of want that vibe. We want it to feel like a party but like a sentimental party.”
The band wants to expand to playing shows outside of the Columbus area, and beyond Ohio, with major cities like Chicago, Ann Arbor and New York City on their radar. But for now, they’re grateful for the shows they’ve been invited to play. Short term goals for the band include creating merchandise, releasing their first EP this summer and continuing to play local gigs.
The band is performing at 7 p.m. Thursday at Kafe Kerouac and at 8 p.m. Friday at Wild Goose Creative.