Red background, with black text of the article title and bands listed.

Eight Bands that Formed in College

By Caitlin Dunn
Music Journalist

With summer on the horizon, many of us college students do not have vacation spots to travel to. So instead of spending your time off in your room, spend it in a garage making music with friends. Here are eight major bands that formed in college:

Vampire Weekend

Most of us know Vampire Weekend for their 2009 hit song “A-Punk,” but did you know members Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson and Chris Baio all attended New York’s Columbia University. There the four students formed an indie-rock group and had their first show in 2006 at a battle of the bands’ event hosted by their college. With the use of the growing internet, their demos ultimately took off online. The group later released their self-titled debut album in 2008, and the indie rock group became the legends we know them as today.

Queen

This unforgettable rock collective all met in London in the late 60s. Freddie Mercury was studying art at the Ealing College of Arts when he met Tim Staffel, the bass player for the band Smile. The founding members of Smile included guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, who were also students when they met Mercury. May was getting a Ph.D. in Astrophysics at Imperial College London, and Taylor was studying dentistry at the London Hospital Medical College. Once Tim Staffell left to go solo they added Mercury to the mix. When Mercury joined the band as the lead singer in 1970, he persuaded the members to shift their name to a more lavish sounding Queen. John Deacon later entered to the rock group, and Queen was complete. They finished school and dropped their debut album in 1973.

Pixies

When the Pixies formed in 1986 at University of Massachusetts by roommates Charles Thompson (lead vocalist, Black Francis) and Joey Santiago (guitarist), no one sounded like them. Thompson’s unusual biblical obsession plus his lack of knowledge of music, and Santiago’s love for glam/punk made a powerful mixture. Once Kim Deal was added, her voice and grounding bass lead the Pixies to perfection. With drummer David Lovering later joining in as well, the Pixies dropped out of school, creating “Where is my mind?” and more smash hits.

Talking Heads

One of the major players in the New York first-wave punk scene did not even form in New York; David Byrne and Chris Frantz met at the Rhode Island School of Design and called themselves The Artistics. When the guys added Tina Weymouth, and the three of them moved to New York, Weymouth learned how to play the bass and the name Talking Heads later came to mind. They later added keyboardist and Harvard alumnus, Jerry Harrison, to complete the band in 1977. Talking Heads hit the emerging New York scene and helped to develop the surfacing punk scene.

The Strokes

The band orignally was created before the members went to college, as Julian Casablancas and Nikolai Fraitute met when they were six. They later met Fabrizio Moretti and Nick Valensi, and played together while they attended The Dwight School in Manhattan. When Casablancas was 13, he was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland, where he met Albert Hammond Jr. Who eventually came to live with Casablancas in New York to attend NYU and ended up joining The Strokes. With this move, the alternative-rock group was fulfilled and The Strokes formed in 1998.

MGMT

MGMT was founded by members Benhamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden during their freshman year at Wesleyan University in 2002. It was there where they discovered their unique laid-back sound while jamming in their dorm room. They played on campus until they graduated in 2005. MGMT began touring in 2006 and signed with Columbia Records. Fun fact the name MGMT is an abbreviation of “management.” Since 2002 the duo has achieved major success with songs like “Kids” and more.

Pink Floyd

In 1963, the original members of Pink Floyd met at the London Regent Street Polytechnic School studying architecture where they spent more time in the tearoom basement than the library. Together, Syd Barret, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright used this space to write and rehearse their music. They changed their name multiple time before settling with Pink Floyd in 1965. In a 1987 interview Waters said he got kicked out after two years for not attending lectures, but he said the training probably helped him “visualize [his] feelings of alienation from rock ‘n’ roll audiences… which was the starting point for The Wall”. This still holds the title of best-selling albums of all time.

R.E.M.

The group was formed at the University of Georgia when lead vocalist Michael Stipe and guitarist Peter Buck asked bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry to join their student band in 1980. Stipe was studying art and photography but did not finish and instead focused on making music. But he continued his involvement in the art world collaborating with filmmakers to produce music videos, such as the 1991 Grammy-winning video for “Losing my Religion.” Their impact on the rock scene changed the way rock critics talk about “college rock.” When critics talk about “college rock” they are talking about R.E.M. They made the kind of music that was mainly played on college radio stations.

So if you are thinking about starting a band, college is the best place. All you need is a tearoom basement or a dorm room, but wherever the jam sessions happen the groundbreaking music will hopefully follow.

Featured illustration by Caitlin Dunn.

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