With graduation looming, the Fort Worth-based Manderly St. Band has been taking its musical future in stride. Although the band is taking some time to concentrate on classes, members are passionate as ever about playing for the campus where they got their roots.
A self-described Texas country alternative band, Manderly St. Band plays original songs and ‘90s covers all around Fort Worth. University students can catch them at The Aardvark near campus one or two times a month.
Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Stephen Frazier and bass guitarist Michael Foreman formed Manderly St. Band in January 2008 along with Foreman’s roommate, drummer Harrison Ohls. The three met while living in Milton Daniel Hall during their first year of college.
“We liked getting together and playing Rock Band on Xbox, and after a while it got to the point where we decided we wanted to start a real band,” Frazier said.
Frazier said he started out playing guitar for the band with Ohls on drums. Foreman knew how to play drums before college but decided to enlist Frazier to help him learn bass guitar.
After a few practices in the Milton Daniel basement, the band recruited lead guitarist Trevor Rees-Jones, who joined after overhearing the band’s practices from his room in Milton Daniel.
Manderly St. Band’s first performance was at Foreman’s parents’ New Year’s Eve party in 2009. About 75 to 100 people were there to hear the band perform, Foreman said.
“I remember there was a pool there and some kind of dance floor,” Frazier said. “It was an awkward setup, but it was definitely a great first show.”
Soon after that first performance, the band was scheduled to play at The Aardvark near campus. The band had been hyping its show by promoting it to all of the members’ friends on campus.
Frazier said the band’s sound usually shifts between country and classic or hard rock, depending on what different members feel like playing at the time.
For their first performance, Frazier said he wrote several original songs that incorporated a mix of the two genres.
Around 250 people attended the show, prompting Aardvark employees to ask the band to play every week for the next two months. Eventually the band was asked to move to Thursday night shows, which gathered the most people.
“We would play at the Aardvark every week, and we would always get a big crowd,” Foreman said. “But eventually fewer people started coming. Once you start playing too much, people were like ‘Well, we saw these guys a week ago,’ so we started playing only once a month.”
After experiencing success at performances around the area, Frazier said he began devoting his free time to sending out demos to various bars and venues. The band began to practice more in the hopes of getting its name out.
Frazier said balancing his schoolwork and his obligations to the band was difficult.
“The band definitely took a huge chunk out of my time,” Frazier said. “We tried to have daily practices, and between that and our performances, I missed a few deadlines at school. But really, it was all worth it.”
Frazier’s hard work paid off — the band got its first opportunity to record at a professional studio later that year. They began recording at both SG Studios in White Settlement and Fort Worth Sound on Main Street.
In the two studios, the band recorded seven songs including one single, which was unreleased.
From the recordings, the band burned 100 copies of its songs onto CDs to give out at performances. Because of those promotions, Manderly St. Band began getting calls from fraternities at universities outside of the TCU.
Sigma Phi Epsilon, a fraternity at the University of Texas, asked the band to perform at several of their parties in Austin.
“We played this Sig Ep party on a yacht, which really opened us up and made us feel like real musicians,” Foreman said. “We even played a few shows on Sixth Street in Austin and some parties in Norman, Oklahoma for the OU crowd.”
Those shows inspired the band to get more serious in its music, and in fall 2009 the band members bought $10,000 worth of equipment, including a trailer, for future performances.
Frazier said his best memory of performing with the band that year was opening for Jack Ingram, Faith Hill and Brooks & Dunn at a private party.
Foreman remembered playing for two University of Texas fraternity parties in a row then playing a show at Sixth Street in Austin the next day.
While the band still plays at The Aardvark and accepts invitations to play at parties, the upcoming graduation date for most of its members has caused the band to relax its approach to music.
“After graduation in December, we’re thinking we’re going to play a few shows a year,” Frazier said. “The band is still going to stay together, but we’re going to be less serious so we can focus on our future careers.”
Manderly St. Band will be playing at The Aardvark on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 9 p.m.
Foreman encouraged students to come check out the show.
“We’re basically a Texas country alternative band, but we’re not like honky-tonky country,” Foreman said. “We play a lot of songs that people can sing along to. There’s always a good crowd mix of a couple hundred people.”
“We like to party,” Frazier said. “Our shows are always a good time.”