By: JoAnn Snavely
Music festival season is upon us, with festivals like Lollapalooza (LatAm), Bonnaroo, Coachella, and local fest Dreamville’s lineups being released. There’s a special corner of our nation that continues to grow eager for these festivals to begin, and with that excitement building up, we’ve witnessed some new musicians taking over as headliners. Musicians like Noah Kahan, Frank Ocean, and Wallows have been huge headliners this past festival season, and this week, I will be introducing the Herald to some future headliners–meet: Housing Co. and fanclubwallet!
I have been doing this series for quite some time now, and when I begin the process of writing one of these feature pieces, I always try to do some surface-level research on a band beforehand. To accomplish this, I’ll typically do a quick Google search and find a handful of music links, maybe a social media link, and a handful of articles by writers who’ve interviewed the artist(s) before me. However, when it came time for me to do the same for Housing Co., I found their social media links as expected, and then, the only other thing I could find were literal housing companies. There was a sea of local construction businesses that were drowning out the band’s social links, so I did what any sane person would do and decided if the internet didn’t have any info, I’d go straight to the source. Because of this, I had the pleasure of having an organic conversation with the band over this past weekend in time for me to put a spotlight on these rising stars!
From the beginning of our ‘conversation’, I could tell this was unlike any interview I’ve done before. The band sat together on a couch with a handful of iconic vinyl sleeves lining the wall in their background. They had an energy about them that was quite new to me as opposed to my previous interviews. From the first few moments of interaction with the band, I could tell they were a tight-knit group of people. Even throughout the interview, it felt more like a conversation than an interview where I was awkwardly asking questions with short, automated answers (my other interviews have all been phenomenal btw). The band heavily fed off of each other’s energy and that really shows in the flow of the interview.
Housing Co. is a 4-piece band based in Maryland, composed of Connor Howes (guitar), Trey Niccolini (vocals/bass), Ethan Cohen (drums), and Connor Lewandoski (lead guitar).
The band began around September of 2021 during Ethan Cohen and Connor Howes freshman year at Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD. Drummer Ethan Cohen explained the origin of the band, he stated, “we (Connor Howes and Ethan) moved in together at our dorm. We were childhood friends, and we decided we were gonna live together [as] we were both really interested in music.” The two then continued to make music together casually–with no intentions of actually making anything out of it, treating it as a hobby. This continued until their second semester, the band–just Howes and Cohen at this point–realized that they had a certain infatuation with performing and putting out the music they made for fun. Cohen continued to explain where the other members became a part of the band, “we were scouting, we had ideas of who we wanted or what types of people we wanted in the group, and types of music we wanted… we got super lucky because Trey (Niccolini) was in my Information Systems class, and we just sat next to each other on the first day because we were like ‘eh this guy seems cool’, ‘this guy seems cool’…we didn’t know either of us really enjoyed music…but one day, he was just tapping on his desk, and I had a pair of scissors in my hand. He was just making a beat with a pencil, and I had the scissors, and I was just helping him out making a beat subconsciously. He looked over at me and said, ‘that was pretty cool,’ and I said ‘do you make music?’” Cohen quickly learned that Niccolini had quite the history in making music (even being a part of other projects in the past like TMR). After that chance interaction, Howes and Cohen checked out Niccolini’s work and the rest is history. The story of how Lewandoski (or Lewski as abbreviated by the band) became a part of the band was a bit similar to how Howes and Cohen did. Cohen and Lewandoski went to a small, private high school together. They were never incredibly close until college, “we went to school (together) from 6th grade up until we graduated and then in college we got super close and ended up making music together.”
The name ‘Housing Co.’ formed in the early stages of the band. What came as a play on the iconic band name ‘Simon & Garfunkel,’ Cohen and Howes decided to put their names together to create ‘Howes and Co’ and they realized that it sounded more like something that could be a name of their very own construction company. So, instead of letting that hinder them from continuing with the name, they decided to play off of the idea and ultimately go with the name ‘Housing Co.’–which is a win in my opinion!
Even before the band’s inception, each member had very rich journeys with music that led them to where they are now. Each member told a brief story about the aforementioned journeys.
For Lewandoski, he explained “I’ve loved music all my life. My parents are musicians, my uncle is a musician, so I’ve just been around music since I was born. But, when I was around 10 or 11, my grandma put me in guitar lessons so that’s what started me into my guitar journey…There were times where I didn’t want to play… For years, it was just me learning and learning to love it and loving it as a part of my life.”
For Cohen, he shared a similar musical background within the family tree: “my whole family was really invested into music.My dad was a pianist, and my mom used to always say her dream job was to be a backup singer. She didn’t want to be the headliner/singer, she just wanted to be a backup singer, and I always thought that was really neat. They always of course were trying to get me and my sister to enjoy music as much as they did. And we did–we were into theater and all sorts of musical productions, all the way throughout school. It was just kind of a fun thing for our family.Sports were competitive, but we just had fun with music…I remember so many times as a kid my dad would just sit down at the piano and just play a song we all liked, and we would sit there as a family. It was always them just catering towards our love for music.”
For Connor Howes, he may not necessarily have had a musical family background, but that same support was there, “they’ve always been really supportive of everything I do; all my friends growing up, we all just started playing instruments in fourth grade. And, everyone else was doing it, so I was like, ‘alright, cool’. Though my parents aren’t all that involved in music, they’re like really appreciative of music. It’s just been great to have them there.”
Niccolini shared a similar sentiment to Howes; although his family dabbled in music, it wasn’t necessarily their influence that forged his love for music. Instead, it was through his friend and schools’ band, “I kind of found it (music) on my own. From the 3rd grade I was playing instruments, and then for 7 years in middle school and high school I played percussion. That’s where I met some of my friends who taught me how to play drums and taught me how to play piano, and then from there, I just branched out and learned how to play guitar and bass and ukulele and how to produce music, and just ever since then, it’s been a big passion of mine.”
Although their journeys with music were pretty well-paved, they each were able to recount specific “a-ha” moments where they just knew, music was the thing for them to do professionally.
Lewandoski always knew that music was what he wanted to pursue, there weren’t really any ‘a-ha’ moments for him,“I’ve always just wanted to do something with music. Even when I was younger, I had dreams… of just continuing music for the rest of my life, playing shows somewhere, being in a band at some point. So maybe, my ‘a-ha’ moment was kind of meeting these guys and joining the group, as soon as that happened I was like ‘this could be something, and I can take this somewhere’ and I think that started my dream of doing this professionally”
Cohen learned early-on that he had a love for performing and playing in front of audiences. With performing, there are lots of endorphins being released, whether playing in small shows or crowds with hundreds of people. “I was always in theater so I was trying to stand in front of the crowd so I could get that adrenaline rush. I think that my first big ‘a-ha’ moment was (when) we got to open for Surfaces at a festival called Nest Fest that our school holds- last year we won a battle of the bands and we were up on stage … we had a crowd 500-700 people that were watching us play and cheering for us and that was the moment where I realized I wanted that to be my lifestyle.”
Howes explained that there were never specific ‘a-ha’ moments, just making music and hearing it live always felt right. For him it was “all the times over the years where you just go to see some act whether they’re big or like a local act like downtown Havre De Grace or whatever, just like when the band will play, they’ll hit that one note and.. you feel it you know. You just feel it and you know the entire crowd feels it, it’s just… euphoric is an excellent word for that, it’s invigorating.”
Niccolini grew up surrounded by crowds, being extremely involved in theater and band, so that love was always there. Similarly to Howes, there wasn’t any specific moment, it was just that adrenaline rush. “I would say that the two things that I am most passionate in this band is firstly, being the production- it’s just something that ever since I started doing, I just fell in love with it, and it’s just a huge part of me and how I identify as a person, and I thing the second thing part of the band that I love so much is just performance, and that probably is rooted in theater and starting out with that kind of stuff, running out to see who got what roles and then finding out you got the lead, and realizing you have to perform that in front of people and caring so much. It’s kind of the same community- the music community and the theater community. It’s just the love for performance and love for entertaining.”
The band has taken a lot of inspiration from bands like Beach Bunny and The Backseat Lovers, while each individually have their own influences. They also find influence from their favorite show-tunes,“[We] notice a lot that like Lewski on his lead guitar- he writes a lot like Beach Bunny; when I’m writing drum parts, I write a lot like The Backseat Lovers do. Howes writes a lot of stuff that’s kind of like Peach Pit-ty- where it’s got seventh chords and stuff written in it. I think that it’s like a culmination of stuff. For me, those three artists are really strong driving, backing as well as One Direction, lots of mainstream pop music for the actual production side of things. Harry Styles is a huge one… we’ve not stolen anything but taken a lot of influence maybe.” Lewandoski built off of this idea of influence, “We’ve taken inspiration and influence from all those groups we’ve said, like there’s probably something on our songs that you can trace to one of these bands. They also find inspiration from show-tunes. Connor Howes touched on their ‘inspiration’, “I’ve never had an original idea in my life, I just borrow bits and pieces from everybody else.”
Now that they’re truly beginning to pick up as a band, they’ve been able to take a step back and think of their future goals of dreams. In this time of reflection, I asked a few questions as far as dreams and aspirations go. Given these influences, they would love to be able to collaborate with musicians like Post Malone because as Nicollini stated, “I might go super out of left, super generic, I feel like you don’t make it as a musician until you get Snoop or Posty on a song.” Other names like Rick Ross, Beach Bunny, The Backseat Lovers, Jimi Hendrix, and more were mentioned as influences.
They released their debut single “Clueless” in April of 2022, and their July single “Lost” which would be a lead single on their debut album One More Day. That debut album was released this past Friday, and they talked about the backstory behind the album, “our band started, coming up on a year ago. It started in March, and so soon after that we just really wanted to put something out there. So, we started putting out singles and it just sort of evolved into kind of an idea that it’s just time for an album…we had so much music that was just kind of being written at the time because we were just so inspired by each other’s work that we couldn’t stop in a way; it was addicting;we just kept going, and luckily, we were getting a lot of good content out of it.”
In both the lead up to the release and the anticipation of going into it, the band has played a few live shows. A couple weeks ago, the band played a show at Lurking Class Skate Shop, a local skate shop that morphs into a live music venue on occasion.
Playing live is a very, very powerful thing (the Heritage Herald even has a live series called ‘Alive Through Sound’ dedicated to the power of live music). The band talked about that briefly; Lewandoski explained, “When I’m up there on stage performing, when I can see everybody is into it, everybody is waving their hands. People are looking up at us, we are giving them a show and feeling that stage-crowd connection is such a fulfilling thing.”
Howes built off of this sentiment, “You can’t have a show without a crowd, and when they’re really into it, it just makes it that much better. We give what we receive really.”
Nicollini furthered that sentiment, “One of the best feelings is taking a crowd that isn’t fully sure of what their role is, and what they’re doing, and then maybe doing a cover that everyone knows, or maybe you just do something and your energy brings the crowd back to life.When you can feel the shift of a crowd from being on the fence to being fully into it, that’s a pretty surreal feeling.
Cohen continued off of Niccolini, “sometimes people get this trust for you after they hear the first song and you can tell that they’ve settled, and they’re comfortable being there, not like ‘oh these guys kinda suck,we’ve gotta pretend like we like it’ or anything like that. The nerves just settle after you get on stage.”
The band then went more in depth about their most recent show at LC Skate Shop.
Ethan Cohen talked about that journey, “I had a metronome in my ears the entire time, so I was really locked in and focused on that. I wasn’t looking at the crowd as much as I normally do.I was trying to focus on the click-track, [and] make sure we were playing on tempo. Then, we got to the second to last song, and it stopped working. I took it out, and we just played it by ear as we knew it and went for it. That was the first time in the night where I could hear the crowd’s reaction and everybody was yelling, screaming, hands in the air, and just super excited to hear the new music we were bringing. We played ‘Clueless’ at the end, and I had my earbuds out for that, and that was probably one of the best moments I had performing live, just hearing people sing our original songs. You don’t ever really expect it to reach outside of your mom and dad and the bandmate’s family or anything like that. You kind of just expect it to be something you’re proud of and that you own, but the fact that everybody in there had at least listened to it enough to know a word or two was just really an amazing moment.”
Lewandoski also highlighted a specific moment from that show, “we were playing our song ‘Severn Hall’ which is the slowest song on the album, it kind of is almost like a ballad and everyone in the crowd had their hands in the air and was waving them… it was a cool moment because I don’t think it’s ever happened before, it was such a cool moment to see the crowd was enjoying what we were doing.
Although they have just released their debut album, they feel they have a lot left to learn. Cohen explained the struggle to grasp becoming an established band, “in our heads nothing has really moved out of its box in a way because it’s not really like we’ve gone on a tour or anything like that where we get to see all our fans. We have a lot less fans in Salisbury than we do in like Chicago or even in like Australia. There are so many niche audiences in the world we are prevalent in, that we are not as prevalent here… It hasn’t fully set in for us yet.”
Being so new and having a fan base spread across continents, they have hit quite a few road-bumps in the band’s journey. Cohen explained these obstacles, “I think the number one thing is credibility–not only other people finding you to be a credible musician, but also feeling it in your heart and understanding the support, feeling the support, living off of it and riding off of it, just being able to market it in general”.
Although they still feel rather new and have dealt with their fair share of obstacles, they had a handful of advice to give for other musicians who are just getting started. For Cohen, he feels it is most important to “market as much as you can, your music is already unique, if you’re putting out original music, that’s your project. you don’t have to be a social media influencer on top of your music. You can just use social media to market.”
Lewandoski took a different approach to advice and focused on the live performance, “don’t get too into your head about the shows that you play because some shows will be big shows that you feel like a rockstar in and you feel like your really getting somewhere, and some shows you get hired for birthday parties. Sometimes it can really feel just as good as our Lurking Class Skate Shop show, it’s just [about] really putting your heart into the show.”
Howes furthered the idea that what matters most is that you have fun, “If it’s something you’re really passionate about, just go out there and do it and have fun. Like Lewski said, don’t really worry about it too much, you’re never gonna play anything perfect. Everything is always gonna have some little mess up here and there, you just gotta be proud of where you’ve come from and what you’ve done…if you really put your heart into it, you can’t go wrong.” The band, however, still feels like the aspiring musicians they are giving advice to“We don’t particularly think were in the place to be giving advice to aspiring artists because it still doesn’t feel real–even having 100k streams, even then, that’s not the goal, that’s not the end game. We have so, SO much further we want to go with this…we’ll have a lot more advice for aspiring artists when we stop being aspiring artists.”
Now that their debut album is out, they’ve had time to reflect, and look towards their future. With the album’s initial release, they’ve begun taking a step back and trying to stay in the moment because their release is a huge milestone, “It’s kinda hard to not start working on new stuff right away and to just focus as much as you can on marketing and not to wish away what you have or anything like that.”
They still have future plans, obviously it is rather unlikely that another large-scale record or project will come any time soon, butCohen spoke wistfully of those plans,“We would really love to do some sort of–it doesn’t even have to be a tour situation–but even just being able to play shows that are outside of our very small area that we’re playing in right now. It would be really amazing, so maybe in the summertime taking just a month to find a couple locations up and down the east coast where we can drive to or just spread out a little bit, meet some fans”
They still are dreaming and planning for their future; they brainstormed musicians that they would love to play alongside or even open for. Lewandoski explained, “Personally, I’d love to open for John Mayer.” For Cohen it’s Pinegrove, “a band that I’ve been really keen to recently, they kind of make stuff really similar to the Backseat Lovers, but their writing style, and just quality of music has been really growing on me… our vibe is very similar to theirs. They’re a little bit more rock-y and we’re a little bit more pop-y, but I think it would be a cool duo to have at some point.” Some more musicians like Arlie, The Wrecks, The Backseat Lovers, 5SOS, and for Howes, “if you’re cool enough to like invite us to play, we’ll probably do it.”
Continuing to look into the future and round out the interview, one of my favorite questions to ask in interviews is, ‘Where do you hope to see yourself 5 years in the future?’ For the band, they have a handful of goals: they hope to be a touring band who just enjoys being together and making music– Whether that’s under the name ‘Housing Co.’ or another project with Two Months Records. So long as they’re together, that’s the goal.
This interview has been published and is now a Spotify interview. I highly recommend checking out the audio edition of the interview because there is a full version of our interview, and a few additional questions that were not mentioned in the written portion of the interview!
Housing Co. is perfect for fans of The Backseat Lovers, Pine Grove, and The Moss
Check out Housing Co. and keep an eye out for the band and any future projects or shows that may come near us soon!
CHECK OUT THE AUDIO RENDITION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Spotlight on Rising Stars Series: an Author’s Note
This is the fifth edition in the “Spotlight on Rising Stars” series. In the last article in the series, I introduced the herald to Sorry Snowman and The Backfires. Next week, I will have interviews with The Forum and SHADESOFBLUE in a very special social media edition, until next time, listen to my interview with Sorry Snowman and check out the bands’ links and the link to my ‘Spotlight on Rising Stars’ playlist available on Spotify that is updated with each article release!