Fordham University’s Faculty on their artistic heritage, current whereabouts, and euphonic destiny–Break it down.
Less than a block away from Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus in the Bronx, an unassuming brick duplex echoes colorful and crunchy melodies that can only be described as squarely in the realm of punk. Through the front door, up the stairs, and around the corner, is the home of three members of the band, FACULTY: Aidan Drouse, Hugo Keith, and Nilson (Nils) Wilson. The only member of the band who does not officially live in the apartment, Khadija (Deej) Aslam, breaks the ice by asking me to pick one food that describes how I am feeling. My answer was mashed potatoes, to which she thoughtfully accepted. The apartment is an obvious home to musicians, with electric and acoustic string instruments propped against the walls. In the center of the living room, a bass drum repurposed as a coffee table.
Aidan, Faculty’s drummer, picks up a half-sized classical guitar and begins strumming melodically. The guitar was accidentally acquired by Nils when it fell off a shelf and broke at Bronen’s Music, an instrument shop half a mile away from their apartment. They sold it to him at a generously discounted price. Hugo concluded, “And now it works perfectly.” Nils then motioned towards the rubber TikTok bracelet that was holding together the headstock of the guitar.
In the background Aidan was still playing guitar. Based on his natural disposition and skill with the instrument, I was shocked to find out that he’d only been playing for a month, and the drums almost one year ago. His roommates, Nils and Hugo were the inspiration, and they were also looking for some drums. “I was always kind of jealous seeing them jam and we happened to have a drum kit. They needed some percussion, and so I picked up the sticks,” Aidan explains to me.
Hugo and Nils, both guitarist, vocalists, and songwriters of Faculty, have been jamming together for almost four years now. They connected their freshman year through a mutual friend and admiration for each other’s passions. For Hugo, music has been a lifelong love, ignited through an introduction to rock and electronic music by his Uncle Seth. He states, “I liked garbage until he introduced me to Led Zeppelin,” and the rest was history. He started playing guitar and making electronic music at 11 and made his first rock album in the summer of 2018. He revealed, “Actually, I was called ‘Faculty and Staff’ at that point.” It seems that Faculty has been a band name that’s been knocking around his brain for a while.
Nils had an equally artistic but instrumentally different musical upbringing. From singing, dancing, and ballet as a kid, to musical theater and marching band in high school, to songwriting, piano, and guitar as a college student. Nils has thoroughly explored the arts. His expedition is driven by a pursuit for music that he truly adores. He explains, “I kind of got into making music because I didn’t feel like there was music around that I really dug that much,” he admits. When asked what his personal definition of rock was, he had one simple answer: “a healthy dose of reckless abandon, and guitars,” perfectly capturing Faculty’s casual coolness that makes their journey such an exciting one to follow.
The last member to join Faculty was Deej, who was recruited by Hugo. She had been in a band before with some friends from high school. She explains, “but no one sang, which was the problem.” She has been playing piano since a young age, and learned the drums and guitar in middle school. She posted videos of herself on youtube playing every instrument and compiling it together to cover songs. She started playing bass in her first year of college, but says she is equally both a guitar and bass player, idolizing Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads and Kim Deal of the Pixies. But wait, she sings too, but only as of recently, as Deej tells me, “I’ve been afraid to sing in front of people my whole life and now I’m singing in our band, which is like so cool, so I have them to thank for that.”
The foursome began performing in fall of 2021. They played at local bars in the Fordham neighborhood in the Bronx, and music venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan. They would soon play the iconic Mercury Lounge, in doing so, catching the attention of Fordham’s radio station WFUV. Through a few connections with student workers at the station, and unusual circumstances as a result of the pandemic, they recorded their first EP, FacultEP, as live performances at the station’s famous Studio A. Hugo reflects on the experience, “We didn’t say anything, like ‘this is a lot of pressure,’ but we all wanted to get some good takes and to do the best we can. And the best we can, as we all can agree, sounded good enough to be our first release.” FacultEP is a perfect first release for the band, acting as a sampler that showcases the diversity in genre Faculty can so comfortably achieve.
The 16 minute EP opens with crunchy rock melodies and heavy drive in “Do I Love Myself?” and heavy drums and raspy, angsty vocals for “Something Else Against You.” “Dog Person,” is what I gathered to be a fan-favorite as they performed it twice at the show I attended. It invited the listener into a hopeless heartbreak, as Nils’ raw vocals sing the confessional lyrics: “I have been trying to keep my dog alive/She’s too old and she just wants to die/I don’t know if she knows what she means/I’m just scared of the heavy way she breathes.” This simple, yet strong heartbreak allegory provides Faculty’s young audience with something that they can really hold on to, as the best music to a young person is often something that one can truly resonate with.
Faculty just won Fordham University’s Battle of the Bands, and this is just the beginning. As of now, there is only one EP released on Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud, but I have been told personally that there is much more music and performances to come. As my interview with the lovely Faculty concluded, I asked the band why they make music, and what they want their current and future fans to retain from it.
What do you hope your audience gets out of your music?
Aidan: “I mean I love that feeling when I find a good song and I can tell that it’s a good piece of music and I think it would be cool if someone could have that experience with something that we put out.”
Deej: “I would want someone to listen to our song and want to hear it again and again and again. It’s one thing to appreciate a song…there are songs that I think are good, but I wouldn’t put it in my playlist, and that’s what I want to make for someone.”
Hugo: “I want that too. But I want something even more though for my ideal listener. I want them to think that the song that I wrote encapsulates something universal about being human.”
Nils: “I want someone to really dig it, and for it to last. For someone to be able to listen to it 30 years from now or today and have it be just as fresh as it was, or at least still see its value, and be able to relate to what is being said in the song as well.”
Edited by Anna Hilbun. For more about Faculty, visit their Instagram @thefacult. Check out their music on Spotify. Watch their April 1, 2022 live show for Seneca’s Village at FirstLove in Brooklyn, NY on YouTube at https://youtu.be/iKkRaTkqNAY