With its rural setting and intimate size, Whitman College is renowned for fostering a sense of community amongst its students. Here students often discover that the college offers not only the opportunity to establish new connections with peers, but to strengthen old bonds. Such was the case with previously estranged members of a now bourgeoning Whittie band, Plateau. With a new full-length album titled “Albany Park” out now, the band aims to keep on climbing.
Originally formed in 2007, the aspiring musical group of four young friends from Enumclaw (Wash.) High School was forced into a state of dormancy once college loomed large for guitarist/vocalist and oldest member, Adrian Tuohy ’11. After a year of pursuing their own projects, Tuohy’s former band mates — Matt Sweeney ’12, guitar/vocals, and Alex Folkerth ’12, drums — both incidentally decided to also attend Whitman.
“I was surprised when I heard that Alex and Matt were joining me at Whitman. I just had to restart Plateau because that was the sound I really wanted to go for. I had always really clicked musically with the band members,” explained Tuohy. With that, the band was eagerly reformed as a trio, losing original bass player Allen Mitchell in the process. However, Sweeney promptly switched to bass guitar to accommodate the change.
At Whitman, they continued to hone their rock’n’roll skills. Plateau was able to release its first short album in 2009 via Folkerth’s father’s digital label, Broderham Records. While still not a complete album, the inaugural release was a step forward in establishing their career. Subsequently acknowledging the school’s role as they progressed on their musical journey, Tuohy said “Whitman has definitely shaped us. Without the Whitman campus, we wouldn't have gained the confidence on stage that we have today, and we wouldn’t be as close.” All of those Friday nights spent playing the Reid Campus Center Coffeehouse eventually paid off in the form of their first full-length album, a self-titled effort released in January of 2010.
Tuohy, the band’s primary songwriter, has been composing music since the tender age of 8. Continually nurturing this passion, he penned Plateau’s most recent release, “Albany Park,” while studying abroad. The album, available through the band’s Web site and on iTunes, takes its name from the location of Tuohy’s accommodations while studying at Scotland’s University of St. Andrew’s.
Speaking of his creative process, Tuohy said, “I'll start with either a chord progression I find interesting or a riff, then I’ll write the words slowly over time as I find inspiration from the world; whether that inspiration be politics, society, people I know, or things I love or miss. Our latest record would be much different without the people I have met at Whitman, and the experiences I have had here.”
Plateau’s sound, while decidedly unique, can be described most simply as alternative rock. The members cite The Replacements, the Byrds, Oasis and The Velvet Underground, among many others, as having influenced their musical direction. For Folkerth, “It’s all about the jangly guitar sound and the melodic songwriting.” He credits their very first song, “Waste of Time,” as defining the band’s later material.
As for the future, Plateau has big plans for a West Coast tour in the summer of 2011 — down to Mexico and back. Pat Miller ’11 will replace Sweeney on bass and backing vocals for the duration, as Sweeney will be participating in an internship at the Tacoma Art Museum. Throughout the course of the tour, nonetheless, the group hopes to gain vital exposure, which Folkerth acknowledged, “is the greatest difficulty.” No matter the outcome, Tuohy is determined that the band will simply “have an amazing time traveling on tour this summer.”
Despite the list of setbacks and re-emergences, these Whitties are now well on their way.
Visit the band’s official website at http://www.reverbnation.com/plateau
— Troy Cameron ’14