Meet the battling bands

Annual Battle of the Bands gives space for local bands to compete head to head


Courtesy of Funkelstilskin

Georgia Privott and Savannah Nguyen

Legends hosts the annual Battle of the Bands Feb. 21 at 8:30 p.m. Here are some of the faces you can see at the show.


Funkelstilskin has played in Boone since 2014, jamming at house shows, performing at packed festivals and playing at its favorite Boone bars.

Funkelstilskin consists of a five-member set: Joshua “Bizkit” Upchurch on drums; Sergio Grossi, senior psychology major, on keys; Elliot Watson on bass; Landon “LP” Powell on percussion; and Eric Brandt on guitar and vocals.

The band fits into a wide assortment of genres such as funk, blues, jazz, reggae and even a little bit of hip-hop.

“The whole part of Funkel is being extraverted and social,” Brandt said.

Funkstilskin’s music adapts easily for the new set of students every four years. The band shapes its music to fan responses. Boone is a hub for distinct aesthetics and sounds, which many bands thrive on, Upchurch said.

The name, Funkelstilskin, has caused some debate.

“Due to having so many lineup changes we have even thought about changing the name altogether,” Grossi said.

The introduction of new instruments, the members of the band and even Funkel’s fan base has shifted since the beginning.

“Every time I try to change the name people get riled up and tell me I can’t change it,” Brandt said.

Each member has a “why not” attitude when it comes to trying new things, Brandt said. It’s all about dedication and a love for music. Brandt describes the band as having an “open-door policy.”

Brandt began his musical journey early on.

“I wandered into the guitar section and saw what ended up being my first guitar and saw a vision of what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Brandt said.

Brandt said he was destined to make music. Poetry and local freestylers inspired him from a young age.

Grossi plays the keyboard for Funkel. The keyboardist credits his musical influence to his brother.

“I was about 6 years old when I heard my brother play ‘Für Elise’ and I was like, ‘I wanna do that,’” Grossi said.

Garcia rekindled his love for piano while hearing other musicians in college play the keyboard. Self-taught in guitar and keys, Garcia also writes lyrics for Funkelstilsin.

“When me and Eric write together it’s one of two things: either one of us is feeling some type of way and we just have to get it out, or I’ll have an entire beat and we just start going for it,” Grossi said.

Upchurch is band’s drummer and is the most classically trained member. He was a percussionist in his high school drumline and continued through college in App State’s band. After a change in plans, Upchurch switched from majoring in music to chemistry and graduated at App State in 2011. Upchurch sees the beauty of Boone as well as the mechanics of music, which has kept him interested in making music for 11 years.

However different each band member is, they “respect each other’s musical liberties,” Upchurch said.

“We understand the music of language so we know how to communicate with each other,” Upchurch said.

A mosh-posh of different abilities and interests creates Funkelstilskin. Its performances are on YouTube and its latest album, “Wild Animals,” is available on Bandcamp. The band hopes Battle of the Bands will kickstart the release of its newest album.


Courtesy of KJA

KJA is the first rap group to compete in the App State’s Battle of the Bands competition. The band began early this year when a group of high school friends became college roommates. Kenneth Mourning, junior finance and banking major; Amari Smith, junior cellular molecular biology major; and Jonathon Brechbiel, junior communications major, will kickstart their musical journey at Battle of the Bands.

Mourning is excited to make KJA’s debut.

“We just tossed the idea up in the air by submitting a couple tracks and here we are,” Mourning said.

Mourning is no stranger to performing. He is a speaker for Boone’s Campus Crusade for Christ and was a member of App State’s a cappella group, Voice Male for one year. Mourning’s band members motivate him.

“Us three together just have so much fun and get hype as possible,” Mourning said.

If any word describes KJA, it is hype. The group’s set during the competition will be full of dancing and enthusiasm, Mourning said.

Hoping to have costume changes and props, KJA plans on impressing its audience.

“One thing about rap is it is very hyperbolic and that’s exactly what we want to give the audience,” Mourning said.

KJA has released music on SoundCloud and plans to perform at future shows. Mourning said he hopes KJA’s performance at Battle of the Bands will get people interested in its music. Because the band is so unknown, the band members have a sense of excitement not many other bands have.

“That’s the beauty of it. We have such a romanticized view of what this performance will look like,” Mourning said.

Brechbiel, the producer, has a wide range of music taste such as the Avett Brothers and Daft Punk, which is often the inspiration for the beats in the tracks. The beats always come first when the three friends get together and write.

“It’s important to let the beat breathe,” Brechbiel said.

Brechbiel and Mourning have made music together since their senior year of high school in Raleigh. The pair knows each other’s music styles, so it comes naturally, Mourning said.

Smith collaborates with Mourning in vocals. Smith, another Raleigh native, reconnected with Mourning and Brechbiel when he came to college. The band shares an apartment and has turned a spare bedroom into a studio. Having a recording studio in their home has allowed KJA to create 12 songs so far.

After getting an apartment together KJA also got a cat, Tonka, named after the yellow toy truck. During the band’s performance at Battle of the Bands, look for its mascot, a yellow Tonka truck.

Depot Street

Courtesy of Depot Street

Performing along the East Coast from New Orleans to Florida, Depot Street still considers Boone its home base. Dubbing itself “the people’s band” on its Facebook page, the group has locals and tourists from around the country flocking back to Boone for the chance to listen to the band.

“We make people dance. And usually they’re the ones you wouldn’t normally see dancing, but somehow we get them to move,” App State alumnus Lucas Triba said.

A range of music lovers flock to the band’s music.

“People who like our music listen to anything from jazz and disco to the Clash and U2,” said Cassidy Nooner, senior music therapy major.

The current troupe has performed together for the past year, but its energy on and offstage parallels brothers and sisters. Depot Street’s camaraderie is represented by each individual’s diverse contributions. For example, there is no “official” lead singer. Not one member is committed to an instrument, whether it ranges from keys to fiddle or bass to flute. Even song writing does not fall on the shoulders of just one or two members.

“It’s hard to pin down their sound. They’re smooth, they’re gritty, they make you want to groove and thrash simultaneously,” sophomore exercise science major Kate Davis said. “When you look around the room there is not one person just sitting idly and it’s because they really make you feel like you’re a part of their family.”

Member John Camacho, who is pursuing his master’s in classic piano training at App State, said the group has an improvisational tone. The constant addition of new sounds and instruments to the band’s repertoire reiterates its structured chaos.

“We’re still in the beginning stages of finding our sound, but that makes it really exciting,” Camacho said.

The company of music enthusiasts was assembled piece by piece. Original band members, Triba and Camacho met in the Plemmons Student Union at Crossroads.

“When Lucas and I met it was at one of Crossroads’ open mic nights. I was performing and he kept clapping for me so I stayed after to watch him play,” Camacho said. “I asked him to play on a recording and we hit it off right off the bat like kindred spirits.”