Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic’s persistence in redefining the normalcy of life that we once knew, Syracuse University band NONEWFRIENDS remains tenacious in their pursuit of creating memorable, irresistibly catchy music for the masses. Developing projects in unconventional ways due to rigorous social distancing guidelines, NONEWFRIENDS., comprised of juniors attending the university’s Setnor School of Music, relied heavily on digital communication to both sonically record and refurbish their work.
“We all had to go home and we didn’t have any access to the studios we use in Syracuse or the software to mix anything, so all of our release dates got pushed back many months. Songs were supposed to be released in March,” shared lead vocalist Elizabeth Stuart, whose raspy and enthralling voice carries every soulful, funk tune that the band produces. Prior to quarantine, the band intended to release an EP of about five songs, but without access to the proper equipment, no progress could be made for an indefinite amount of time.
When discussing how the band overcame the roadblocks which the pandemic presented, Stuart addressed how saxophonist Jackson Siporin connected with a friend studying music production at Purchase College: “he had all of the plug-ins and equipment to mix from home, and so we ended up sending him all of the demos for two songs. Every time he would mix them, he would send them to us and we would make a shared google document to write down all of the notes we had on it. And then he would mix them again and again until they were perfect.”
Like most Gen Zers’ wavering emotions amidst recognizing all of the social experiences which COVID-19 “robbed” from them, Stuart admitted that the band “definitely went through phases. There would be a whole month where we wouldn’t progress too much into anything because we were all unmotivated and sad.”
Amidst all of the disappointment and frustration, however, Stuart recounted that “it was a great time to regroup and really think about how we wanted to come off, and I think it really made us closer.” As Zoom calls quickly became the norm for the group’s communication, the recording and editing processes resumed. With the August 14th release of their single “The Hook,” a dreamy jazz and feel-good anthem vocally carried by none other than Stuart herself, the band has garnered more than 2,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. With layers of instrumentation leaving listeners on their toes, the song required nearly 15 mixes before the final product had been achieved. Despite the effort that went into making the track, the song has proven its success with seven different rising content creators on TikTok already having used the sound.
“It’s absolutely wild that there are people that I don’t even know that are listening to me and this group and that are fans of it when it literally started out as a passion project,” shared Stuart, who wasn’t always the confident, raspy powerhouse you hear on the band’s tracks.
“Freshman year when this all started, I had never been in a situation like this before. It was definitely a challenge in the beginning to have to be the face of the band, just being insecure and having to see my face and hear my voice constantly,” said Stuart, who has come so far on her journey as both a musician and woman.
Working tirelessly to perfect her vocal craft, Stuart acknowledges the growth she has achieved in the last two years: “At this point, now that I am older and have a lot more confidence in my own skill level, I’ve definitely become a lot more self-assured and better at voicing my opinions and what I really want out of this experience.”
In months to come, the band plans to open the vault of unreleased songs they have been sitting on for months while in quarantine. As for right now, the group will continue to upload jazz-funk covers of pop hits like Shawn Mendes’ “Lost in Japan” on their IGTV. With their euphoric jazz sound bound to intoxicate your senses, Stuart and her bandmates will cast a spell on you, and you’ll never want the magic to end.