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Roots of Columbus band V!bes began in kindergarten

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In an attempt to shine light on local music, The Lantern’s “Columbus’ Own” is a weekly series that will profile a new Columbus band each week. 

Childhood and school friends with an appreciation for nicknames make up reggae-infused pop band V!bes.

“Mitch was my first-ever friend,” guitarist Danny Mareco said of bassist Mitch “The Hammer” Ammar, whom he met in kindergarten. Drummer Brandon  “Hessman” Hess met the pair through attending the same grade school in Westerville, and frontman Kevin “The Saylor” Wharff joined the crew through mutual friends in college.

Mareco took some time off from school at Ohio State from 2006-07 and then-Ohio University students Hess and Ammar did the same to go to California and play in a band.

When they didn’t find as much success as they would have liked with their original band, the foursome reunited in Ohio, finished their degrees and often hung out together.

On a whim, Wharff decided about three years ago to purchase a ukulele with his credit card rewards points. And that ukulele, something he thought would just be for fun, has become an integral part of the V!bes reggae-infused pop sound.

“I ended up getting really into learning the chords and I noticed that people really gravitated toward it,” he said.

V!bes was born in spring 2013, but a wrench was thrown into the plans when Mareco moved to North Carolina shortly after the group’s first show for his fiancee’s job.

In the meantime, they’ve been functioning mainly as a three-piece.

“We went through plenty of guitar players in that time, but we had this hope in the back of our mind that Danny Boy would be back,” Ammar said.

Mareco reunited the four-piece less then a month ago when he moved back from Charlotte, N.C., a place he described as “like Columbus, but warmer.”

All college graduates with full-time jobs, the band uses practice time to relax, enjoy each other’s company and occasionally coin new words and phrases. An example is their new EP’s title: “Buyin’ Big.”

“’Buyin’ big’ is something that we’ve been saying for a long time. If you like something, you say ‘Oh I’m buying it, I’m buyin’ big,’” said Ammar.

The name of the first track of the EP is also an original.

“‘Beatocide’ is about killin’ beats,” said Wharff, who after some deliberation decided the word was a combination of beat and homicide. “Sometimes you don’t think about it and you kind of just go for it and that one just evolved too quickly to turn around.”

Another track off of the EP, “Internet Talk” pokes fun at the lingo often used in texting and on social media, two platforms that V!bes hasn’t always been into.

“When we first started a long time ago, we didn’t have those outlets. It was very traditional in what you had to do. You had to go and play a lot. But now with social media, the exposure you can have can be instantaneous,” Mareco said.

Wharff heads the social media presence for the band.

“My phone sometimes has trouble keeping a charge because I’m on social media so much,” he said.

The band members adapted to technology, some more reluctantly than others.

“I remember back around the time we were in California when texting was getting really big, and everyone was like ‘Oh, you have to get texting,’” Hess, the least tech savvy of the band, said.

“Hess just made an Instagram yesterday,” Wharff said in a March 3 interview.

“And my first photo was captioned #peerpressure,” added Hess.

Despite reluctance from some, members see the importance of the Internet for the growth of the band.

“If somebody happened to hear something and like it, for them to not be able to find you, that’s not cool,” Hess said.

V!bes can be found live and in person at its EP release show at A&R Music Bar on Friday. Tickets are $10 in advance, and $15 at the door. All ages welcome, and doors open at 7 p.m.

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