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Columbus’ Own: Sam and the Barbers no longer ‘your buddy’s band’

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Columbus Band Sam and the Barbers. Credit: Courtesy of Annalisa Hartlaub

Columbus Band Sam and the Barbers. Credit: Courtesy of Annalisa Hartlaub

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.

In the two years that Sam and the Barbers has existed, it has had six different formations. But good friends Derrick Walter and Brett Williams have remained constants.

The former Ohio State students started the band in high school after they met through mutual friends. They even played a couple school dances, an experience they described as “awkward.”

“This was 2009 when everyone was dying for the stanky leg to come on,” lead vocalist and guitarist Walter said.

Williams, the drummer, said it was a battle of the bands setup.

“Us and one other band played, and we got the award. We won and then the homecoming king came up and announced ‘now we’re gonna play some real music,'” he said.

They took it in stride.

“I think I cheered too,” Walter said.

Both of them went to OSU for a short time before deciding that college wasn’t right for them for various reasons.

“Primarily socially it was hard. I didn’t make very many friends. I was in a smaller class where everyone was really outgoing and I wasn’t,” Walter said. “I just found out that I know what parts of music I want to know more about and I know how to learn, so there’s no point in doing it on somebody else’s schedule and paying for it.”

Both of them are involved in Musician’s Collective, a student organization for local musicians on campus.

“We live so close to campus right now, the parts that we really like about college life, we still get to be involved in,” Williams said.

Not going to college gives them more time to dedicate to the band. When they aren’t working, they spend time booking shows, writing songs, practicing and staying active on the band’s social media accounts.

Sam and the Barbers plays once a week on average. Walters and Williams agreed that this is uncommon for local bands.

“I know it’s a big thing with bands right now, especially around here, to try to keep it to like once a month so that you can get a good crowd every time,” Walter said.

“For me, being in a band I just want to play all the time and if playing all the time means playing to three people each night, that’s fine.”

Walters and Williams said that playing often helps their fan base rather than hurting it.

“You don’t always have to rely on your fanbase. A lot of times there will be people there and then you’ll get more people to like you, people who haven’t seen you before,” Williams said.

Living and collaborating together certainly causes conflict from time to time, but disagreements are important to the finished product, Walter said.

“That’s the point of being in a band. That’s the difference between a band and somebody who has a solo project and a backing band. A band is a product and you get that product by having differences,” he said.

Moving forward, Walter and Williams are looking to add a third member to cover the keyboard and synthesizer parts as they move toward a synth-pop sound.

They released a new single, “I Promise I’ll Never Promise Again,” on the band’s Bandcamp account on Tuesday at midnight , which they said is reflective of the direction they want to go.

“I think it made us sound more relevant, more like a modern band.  When we were just kind of a guitar band we got a lot of comments about how cool it was that we were a throwback, vintage-y type band, ” Walter said.  “That’s definitely not what we wanted to be.”

The track was recorded locally, then sent to Los Angeles to be produced and mastered.

“It’s definitely a step up in quality from all of the previous stuff. It’s going to seem less like ‘your buddy’s band’ when you listen to it,” Walter said.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Oct. 14 to correct the website the band’s single is on.

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