An interview with Calvatia, the student-run band opening at Springfest
A local band called Calvatia will open for the headlining band The Astronomers at Springfest on the night of April 29.
The band consists of three Ripon College students: Ethan Hansen, a senior and multi-instrumentalist who described himself as “covering whatever we need covered” in the band; Jonah Lazo, a junior who described himself as the “leader” of the band and who also creates solo tracks; and Jonah Roeper, a junior and a keyboardist.
Calvatia describes their musical genre as “indie rock” and “psychedelic rock.” Roeper added that an audience member at a live performance described their music as “wavy.”
According to Lazo, the band’s name was inspired by an edible fungus: Calvatia Gigantea, which is commonly known as the giant puffball mushroom.
“Jonah [Roeper] and I started finding these puffball mushrooms on campus,” Lazo said. “There were maybe four or five total giant, huge ones. We found out you can eat them, and they taste good, so we ended up cooking them in Bovay. We had a little puffball cookout night.”
Lazo said that when they looked up the scientific name of the puffball mushrooms they were cooking, they knew that Calvatia would be the name of their band.
The first inklings of the band started when he and Roeper met on the tennis team their freshman year and discovered a shared interest in playing music; Roeper played the piano, and Lazo played the guitar.
“In Scott Hall, there’s a piano in that one classroom, and we just started jamming,” Lazo said.
Two years later, they met Hansen and asked him to play drums with them.
“He was down, and he started jamming with us,” Lazo said.
The band put on their first live show in November 2022 at The Heist in downtown Ripon. Lazo said they played two songs, to which the audience responded by asking for an encore that they were not prepared to play — but they found a way to improvise.
“We started breaking into this one song, and I forgot the lyrics, so I didn’t end up singing, which made it an instrumental kind of thing,” Lazo said.
“I ended up playing guitar on that instead of drums,” Hansen said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The band says that after Springfest, they are planning on having more live performances. Roeper says that the band has a live gig lined up in Chicago a couple of weeks after Springfest.
“We’d be opening for a band called Free Range, which just released an album,” Roeper said.
Lazo said the band is also planning on recording over the summer.
“I got in touch with Graham Hunt; he’s a Madison artist,” Lazo said. “I’m a pretty big fan of him, so it would be pretty exciting to get to record with him. We just have to fit it into our schedules.”
The band has been using the WRPN radio station in the Harwood Memorial Union to rehearse and record tracks. Roeper recounted a particularly memorable rehearsal that they held recently.
“We were up in the [WRPN] station playing,” Roeper said. “And I had one of my high school buddies, he’s gonna be playing drums for us. So he was up there for the first time, and we were working through stuff. Ethan [Hansen] was playing guitar and, I don’t know, I just think that was my favorite practice we’ve ever had and the best we sounded.”
Roeper described being able to see students listening in from outside of the building.
“The windows were open in the station, and I could see people taking out their phones, taking videos, recording it,” Roeper said. “It just sounded so full.”
When asked about their musical inspirations, each member of the band gave a different answer. Roeper said that Wilco was his inspiration. Hansen said he was influenced by David Berman and MJ Lenderman and “a lot of that more folksy side of alt-rock and indie rock”. Lazo said he’s a “diehard” King Gizzard [& the Lizard Wizard] fan.
The band’s Springfest performance will be held Saturday, April 29 at 8 p.m. on the Commencement Lawn, or in the Great Hall if it rains. The headliners will perform at 9 pm.