The serendipity of Spud Mack

Spud Mack performs at a Tune Lagoon concert - Contributor / Ama Wick

Rowan has a vibrant and diverse music scene, but few bands capture the essence of this scene quite like Spud Mack. Comprising a whopping six talented and passionate members, Spud Mack has been making waves since its inception in Oct. 2021. With a unique blend of Americana and alternative music and a commitment to authenticity, this college-based student band has a story worth sharing.

Spud Mack’s origin story is one of chance. Brad Mackenzie, a Music Technology major and lead guitarist, transferred to Rowan University two years ago. He had a burning desire to start a band and, in an almost fateful turn of events, found himself surrounded by like-minded individuals. 

Tessa Wood, a senior music major, a rhythm guitarist, and Hunter St. Pierre, a bioinformatics major and vocalist, quickly joined the ranks. Their journey was far from conventional, as Mackenzie recounts. “Everything kind of just fell into place as we’ve met people, and it’s been an easygoing thing finding people and growing the band.”

As for the remaining members, Alex Siegal, a drumming virtuoso, was discovered at a freshman fair. Carly Hulse, a senior music industry student, rounded out the lineup with her bass-playing and vocal talents. Mackenzie’s initial vision had become a reality, thanks to a bit of luck and a lot of shared passion for music.

The band’s quirky name, Spud Mack, comes with an interesting backstory. “We were sitting around, discussing the band because it was just forming. And he came over holding a Bud Light. And he said, ‘Why don’t you name the band Spud Mackenzie after the Bud Light dog, Spuds Mackenzie, from the ’80s?'” said St. Pierre. The name stuck, but they later decided to drop the “enzie” to avoid any potential legal issues. Thus, Spud Mack was born, with a name that reflects the band’s laid-back and unique approach to their music.

Hunter St. Pierre and Brad Mackenzie of Spud Mack perform with their band at a Tune Lagoon concert. – Contributor / Ama Wick

One of the most remarkable aspects of Spud Mack is their remarkable synergy as a group. Given their diverse backgrounds and interests, you might expect conflicts, but the band has managed to navigate these potential obstacles with ease. As Mackenzie explains, “We’re pretty good at communicating… We have a bunch of multi-instrumentalists in the band, which comes into play. So we are able to hold practices and gigs with different lineups of people and instruments.” This flexibility allows them to adapt to various performance scenarios, whether as a trio or a full sextet.

Describing Spud Mack’s music isn’t straightforward, as their genre-bending style incorporates a wide range of influences. Mackenzie elaborates, “The type of music we play is Americana alternative, but everyone in our band has very different music tastes, and we all bring that to the table in our own ways.” This diversity shines through in their songs, which often take unexpected directions, driven by the individuality of each band member.

 St. Pierre chimes in, “When we write a song, it’s pretty much whatever riff or words and melody we can come up with, and then we work around it. So it can be any one of us who brings something to the table, and we all build a song around that.” Their collaborative approach to songwriting ensures that every band member’s voice is heard, resulting in a rich and eclectic musical landscape.

But what separates their bands from the many others in the music scene? “I just think we have the most talent. We have four fantastic singers. I think I’m pretty very jealous of these guys. This guy here [Mackenzie] is the fucking craziest thing on a guitar. I just think we have the most talent,” said Sagel.

Each band member plays a unique role in the creative process. St. Pierre is primarily responsible for lyrics and melodies, while Mackenzie takes the lead on guitar parts. However, their collaborative spirit ensures that everyone contributes ideas and shapes the final product. St. Pierre emphasizes the importance of diversity in their songwriting, stating, “If you just have one person writing the same songs, it gets repetitive with the same voice and perspective.” Spud Mack’s commitment to embracing different perspectives is a key factor in their musical evolution.

The members of Spud Mack have diverse musical backgrounds and influences. Wood’s father, a lifelong musician and record collector, instilled a love of music in her from a young age. St. Pierre’s early exposure to a wide range of music genres set the stage for his journey into songwriting. Ethan Garcia, a multi-instrumentalist, grew up in a household filled with music, thanks to his drummer father and pianist mother. 

“So I was introduced to piano when I was super young. I started like taking piano lessons when I was six, and then I picked up the guitar when I was eight,” said Garcia. “And then I just always liked music. It’s just something that I always like to do and I just writing music since I was little from what I can remember.”

Brad Mackenzie, one of Spud Mack’s guitarists, showcases his skills at Tune Lagoon concert- Contributor / Ama Wick

Siegal’s drumming journey began at the tender age of three, driven by his boundless energy. Mackenzie was inspired to pick up the guitar after watching Angus Young of AC/DC perform, and he honed his skills through programs like School of Rock. Hulse, with a background in theater tech, brings her passion for singing and guitar to the band. Their collective musical heritage enriches Spud Mack’s sound and keeps it dynamic.

The Rowan University music scene played a significant role in Spud Mack’s journey. Mackenzie emphasizes the importance of this supportive community, saying, “It’s such an accepting scene… It’s a place where you can find friends and meet people so quickly.” He acknowledges that the scene goes beyond the confines of the college and has a significant impact on the local music landscape.

“Don’t be scared, have confidence. Like, be very loud and out there because what’s the worst that can happen? As someone who is very loud and obnoxious, some people might think I’m annoying, but like okay, that’s how we started our band. Just have confidence,” said Hulse when asked about her advice to new bands trying to break into the local music scene.

Spud Mack’s journey hasn’t been without its challenges. Mackenzie recalls a difficult decision the band had to make: “The biggest obstacle that we had to overcome was that we had to kick out one of our original founding members… We came to a decision as a group and went our separate ways.” Such decisions are never easy, but they have allowed the band to continue evolving and growing.

As for their future, Spud Mack has clear goals. Mackenzie shares, “I think my number one goal is just to play as many shows as possible… It’s important to play for yourself at the end of the day. You do it because you love it.” The band’s love for performing is palpable, and they hope to share their music with as many people as possible. Additionally, they plan to keep writing and recording new music to expand their already impressive catalog.

“It might sound cliche, but whatever you’re doing, whether you’re writing or you’re playing or both or whatever, just put your heart into it. Because I mean, you want everyone to see the best of what you got,” said St. Pierre. “And if you’re gonna attract band members that want to see that vision and build around it, thanks. You got to put your best work into it.”

With their unique sound and unwavering dedication, Spud Mack is a band to watch as they continue to make waves in the local music scene and beyond. Follow them on Instagram @spudmack.nj and listen to their music on all platforms.

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