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The Columbia Chronicle

We've got you covered

The Columbia Chronicle

We've got you covered

The Columbia Chronicle

Columbia-alumni band Friday Pilots Club sits down with the Chronicle

Late Friday afternoon I sat down with Friday Pilots Club, a band stacked with Columbia alum. Finishing their first-ever Lollapalooza performance at the Toyota Music Den stage just 30 minutes prior, the mood was high as they joked around and talked about how the show went.

We found some chairs in a shady corner of the press area, and got acquainted while chatting about tattoos and dive-bar pool leagues. 

The band consists of lead singer Caleb Hiltunen, second vocalist and bass player Drew Polivick, guitarists Sean Burke and James Kourafas and is rounded out with Eric Doar on the drums.

Both Doar and Kourafas graduated Columbia in 2019, receiving degrees in music composition and audio engineering, respectively. Polovick studied at the college, but left before completing a degree. Hiltunen graduated in 2017 after studying music business alongside Burke with a degree in music composition.

Although they didn’t meet through their own classes, FPC reflected on the creative environment they found on campus at Columbia. “I think when we first started kicking it heavy was after a Columbia gig that we both played,” Kourafas said about Hiltunen. 

“We had met before [becoming a band],” Polovick recalled. “It’s funny, the first show I ever went to in Chicago was a house show in a loft and these two were playing,” he said,  pointing to Burke and Doar, adding that Hiltunen, who he also didn’t know at the time, was there as well. “Our paths have crossed and been interwoven for so long and so many times — it just took us a while to hone in as a group and become friends,” Polovick continued, the whole band joking about the cheesiness of how they’ve described the memory before.

Just the night before, FPC played Thalia Hall in Pilsen alongside British rock band Foals. A show at a venue, where tickets are sold to see a specific band, is much different than playing at one of the biggest music festivals in the country where over 100 musicians and bands are set to play. 

“It’s interesting, because you’re playing for a non-captive audience,” Polovick said. “Here you really need to keep people’s attention. There’s a lot of people who aren’t here to see you — and I think that’s awesome. It’s a challenge and it’s exciting to be in front of new faces.” 

Their new single, “Pushing Daisies (Oh My My),” was released just a couple days ago on Aug. 3. While FPC is most identifiable as a rock band, each song in their Friday afternoon set alternated between head-banging rock — with electric guitar solos from Burke — and songs that had the crowd swaying.

The variation in song style is reflected in FPC’s songwriting process.

“It changes every single time. Every member of this band brings original ideas,” Hiltunen said, checking with everyone else as he continued. “It is very much all five of us.” 

“It’s super varied, too,” Polovick continued, describing how a song can start with a member coming into the studio with a few lines of lyrics or even just a title, a strong guitar riff or a melody.

They kept exchanging eye contact across our circle of seats throughout our time together, especially when I asked their favorite part of performing. Hiltunen quickly chimed in — “I like watching Eric get excited,” he said, and Kourafas immediately agreed. 

“Making eye contact with everyone individually at certain points and just smiling at each other and having a blast is so fun,” Posovich said. 

We also talked about the interesting dissonance they sometimes find between in-person crowd favorites and songs that are streamed most online. Their new single was a hit with the audience Friday, as old fans yelled with excitement and new listeners jumped to the rhythm. “It makes you think differently about the music you write,” Polovick said. “It constantly repositions us around our own art.”

After I asked the obvious ‘what would you tell current Columbia music students’ question, they all had input.

“People are going to tell you a lot of things.. do what you feel is right,” Hiltunen said.

“A lot of times, the fan or consumer, or whoever is appreciating your art, can see through a lot more than you give them credit for,” Polovick explained. “People want things that are real…just being true to yourself, as corny as that sounds.” We all laughed.

Wrapping up our conversation as the afternoon continued, I asked the band about what they remember inspiring them to get into music.

“That is so easy for me – ‘School of Rock,’ the movie,” Polovick said, saying that it changed music for him and got him into rock music as a kid. Doar agreed, adding “Drumline” as another movie that got him into snare drums. 

“I would put tinfoil over Tupperware and play it with forks,” Doar said. He then moved on to pots and pans before his mom was able to buy him a drum set.

Hiltunen, Polovick, Burke, Kourafas and Doar played again early Saturday afternoon at the Tito’s stage. Although there was light rain throughout their set, the animated crowd danced and sang along to every song.

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