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Cohen ’20 performs an intimate set with Them Airs

November 15, 2019

Courtesy of Anna Ryack
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Connecticut-based punk-rock band Them Airs, featuring Adam Cohen ’20, performed in an intimate house setting last weekend in Brunswick. Cohen and his bandmates chatted with the Orient about bands and music culture at Bowdoin before performing on Saturday night.

Them Airs, a band from New Haven County, Connecticut, played a set in Brunswick this week unlike any show I have attended during my time at Bowdoin. No combination of adjectives can properly summarize the band’s style—if one had the arduous task of assigning Them Airs a genre, a mix between art punk, shoegaze and math rock would be the best way of describing them. However, nobody in the crowd gave much mind to which of these genres Them Airs fits into. People were too busy dancing, bouncing and moshing to the most raucous set any artist has played at Bowdoin in a long time.

Them Airs technically has six members, but only four performed at Saturday’s show: guitarist and vocalist Cade Williams, drummer and vocalist Evan Nork, guitarist Hayden Nork and lastly, Bowdoin’s own Adam Cohen ’20 on bass. The band members went to high school together but only formed the band once in college. Them Airs came to campus last year under the name Mirror Waves.

Since last year’s set, Them Airs has played 20 shows at unconventional spaces scattered across Connecticut.

The show on Saturday was DIY to the core—guitar pedals were unplugged, crowd members knocked out the powerstrip, drinks were placed on the speakers and amplifiers toppled as the floor bounced. But that didn’t take away from how clearly talented Them Airs were as musicians. The rhythms were extremely tight, every tempo change (and there were lots of them) was executed on-cue and even the vocal harmonies—when you could hear them—sounded good.

A show like the one Them Airs put on is difficult to pull off. It walks a fine line between chaos and brilliance—the mosh pit can lead to violence, if it’s too loud the cops could come, and, yes, the guitar pedals can get unplugged multiple times when the powerstrip gets knocked out of the socket. Them Airs played a wild show to a generally musically-agnostic Bowdoin crowd, totally blowing past expectations of what music played on campus could sound like.

Before the set I talked to Cohen and the band about their experiences in a regional scene, what it’s like to play at a school like Bowdoin and his expectations for the set. 

The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Orient: Your sound is significantly different from a lot of other bands that perform at Bowdoin. Why do you think that other bands at Bowdoin don’t play a similar style to Them Airs?

Adam Cohen: Well, there [are] a lot of musicians here that are really good, and often trained in jazz. And I think that comes out in the music—lots of stuff influenced by jazz and funk. Bowdoin has a really good scene for that, like, it’s wild that there are so many good bands on a campus of 2,000 people. We all met in high school, and Evan and Hayden met in their house because they’re brothers, but growing up in Connecticut, there’s a surprisingly good noise rock, post-punk scene in and around New Haven. So the band is definitely influenced by the music we’re surrounded by at home.

Q: I think you hit an interesting point on how regionalism defines music scenes. Given that there are pretty strong punk scenes in New Haven, Boston, Portland and other places in New England, and that there are plenty of New Englanders at Bowdoin, is it surprising that there hasn’t been more interest in punk at Bowdoin?

A.C.: Well, I think the Bowdoin population isn’t generally people who are a part of punk scenes. They’re a bit too smart [laughs].

Evan Nork: I think that specifically pop-punk isn’t that smart—

A.C.: Yeah, a lot of punk bands, especially post-punk bands, are really well educated. I mean, thinking about bands like The Clash or Minutemen, they made some very interesting social critiques and were really intelligent. I feel like most people at Bowdoin just didn’t come from backgrounds that grow those [punk] scenes. I mean I grew up in a pretty nice town, but I think being a part of the New Haven music scene kind of mixes up different types of people. I think it’s a lot less homogenous in that sense. Also, here’s the thing about DIY scenes. DIY scenes flourish in places where the cops have other things to care about, I’ll put it that way. DIY scenes often pop up on the outskirts of cities—the Boston DIY scene is mostly centered around Somerville and Cambridge, as there isn’t really anywhere in Boston where you could play these types of shows without having the cops come. Even in New Haven, there’s no houses or venues in downtown New Haven where we could play. DIY generally has to be in a place that the cops don’t care about, or somewhere cheap and not residential enough where the neighbors could call the cops on you.

Q: How receptive do you think Bowdoin students would be to a proliferation of bands that sound like Them Airs on campus? Do you think that a place like Bowdoin could foster a punk scene?

Cade Williams: Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. As soon as it does we would nip it in the bud. It would cheapen the product [laughs].

A.C.: I guess if that would happen there would have to be a critical mass of students interested in forming bands, and right now you don’t really see that on campus. But I don’t really know what people want, and I guess it doesn’t really matter—if you like doing something you should do it, regardless of whether you’re going to get an audience for it.

Q: Do you have any worries about Brunswick Police shutting down tonight’s show?

A.C.: Yeah. We’re pretty loud.


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