Arts and Entertainment

Innocent Bystander: Local rock band makes some noise

Innocent Bystander consists of Thomas Jefferson High School students Ryan Hagen, Jess Nyland, Alex Papke and singer Emily Randolph. - Courtesy photo
Innocent Bystander consists of Thomas Jefferson High School students Ryan Hagen, Jess Nyland, Alex Papke and singer Emily Randolph.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Consisting of three friends from Thomas Jefferson High School and a singer originally from Nashville, Tenn., Innocent Bystander is starting a buzz among their peers here in Federal Way.

Made up of TJHS students Ryan Hagen, Jess Nyland, Alex Papke and singer Emily Randolph, the four have been playing live shows for some time now and have garnered a loyal following.

"It means something more than just us, or just our band," said Nyland, Innocent Bystander's bassist. "I think in our school, we have anywhere from 50 to 100 of the student body at Thomas Jefferson coming to our shows. It means a lot to us. But, also, it's something new for high schoolers to do on a Saturday night. The whole music scene…I wouldn't say it's dead, but for under 21, there's not many places, many venues, around. I think it's great to be able to do this with our friends."

Papke the drummer agreed.

"Being 16 and being able to walk around school, and just be like, 'Yeah, I'm in a rock band,' that's pretty cool," Papke added.

Papke and Nyland noted that their Nov. 10 show at the Live Room in Sumner was where they realized they had something worthwhile in their band.

"We really started getting our fans there. We had 52 people at that show, every show before was mostly family. We had crowd surfing, people stage diving," Papke said with a smile.

A lot of their exposure comes from promotion efforts. The band utilizes every social media outlet available to them, from Twitter to Facebook to the website, and also produces fliers that they distribute around TJ.

"We've been doing as much networking as we can," Nyland noted.

For Nyland, Papke and Hagen, their paths to music were similar, although each had a unique story to tell.

"I just kind of slipped into learning to play music," said Nyland. "I never really took the whole thing seriously until about a year ago, but I first picked up a bass guitar about four years ago now. And I met Ryan, our guitarist, and he had a guitar, and we just thought we'd get together and play some stuff. And all of a sudden, we played at the 8th-grade talent show, and everyone thought it was amazing."

Papke discovered a love of music through drum lessons and a neighborhood friend, he said.

"One of my neighbors, he was really into the band Green Day. He was practically obsessed with the band. He had over 150 songs of this band, and he showed me a good 20 songs one day I was over," he said. "He showed me the drummer of the band, Tre Cool, and he was throwing alarm clocks at the camera, and just had an amazing stage presence, and he's always going. I think that's what really got me into music, my neighbor and Green Day."

Papke added that his drum teacher was also a big influence. The teacher helped him push through the difficult parts of learning music, and believed in his potential.

Hagen's path to becoming a musician was inspired by a video game, he said.

"Back when I was in fifth and sixth grade, I played 'Guitar Hero' a lot," he said. "I was playing with my friends a lot. And one of my friends was like, 'Hey, you're really good at this game, why don't you learn real guitar? And I was like, 'That's a good idea.' Might as well. I've been learning since the end of sixth grade."

The band has a four-song CD produced and put together by a local man, and is set to play the Live Room in Sumner again on March 23. While they're still in school and have the rest of their lives ahead of them, all agree that the band is a top priority for the foreseeable future.

"My priority list…it's a really close second to school," said Papke.

"I'd agree," Nyland said. "It's pretty far up there."

"Whether playing in a band, or making music, or doing something in the musical field…this is a big thing I could do," Hagen said.

"This band means a lot to us," Papke added.

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