Scopes Monkey Trial is Evolving Ithaca’s Music Scene

The Scopes Trial in 1925 regarding the teaching of human evolution had nothing to do with music. In the mind of Spenser Forwood, however, music and evolution go hand-in-hand, so he decided to name his band after the infamous court case.

“Scopes Monkey Trial. Evolution,” he said. “Our sound is always changing.”

The band, which started with three members in the fall of 2014, is now made up of eight members, all Ithaca College students. The group went from doing open jams in the Whalen Center for Music to playing gigs at some of Ithaca’s most notable venues like the Haunt and Lot 10.

Scopes did not just start playing big gigs. The first show they played was in The Pub at IC. From the moment the set started to finish, the crowd was digging what they heard. At that moment, says vocalist and guitar player David Vinder, they had found their identity, and they chose to run with it.

“From there on out we knew we were going to be a live band,” he said. “Playing shows was going to be inevitable.”

While the band has evolved in size, so has their sound. The group’s vocals, guitars, bass, drums, keyboard and wind section combine to create a sound Forwood calls “Influentia”, an unordinary blend of rock, funk, hip-hop, reggae and more. They have the ability to turn that sound into something that will make any music fan start to dance and have a good time from the start of their show.

“There is a lot going on,” Vinder said. “Somebody that comes to our show will hopefully like one song. There is something for everybody.”

According to Vinder, the goal of the group from the start was to make cohesive music. As more people were added to the group, the challenge of making the sounds of the different instruments come together became even more difficult, something they are still looking to improve on.

When first approached about playing in the group, trombone player Dan Wenger did not understand how he would fit in, but once he spent more time with the band things started to mesh nicely.

“They were playing a lot of hard rock and I was thinking ‘how am I going to fit into this?’” he said. “Then the moment we started vibing it completely changed our direction.”

With eight members, all of whom are full-time college students, finding time to meet is not always easy. They rehearse on Sundays, but during the week they are all focused on different things.

“You have eight people that are trying to do their own thing,” Forwood said. “The biggest challenge would be getting eight people to function as one unit, which definitely took some time to figure out.”

Despite the scheduling difficulties working with a group of eight brings, they have managed to figure out how to blend with each other.

“It’s been more like a salad than a melting pot,” Forwood said.

On January 24, the first day of classes for the spring semester, Scopes released “School Daze,” a digital album with two tracks, on their Bandcamp website. The songs create a chill vibe with lyrics that anybody can relate to. When he first heard the title track written by Vinder, Wenger said he felt the vibe their front man was trying to create with the song.

“It was our beach single,” he said. “Everything seemed to come together quickly on that one, I think we had it done in an hour.”

Scopes will be playing their next show at the Haunt, opening for a Jazz, Funk and R&B group from Nashville called Dynamo. For the show, they plan to play some new songs, and as they always try to do, get the crowd moving.

“We’re trying to debut one of the new songs we have been working on and maybe put a new cover together, hopefully something that is pretty jumpin’,” Forwood said. “It’s really exciting to play with musicians like that. Having checked them out, they can play.”

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