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The bigger the better: Bilk Bonic expands Brown鈥檚 music scene

Members say any instrument goes, discuss finding community through performance

Bilk Bonic started as a cover band of the Anderson .Paak/Bruno Mars project Silk Sonic. Now at 23 members, the band is bending as many genres as it can into one group.

Courtesy of Bilk Bonic
Bilk Bonic started as a cover band of the Anderson .Paak/Bruno Mars project Silk Sonic. Now at 23 members, the band is bending as many genres as it can into one group. Courtesy of Bilk Bonic

When Brown students attend a Bilk Bonic performance, they expect to see certain staples on stage: an instrument of every kind present on the stage, countless band members overflowing into the crowd and an instrument dubbed by the band as the 鈥淏rewSonic Resonator.鈥

The Resonator is a simple wooden structure with beer bottles of various sizes suspended from it. The bottles, tuned to different notes, are an essential part of the Bilk Bonic experience. 

One of Brown鈥檚 many student bands, Bilk Bonic includes a string, horn, percussion and synth section, as well as a more traditional funk band and multiple rappers and singers. How is the band so multifaceted? It's made up of about twenty members.

鈥淲e wanted this to be the biggest band we could possibly make it, no matter what the costs were of having an excessive amount of musicians playing with us,鈥 drummer and vocalist Kieran Pandey 鈥24 said. 鈥淧eople won鈥檛 believe that we have so many (members), so when we ask for nineteen backstage passes they鈥檙e like sure.鈥

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Formed in the fall of 2023, Bilk Bonic is a student cover band at Brown inspired by 鈥淪ilk Sonic,鈥 an album by Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars. Current membership comes from all class years and includes: Kieran Pandey 鈥24, Lucas Washburn 鈥24, Makayla MacPherson 鈥24, Jennora Blair 鈥24, Mia Humphrey 鈥25, Connor Purcell 鈥24, Phela Durosinmi 鈥27, Triston Roberts 鈥26, Jesse McCormick-Evans 鈥25, Peter Sage 鈥24, JD Gorman 鈥26, DJ Pennix 鈥25, Alex Hernandez 鈥25, Will Hardy 鈥25, Ifenna Amaefuna 鈥24, Joshua Lobsenz 鈥24, Ashley McCoy 鈥24, Ian Hajra 鈥26, Ronan Zwa 鈥27, Siddu Sitaraman 鈥26, Oliver Grynberg 鈥25, Christine Alcindor 鈥25 and Dieudonne Makelele 鈥27.

Just about any instrument goes, Pandey said.    

The idea for the band initially came from Lucas Washburn 鈥24 鈥 who plays guitar, percussion and the BrewSonic Resonator 鈥 after hearing another group cover Silk Sonic鈥檚 music at UCLA. 

鈥淚 saw them do the Silk Sonic intro and that rocked and I was like 鈥楧ang, why don鈥檛 we just do a whole band,鈥欌 he said.

Pandey described Silk Sonic as 鈥渉ighly influential with musicians at Brown and probably all over, just because it鈥檚 such a nice combination of modern R&B and funk and some pop.鈥

According to Washburn, the band鈥檚 original plan was just to dress up as Silk Sonic for Halloween and perform a one-off show. But Bilk Bonic quickly started to become a more permanent presence in Brown鈥檚 music scene. 

鈥淚t was so fun we were like we can鈥檛 not do this,鈥 Pandey explained.

The group has since put on several performances around campus, playing on holidays, at fundraising events and even this past semester鈥檚 Spring gala. They have also expanded their repertoire well beyond Silk Sonic covers. 鈥淲hat we play is really up to the group,鈥 Washburn said, adding that voting is usually part of the song selection process.

鈥淪ometimes we all come in not knowing a song, but it comes together so well,鈥 said Jennora Blair 鈥24, singer and rapper for Bilk Bonic. 鈥淭hat鈥檚 the beauty of it 鈥 we鈥檙e always just trying random things and seeing what happens.鈥

Beyond the original duo鈥檚 music, Bilk Bonic was also inspired by Silk Sonic鈥檚 performative nature. 鈥淎nother thing I liked about Silk Sonic as a band is they鈥檙e funny,鈥 Washburn said. Bilk Bonic seeks to embody a similar sense of humor during its own shows. 

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Blair recalled the group鈥檚 collective decision to wear fake mustaches at one of their first shows.  鈥淎t a specific moment (in the song) we all pulled them off together,鈥 she said. 

鈥淲e did a mannequin challenge on stage once,鈥 Washburn said. In another of their gigs, the band just stopped playing and instead began to sing Silent Night together, Pandey added. 

鈥淲e wanted it to be a performance,鈥 he explained. 鈥淲e wanted to learn the songs and learn them well, but we wanted also to have enough time and space to then make it a visually entertaining event for the people in the audience.鈥

鈥淭he silliness is so distinct,鈥 Blair said. 鈥淚 feel like we take it seriously but then we don鈥檛 in some ways.  And that combination works really well.鈥

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Bass and synth player JD Gorman 鈥26 agreed, describing Bilk Bonic as the perfect combination of community and musical challenge. 鈥淧utting in goofy stuff like this is a really great reminder that the reason we鈥檙e doing this is because we all have so much fun with it, so let鈥檚 not lose sight of that,鈥 he said.

In terms of recent performances, Bilk Bonic joined several other student musicians for Gigs on the Green on Saturday, April 20. The group also headlined 鈥淭he Biggest Party in the World鈥 鈥 鈥渁 student-run arts and music block party event approved by the city of Providence,鈥 according to Pandey. As is often the case, the size of the group has required some accommodating.      

鈥淲e almost weren鈥檛 able to perform at Gigs on the Green because the stage is just too small for us,鈥 Pandey said. 鈥淲e鈥檙e going to have ten people on stage at one time 鈥 and then the rest in front or behind and rotating onto the stage when a solo part comes up.鈥

Nonetheless, Bilk Bonic鈥檚 members expressed that the size of the band is also one of its greatest strengths. 鈥淚f orchestrated correctly, having a lot of musicians on stage allows for incredible dynamics,鈥 Pandey explained. 鈥淵ou can bring the music down real low and simple, and then you can build it all the way up into the feeling of an orchestra.鈥

鈥淭here鈥檚 so much power in our numbers,鈥 Blair said. 

According to Gorman, any money that Bilk Bonic makes directly funds the band, whether that be providing a meal for members before a show or transportation to and from gigs.

鈥淲e鈥檙e doing this for fun and not really to sell tickets or anything,鈥 Pandey said.

鈥淚鈥檓 almost one hundred percent confident to say that everybody in the band is going to continue to have music in their life in one way or another,鈥 he continued. 鈥淚t鈥檚 all integral to who we are.鈥  


Rya Vallabhaneni

Rya is an arts & culture section editor from Albany, NY. She is a junior studying English and Literary Arts, and her favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.



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