Rock Solid: UMass Lowell's Western Education Heads to Boston Competition

Western Education

Western Education

Lowell Sun
04/03/2014
By Pete McQuaid

Western Education is ready to rumble.

Don't worry, this band of UMass Lowell music students and graduates isn't violent (even though at least two of its members have admitted to playing previously in hardcore groups).

But the foursome is jacked up to be "competing" in the WZLX Rock 'n' Roll Rumble, which is celebrating its 35th year of giving up-and-coming bands some exposure on the big Boston music stage.

"The bands there certainly want to move on in the competition, but really most of it is about the celebration of the music," said Western Education bassist and producer Will Hunt.

The Rumble's served as a launching pad for a number of famous Boston-area bands like The Dresden Dolls and The Lemonheads.

Each year, WZLX invites a number of local acts who have established themselves on both the radio and live scene in or around Boston. Bands can only be selected once for the Rumble, and each year a list of about 100 possible selections is narrowed down to 24.

This year happened to be the year for Western Education, which will play on the fourth night of the Rumble on Thursday, April 10, at 8:30 p.m. at T.T. the Bear's Place in Cambridge. The preliminary round run from Sunday, April 6, to Saturday, April 12, (except Wednesday, April 9), and, if Western Education is lucky, it will move on to play in the semi-final rounds on April 17-18 and then perhaps the finals on April 25.

Western Education was born in 2011 when UML student Greg Alexandropoulos put up a flyer on campus to find people for a possible band, listing his musical influences as The Killers, New Order, Franz Ferdinand and The Smiths. The vocalist and keyboardist had never been in a band before, but that didn't stop Hunt, guitarist Georgio Broufas and, later, drummer Mark Ragusa from expressing their interest.

"Mark wasn't there for the eight months of struggle," said Alexandropoulos, 21.

"It took us that amount of time to really figure out how to be a band."

After a few months of practice and a lone gig at the Sad Cafe in Plaistow, N.H., Broufas asked Ragusa to help the band with a four-song demo they were in the midst of recording.

"When I showed up, they had such a cohesive songwriting process that I had never been privy to before," said Ragusa, 26, from Lunenburg.

One song on that demo was "Young Love," a powerful, Killers-sounding anthem that surprised even the band when it was played for the first time on the influential (and dearly-departed) WFNX.

"I was driving with my girlfriend and we pulled into her driveway and I was like, 'I recognize this song ... oh, this is me!' " said Ragusa.

Since they've finalized their band roster, Western Education has focused on recording its debut full-length album (which comes out in July and will include newer versions of "Young Love," "Satellite," "All I Am" and "Rivals") and on expanding its fan base in and around the Boston area. Even though they very much still identify with their Lowell roots (all four are either working toward or have already acquired an undergraduate and/or graduate degree in the UML music program), the boys from Western Education have found more success as a pop band the closer they are to the city.
"There's a lot of great bands in Lowell -- there are just more opportunities for us in Boston," said Hunt, 28.

Though they admit their music has become more ambitious as they have grown as a band, the students that comprise Western Education say their music is fun, first and foremost.

"How do you recognize the best songs of all time? It's the themes and melodic content," said Alexandropoulos. "We're not an arty, pretentious band. If it's big and fun and that's all it is, that's fine with us."

For information about the WZLX Rock n' Roll Rumble, visit wzlx.cbslocal.com/category/rock-and-roll-rumble/.