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THE ROCKFORD FILES: Innocent Bystander

Exploring teenager issues through music

INNOCENT BYSTANDER: The band plays with the Puget Sound Youth Music Association and have become a tight polished alternative rock band.

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In my never-ending search for new Tacoma music, and my relentless attendance of all-ages shows in the South Sound, I incidentally hear more bands than I can possibly write about. And when presented with such a plethora of music, I can't help but take note of bands I'd like to write about in the future. I excitedly log band names in my iPhone, like a child making a Christmas wish list. What I'm left with is an unruly, sometimes indecipherable list of names that in one moment in time, on whatever level or in whatever fashion, I found worthy of remembering. But, of course, certain names on this list stand out to me - bands that have transcended my list and entered the realm of my musical consciousness. One particular band, Innocent Bystander, has done exactly that.

Several months ago I attended a show to see a group I was planning to write about for my column. Admittedly slightly irritated with how many bands were scheduled to go on before the band I was there to see, I impatiently listened to the opening acts. But one of the opening acts quickly changed my mentality, immediately striking me as more than just another opening act. Not even all the way through their first song, Innocent Bystander made the top of my wish list.

Consisting of Jess Nyland (bass, vocals), Ryan Hagen (guitar, vocals), Alex Papke (drums, vocals) and Emily Randolph (vocals, acoustic guitar) Innocent Bystander plays an eclectic mix of original and cover songs. Doing justice to songs by artists ranging from Queen to Neon Trees, the band captures the audience's attention with popular music while also establishing its dynamic style. Once the band enthralls its audience, it continues to impress the crowd with an onslaught of well-written and confidently executed originals.

Three of the band's members - Nyland, Hagen and Papke - became friends through school and began playing music together in January 2012. Randolph joined the group in August.

I caught up with Innocent Bystander to asked about its original music and writing process.

"The biggest reason for us to go out in the world and make our own music was that we needed an outlet to express kind of the everyday feelings a lot of teenagers go through. You know, hormones and stuff," explains Nyland.

With many bands, it's often easier to decipher which member wrote which song, or if the songs were written as a group. But with a very dynamic set of songs, and seemingly equal creative input from all the members, I was curious about the nature of Innocent Bystander's writing process.

"Our writing method is collaborative and efficient," says Hagen. "For example, Jess might bring in a bass riff that he made, and Ryan will add experimental guitar parts until we find the one that fits the best. From there, it flows quite nicely. One of us will also bring completed ideas to practice, and the song is already good to go. I think the whole writing process happens in a lot of different ways in the band, and that's what helps us expand our sound."

Innocent Bystander frequents The Live Room in Sumner, as well at Louie G's Pizzeria in Fife. You can catch them at The Live Room Feb. 8. The band's EP is available on Reverbnation, or it can also be purchased at any of its shows.

LINK: The Rockford Files goes shopping for vinyl

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