What began as two friends playing sweet serenades in Jameson Hall three years ago has since grown into a five-piece alternative/folk band that has come onto the NJ music scene remarkably fast. The Jameson “duo down the hall” consisted of Evangelia Psarakis, who is now a Rutgers alumna, and Ally Wepner, currently a senior. Ally described the beginnings of their musical endeavors, “You know how in ‘Step Brothers’ they do all that stuff and then they’re like, ‘did we just become best friends?’ That’s essentially what it was like. From then on we went to coffeehouses on campus and hung out and we would always play songs for each other.” With the subsequent addition of Shimmy Schwartz, George Maher, and Adam Bradford, Little Rose was born. Evangelia initially met Shimmy during her time hosting the Artists’ Collective Coffeehouses, which she hosted for three years. The two really hit it off when they played together last April at the Douglass Student Recruitment Network’s Battle of the Bands. After the show, they thought “Wow this feels right…this could actually continue beyond this Battle of the Bands thing.” George and Adam were the next addition to the group–they started coming to practices just to hang out and play a few songs, but over time they ended up playing a part in every song. Before they knew it, they were permanent members of the crew. The band had their first official gig together last June.
Outside of Little Rose, the group has been very involved in the Rutgers community:
George graduated last May from Mason Gross with a major in Music. He is in an up-and-coming band called The Highland Society, in reference to Highland Park. It is primarily a cover-band of Pop and R&B songs, but they are working on originals as well.
Evangelia graduated last May with a double-major in History and Political Science. She just started Rutgers’ five-year Master’s Program for Special Education. She feels that taking over the Artists’ Collective and organizing open mic nights throughout her sophomore, junior, and senior years was one of her best accomplishments at Rutgers. The coffeehouses provided an open atmosphere in which musicians could perform and meet like-minded people. Evangelia was also an RA for two years in Jameson Hall.
Adam graduated from Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences in January with a degree in Environmental Business Economics. When he was a student at Rutgers, he performed at several student-run philanthropic events, including a benefit show for Haiti and a human trafficking event which raised money for children’s textbooks. He also played intramural roller hockey and volleyball, and was involved in hall government when he lived on campus.
Shimmy is currently a student majoring in Psychology at Middlesex Community College. He has been very involved in the Rutgers community over the past few years and has played numerous shows at Rutgers, both solo performances as well as shows with the band.
Ally, a double major in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies, is involved in Model UN and IDIA (Institute for Domestic and International Affairs). She is also a graphic designer for the Student Life Marketing and Media Team and a DJ at Rutgers’ 90.3 The Core. She will be graduating in May.
Little Rose has performed numerous times around Rutgers and throughout New Jersey as a whole. At the beginning of spring semester, the band opened RUPA’s Spring Kickoff Concert featuring Cold Weather Company and Machineheart. They have also performed at the Scarlet Pub, Hidden Grounds, the Musicians Guild, the Artists’ Collective Coffeehouses, and numerous house shows. Outside of New Brunswick, the group has performed at various venues including the Rail House in Rahway and The Saint in Asbury Park. Out of all the crowds they have entertained, playing for Rutgers students is their favorite, because they feel that they are part of something, as opposed to playing for strangers. Brad added that if they could play a show anywhere, though, he would love to perform at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.
When asked about their process of songwriting, Shimmy explained the group’s unique way of working together, “I think [the process is] varied with every song, which is cool because I’ve never experienced that before. In every other project I’ve worked on, one of us writes stuff and brings it to the group and then we all just add parts. In Little Rose, we’ve done that but we’ve also just come together on the songs in a way that I haven’t experienced before. It’s really cool.” Ally explained, “For example, sometimes Shimmy will come in with a riff or a chord progression and then he’ll just play it over and over again and all of us will kind of improvise over it until it becomes a solidified melody. Then there have also been times where one of us has come with a melody and lyrics and then we figure out the instrumentation, so it depends.”
All five members of the band have been playing music for a long time. Before Little Rose, they each wrote solo music, and they still write their own music on the side, which is why they all have their own distinctive brand to bring to the table. Evangelina illustrated how they gain inspiration from their side projects, “There are certain songs that one us have written that we think would sound really cool as a Little Rose version. We might take a song that we’ve written and say ‘What do you think we could do with this?’ Then we all change it in different ways which is cool.” Shimmy used their song “Father Time” as an example, “What happened with that was- I had written it as this doofy little country song and then I brought it to them and they said, ‘Wait let’s do this to it and let’s do that to it,’ and then it kind of slowly morphed into this really awesome bouncy bass line.’”
They each expressed a great appreciation for the way they work together and gain inspiration from one another. One of their strengths as a group is that there is not one lead singer or musician; everyone has an important role, and they take different parts of songs based on their voices, style of playing, and the vibe of the song. Evangelina described how everyone is included, “Ally’s voice might sound better for a certain lead part whereas mine might be better for another, and it’s also cool doing backing vocals. There are songs where Shimmy is singing and Ally and I do harmonies behind him.” Adam elaborated on the way the group works as a unit, “I’ve been in other bands before where there’s one person who is basically in charge and they put most of the songs together, and it’s pretty much their thing- it’s not a collective effort. This is kind of the first band that I’ve been in where everyone really has some unique musicianship. It’s not one person’s ego; it’s a big collective effort of everyone.”
Shimmy described how being part of Little Rose and working with people who are each talented in their respective area is a very humbling experience, “Sometimes when one of them is singing, I’ll just watch them and think ‘How is she doing that?’ I mean these are the best harmonists I’ve ever worked with. We’re able to eliminate our egos from the experience…there are times when I have to step back and just be the rhythm section and compliment everyone else and it’s a great experience that I think every musician should have.” George confirmed Shimmy’s point, “Yeah for me, even though I have solos, my main thing is that I’m always just trying to compliment everyone else and make sure not to play too much because that’s easy to do.”
The group’s feeling of cohesion was further expressed when I asked what inspires them and keeps them continually dedicated to their music. However, before I get into the adorable, perfectly gushy and inspirational part, I have to note that George is primarily inspired by cookies, pizza, and Netflix (because let’s be real-who isn’t?!) The rest of the band shared George’s appreciation for the cookie-pizza-Netflix trifecta of greatness, and then continued to illustrate what keeps them motivated. Adam expressed how the band motivates him, “These guys inspire me, because everyone’s really good at what they do [and when they play and sing I think] ‘What is going on inside your brain that made you connect those things?” Evangelina agreed, expressing how she gains inspiration from the others as well,
Even before Little Rose got together, I always admired Ally’s voice and songwriting. I remember the first time I heard her play that historical day in Jameson…I literally laid down on the floor and closed my eyes to take in the full experience and I just loved it and admired her for that. I admired Shimmy’s lyrics too. It’s cool working with him and working off of each others’ ideas for lyrics because when you’re doing your solo stuff you’re kind of just in your own head, which is limiting. When you let go of the feeling of wanting to write ‘the cool line’ and you work with somebody, maybe some little thing that you said or did inspired a really cool line that they came up with, but you did whatever you did to help bring that into their head. The collaboration process is just really inspiring.”
Shimmy added that when they write a song together, he can already tell which lines they are each going to end up singing, because of the way their voices work with each other. When asked who they gain inspiration from, the members of Little Rose could have named anyone in the world. The mere fact that each member of the band expressed that they are mainly inspired by each other goes to show that this group has a bond that is hard to find.
While speaking with them and hearing their thought processes when it comes to making music, I was equally as fascinated with their brains as they were with each other’s. It was intriguing to talk with them about their lyrics. I had always wondered what the story was behind their song “Radish Queen,” so I asked them to describe to me how the song came about. Shimmy explained that the origin of the character Radish Queen was a boss in his favorite game growing up, Metroid Fusion. The character in the game looked like a giant radish, so he dubbed the boss “Radish King.” Years later, when he wrote the song, he thought of the Radish King, but he felt that he shouldn’t refer to the narrator; he should refer to the person the narrator is talking about…so he changed the name to Radish Queen.
Evangelina elaborated, “Ally took on the role of the ‘Radish Queen princess person,’ whoever that is, and she sounds beautiful on it. Then I took the bridge, which is kind of weird and creepy, and I ended up taking on the role of the Fairy Godmother. Just wait until the music video comes out. It’s going to be a weird video…in a good way.” They also shed light on the meaning of another one of their songs, “Lydia.” Shimmy told the story of how his friend wrote the name Lydia on his guitar, because that was its name. When Evangelina saw it, she told them about her friend named Lydia and thought, “Well now we have to write a song for her.” Shimmy decided that if he was going to do this, he would have to go all out and write a really sappy love song. The best part is that when he wrote the song, he never expected to actually meet the person he wrote this sappy love song for, the real Lydia. Needless to say, it was pretty funny to meet the subject of his love song. He said that lately people have been telling him that “Lydia” is their favorite song, adding “It’s funny because that’s the one we pulled out of our butts, you know?”
Little Rose has set the goal to start recording this month, so keep an eye out for new releases! They are considering going on tour this summer and are excited to see what the future holds. Little Rose will be playing at ONE at Rutgers’ Sounds of Sustainability concert taking place on April 8th, and the Hub City Music Festival in Highland Park on April 16th. They will also be performing at the Union County Performing Arts Center on May 2nd with Cold Weather Company, Rose Boulevard, and The Paper Jets. To stay up-to-date on their music and shows, check out their Facebook page and Instagram!
Facebook: Little Rose
By Jen Conover
Photos provided by Little Rose