From The Studio

This band is named after Michelle Obama… or frog legs

Nalae White | Staff Photographer

Flotus, a band made up of Syracuse University Freshmen, won Orange Music Group's Battle of the Bands earlier this month.

Orange Music Group held its annual Battle of the Bands in Schine Underground on April 6. Most of the contestants were bands well established in the Syracuse University music scene. But with a fresh sound, a group of Syracuse University freshmen called Funky Lads of the United States — or Flotus — took home the championship.

The prize was six hours of free recording time at SubCat Studios downtown. With about 10 original songs, Flotus is eager to be heard. Although the band has yet to use the recording time, they look forward to knocking out a bunch of tracks before the summer time. The band is all about summer vibes.

Flotus consists of Eric Thompson on guitar and vocals, and Ryan McKeown on the keyboard — both sound recording technology majors. Blake Trexler plays bass, and Sean Ferguson mans the drums. Both are music industry majors. Each member of the band contributes their own individual style — funk, disco, hip-hop, progressive rock, jazz and pop. But Motown substantially influences them as a whole.

“It’s interesting because we make music that is super accessible to everyone, but underlying we have all of these jazzy chords and funk styles that real musicians can appreciate. We’re not just a four-chord pop band,” Ferguson said.

“Like Bruno Mars with Foo Fighters,” Trexler laughed.

The band has also played at Funk ‘n Waffles downtown and on the Hill, as well as Westcott Theater. On Tuesday night, the band plays Westcott again for Syracuse University Recordings’ ‘Cuse Jam-Balaya. However, Flotus’ favorite venue is a classic house party.

“The underground scene is where it’s at. That’s where you get people who actually enjoy your music, and you can really connect with the crowd,” McKeown said. “I don’t know, there’s some amount of romanticism when you’re playing on a stage, but when you’re playing at level with everyone else, it’s just like actually a conversation between the musicians and the listeners.”

With songs titled “Ooolala” and “Cinnabon,” it’s hard not to see the band’s upbeat personality.

“Yeah, there’s songs about girls, songs about how we don’t get any girls,” Thompson, the band’s primary songwriter, said. “And then there’s songs where I feel like I want to talk about something in the world.”

Despite the playful title, “Ooolala”—a single they’re releasing within the month— is one of Flotus’ most profound songs, McKeown said. It’s about loving yourself for both your perfections and imperfections, and not getting caught up in self-judgment. “Cinnabon” paints the picture of people striving for fame for all the wrong reasons and not willing to work for it.

“I think we all have this view where we want recognition but not for those superficial reasons,” Thompson said.

Flotus is just here to have a good time, and make sure other people are having a good time too.

“We’re people who can’t take ourselves seriously,” McKeown said.

Just look at the band’s name for evidence. Inspired by a Michelle Obama tweet, Flotus has become a running joke within the band’s members, where they change the meaning of the acronym with almost every performance. Sometimes they’re the Funky Lads of the United States, other times it changes to Frog Legs.

The group is excited to grow during their time at SU. As of now, they don’t plan on leaving the band behind once they graduate, they want to always be playing music. What helps their band stay together and motivated is that they were friends before the band formed, having met in class their first semester.

“To understand each other like on stage and in studio, you need to understand each other off-stage on like a personal setting,” Thompson said. “So we have practices where we’re coming into work and get ready for a show and get to things and then we also have practices where we show up with a 12-pack of Budweiser and sip it and play music and have fun with it.”

Both hard work and amusement make up Flotus, and the band practices as much as their schedules will allow it — even if that means late at night. The other day, they went from noon to midnight.

Said Thompson: “We were like, ‘ugh, I’m so sick of you guys,’ and then went and hung out after that.”

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