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Cymbals and solo cups: a look at Oxford's basement band

"There's something big going on downstairs!" someone yelled in the middle of the party on Wooster Place.

Confused party guests carrying red Solo cups made their way to the basement, smirking at their friends in anticipation.

Once the basement was filled, a '90s cover band began to play.

Classics like "Mr. Brightside" and "Dirty Little Secret" slowly moved the houseguests to dance and sing along. Playing a show had not been the plan, but it didn't take more than a soft nudge to persuade junior guitar player Kevin Gallagher to turn the Valentine's Day-themed event into a live concert.

"Someone suggested it to me," Gallagher said. "They were like, 'We should play.' And I was like, 'You're exactly right!'"

Drummer Eric Poe wasn't so sure it was the right move.

"I just feel like when the house band starts to play, that's when everyone's like, 'OK, this party's kinda over,'" he laughed. "The people who stayed liked it, and then the people who left...they would have liked it."

And just like that, Squeemp was born.

What is Squeemp?

Two guitar players, a bass player, a drummer and a lead vocalist make up the current and future residents of "Cockapella," a blue-painted house on Wooster Place.

A bassline could be heard swelling from beneath the boys' home last Tuesday as the hour neared 11 p.m.

Inside the house, the sound of other instruments, a dog barking and laughter accompanied the bass to make for an authentic college house soundtrack.

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The album cover of such a soundtrack would paint a picture of Cockapella's basement: Beer cans and red Solo cups scattered across the floor and desks, cables connecting electric guitars and the bass to complicated contraptions controlling their sound, a drumset on a platform underneath Christmas lights and blue blankets hung throughout the space.

Gallagher said that the blankets are supposed to stop sound from bouncing off the walls to some extent -- they are, at least, better than the plain concrete. Jeffrey Mayo, Gallagher's housemate, a junior and the vocalist of the band, admitted he thought the blankets were for aesthetic reasons to cover up the laundry machines in the corner of the basement.

"That's why he's the singer," junior Matt Morris said, getting a rise out of Mayo and "oohs" out of the rest of the guys.

The band is called Squeemp, and they are just getting started. Players are exclusively members of the Cockapella household, or friends that have already signed the lease to live there in the future.

Although there are some singer/songwriters in the group, the band is sticking to covers for now. Morris said that the band has been picking "classic college anthem songs" that most people know the words to -- "crowd pleasers" that encourage their friends to sing along.

"This is just, like, a cover band," Morris explained, before getting cut off by Gallagher, who tacked on, "...For now. We're open to the idea of expanding."

"All the way to the top, baby!" Morris replied.

The rest of the band added their own jokes and jabs, egging each other on and continuing to build off of each other's enthusiasm.

"If we get discovered, we get discovered," Mayo added, cheekily.

The band name, Squeemp, was devised in jest when the boys challenged each other to think of "a fake word that is just disgusting."

"It can't be something that exists already, we have to just make it up," Mayo recalled of the band's naming.

Playing or practicing... Squeemp can't tell the difference

Even though the boys live together, it's hard to find a time when they are all home and able to practice. They usually rehearse on their own, and then on rare occasions when everyone has free time, they put it all together. That's where "the magic happens."

"It just comes from us wanting to have fun and make music, and who better to do it with than your housemates who are also good at music, right?" Mayo said.

The "magic" takes place in that same cement-walled, open-layout basement from the night of the concert, with a brick half-wall in the middle to support the stairs that lead up to the rest of the house. Poe, the drummer, sits on his stool toward the back of the space while the others crowd around in a triangle-like formation.

Cymbals lie on the floor, mixed in with empty beer cans and wires; the ceiling is covered in pipes. There's a Wendy's drive-thru bag on the desk and a jumpy puppy running in between them all, whining.

"I like this rhythm, it's like..." Morris says before finishing off the sentence by playing on the steel strings.

Meanwhile, the jumpy puppy, Lila, barks loudly in protest of the playing.

"Lila doesn't like this," Ben Poe, the bassist and Eric's brother, says.

"Is it loud?" Mayo coos to his pooch, trying to soothe her. "Are we loud?"

Mayo thinks that Lila is torn between wanting to hang out and wanting to run away because of the volume. He calls her a "social butterfly."

Mayo has the microphone and reads lyrics off his phone. He sings with all his might from his perch on the desk on the side of the room, his Vans tapping to the beat while his face turns red. Directly after an outburst of vocal strain at the climax of the song, he composes himself completely.

"I'm a little confused with the timing," he says, and the band goes back to try again, with a confident "one, two, three" countoff from Poe on the drums.

Gallagher strums his red electric guitar as he adjusts the amp with his feet.

Lila has calmed down now, and sits unfazed at the bassist's feet.

Morris plucks one of the strings on his guitar.

"That's my G string," he says.

In true Squeemp fashion, the boys break from any seriousness to congratulate the crude joke. The group is "striving for more structure," as Gallagher put it, but, in the end, the joy of playing with friends always wins.

"It's actually just always messing around," Gallagher said, "and sometimes music comes out."

Squeemp will be hosting a backyard concert at sunset on April 19 at their home.