On Tuesday nights, two very different styles of music can be heard emanating from a basement bar on High Street.
Nestled underground on West High Street is Bar 1868, a laid-back lounge with an atmosphere that makes Brick Street’s bustling dance floor seem all the more hectic. The bar has pool tables, biweekly drag shows and, every Tuesday night, live music performed by Miami University seniors Karen Mayet and Zach Vanderink.
“It’s an interesting clash, I think, with the bar scene and what we do,” Mayet said. “But it works.”
The two students grew up together in Granville, Ohio, but were never really close until their second year at Miami when Vanderink took a shot in the dark.
“He reached out and was like, ‘Hey, do you want to play [music] with me?’” Mayet said. She agreed, and the duo was formed.
Music had been in their lives forever, but it wasn’t until they started performing Uptown that it became such a central part.
“Before college, it was just choir performances. We did the occasional competition at local wineries,” Vanderink said. “But up until 1868, nothing significant.”
During the fall of their junior year, the pair stumbled upon the gig.
Vanderink was hanging out at 1868 one day and happened to run into the owner.
“I told him that I played music and I had a friend that I played music with,” he said. “It kinda came out of nowhere from there.”
Both play guitar and sing and put on a unique show on Tuesday evenings. They sing together and individually and, self-admittedly, have very different styles.
“It varies a lot. I’ll play some rock and roll and loud stuff,” Vanderink said.
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“I’ll do, like, Billie [Eilish] and King Princess and stuff like that,” Mayet said. “I personally throw in some Hannah Montana and Drake & Josh ... they love it.”
For Vanderink, the duo’s time at 1868 is just for fun. The supply chain and operations management major doesn’t see much music in his professional future.
“It’ll still be something that I do for fun, maybe for work on the weekends,” he said. “Maybe I’ll be that guy at the campfire.” Mayet jokes that perhaps Vanderink can play at office parties.
But for Mayet, performing is her future.
Last semester, the international studies and Spanish major decided she wanted to change course completely to actually pursue a career in music. She started devoting more time to singing and even quit her job to make it possible.
“I felt like quitting my job would let me have a lot more time to write music and produce it,” she said. “It’s been really rewarding.”
Over winter break, she began working with a producer to record her own original songs.
She notes that playing at the bar has pushed her to realize her passion and helped her improve at the same time.
“People are very vocal about whether they like [our performance],” Mayet said.
While 1868 didn’t shape Vanderink’s career path in quite the same way it has for Mayet, he does say it helped him build a lot of confidence.
“We were both definitely nervous the first time around,” he said. “But now we’ve done, like, 50 performances.”
Vanderink plans to keep enjoying his string of 1868 gigs while continuing to devote his time to going to class and pursuing his majors.
Mayet will be dropping her first single under the stage name “Kae Riviera.” Her song, titled “You Got Me,” will be available on music streaming platforms in mid-March.