X. The 24th letter of the alphabet was a significant part of the 2013 whatzup/Wooden Nickel Battle of the Bands. It is the Roman numeral for 10. This was the tenth year of Battle of the Bands at Columbia Street West. New emcee Kyle Stamos of 98.9 The Bear made the X into a battle cry before, during and after shows, and it was quickly adopted by fans, bands and judges as the letter of the summer.
As it is the most frequently used letter in the alphabet to indicate a variable in an algebraic equation, X also symbolized the many unknown variables in this year’s contest. Battle of the Bands X featured one of the most diverse lineups in its history, with new bands, veterans of the local music scene, hip-hop acts, rock bands, blues bands, folk/indie artists, an R&B/funk act and two very different one-man bands heading to the stage on 15 separate nights throughout the summer. From night to night, you literally were never quite sure what you were going to hear. And that’s a good thing.
Then there was the X factor. Winning band Trackless not only had the X factor, but were the X factor in this year’s contest. Based out of Muncie, with three members originally from Fort Wayne, one member from Anderson and one member from Wisconsin, they were the band nobody saw coming and became the band that everybody quickly fell in love with, virtually creating their own coming out party at the battle and inserting themselves smack dab in the center of the Fort Wayne music scene.
Trackless captured the attention of both the crowds and judges at Columbia Street West by consistently putting on entertaining half-hour sets that left the crowds wanting more. More songs, more drum solos, more bass solos, more keyboards and more guitar. And, of course, more of singer Jeremy Jones’ silky smooth, soulful voice.
Though Trackless stood out among their peers every time they played, they didn’t win the contest as easily as one might expect. The band fought through some heavy competition in the preliminary rounds and won the final contest by the slimmest margin ever in a whatzup/Wooden Nickel Battle of the Bands, just three 1,000ths of a point over runners-up Miles High. It came as no surprise to the band that the going would be tough.
“We entered the battle of the bands because we love being challenged,” said drummer/vocalist Jordan West in a recent interview. “For us, a competitive setting brings out the best in our playing and arranging while providing the chance to share our music with people who may not have been exposed to it before. Plus, it’s fun to compete with and listen to other local bands.
“Though we had been getting good judges scores all along and we were happy with our performances, we certainly didn’t assume we would win,” West continued. “We knew the other bands would be gearing up for the show, so we weren’t sure exactly how it would turn out. We just wanted to try our best and put on the best show we could” and let the chips fall where they may.
Trackless – West, Jones, guitarist Will Smith, bassist Jesse Gaze and keyboardist Jon Nelson – formed about two years ago at Ball State University. It was a pure love of music that brought them together. As it turns out, it may have also been a destiny finally fulfilled as well.
According to West, music was always present in each of the band members’ lives. Private music lessons and participation in elementary and middle school choirs led to further study in high school which, in turn, “led all of us to Ball State as music majors which is where our stories intersect. We found each other and realized that our chemistry was something rare and valuable, and that we should take it as far as we can.”
The Trackless sound, a sound many new fans have now come to love was born of hard work, experimentation and sheer necessity.
“When we started out, we weren’t really sure what direction we wanted to go in,” West explained. “I would write a song, play the acoustic version on the piano and have everyone take their own interpretation of it. I didn’t have a specific sound in mind for the songs. I just wanted to write as much material as possible, as we had a few three-hour sets booked, but only about an hour of music [in our repertoire]. This led to us playing a really eclectic mix of genres.”
As the collaborative process has evolved, however, that mix has coalesced into a unique, easily identifiable sound.
“Now, I think ... we are working towards a more consistent group sound. I’d describe our sound as combining aspects from pop, R&B and soul into really energetic and relatable music. Our lyrics are relatable too, as they come from experiences in our lives. When I write, I am always looking to connect and convey some emotion to the audience. We try to bring a lot of energy and musicality into every song too, whether we’re playing it live or in the studio.”
Trackless began performing in and around the area in February 2012, securing a regular monthly gig at Club Soda in Fort Wayne in the process. The band released their first CD, For Your Soul, earlier this year to all the usual digital media outlets, including iTunes and Spotify, and is currently writing and rehearsing new music for a second album they hope to release before the end of 2013.
“One of the reasons we are so excited to have won Battle of the Bands is because now we will be able to give out more music to people as a result of the prizes we received [a full album recorded, mixed and mastered by Digitracks Recording Studio and 1,000 CDs in jewel cases provided by Advanced Media Integration].”
The future, no doubt, looks bright for Trackless. With a Battle of the Bands win in their pocket and plenty of exposure to a new audience, the group will be in high demand for shows. In addition to that and the recording of the new CD, pre-planning for a 2014 summer tour has already started. World domination may be next.
“In the long term, we plan to move to a musical center such as Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles,” said West. “When we get there, we will devote our efforts to growing our fan base and playing as much as possible.”
In the meantime, Trackless are just thankful to be able to do what they love in front of friends, family and fans. “We are really grateful for the overwhelming amount of support we’ve had since the beginning of our journey as a band,” West said. “We were really excited to win the Battle of the Bands and know that all of our hard work is paying off. Individually we have all had our share of situations to overcome to make it to where we are, but a common thread connecting us is that we are all determined to pursue music, and no opposition will stop us.”