February 17, 2023 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | By Zeke Lloyd

The first eight seconds won’t surprise you. It’s a classic groove – warm and open. It builds slowly, drumsticks sparking underneath each chord, intentionally growing toward something.

But the ninth second will still catch you off guard. It’s a hard cut. Lyrics filling a momentary void left empty by instruments. You’ll consider starting it over just to hear that transition again.

“I’ve seen your face before. Do you want to know more?” Usurping the instrumental introduction, the words jump out at you. In another moment the guitar, drums, and bass come rushing back. It sounds like indie rock.

But 25 seconds in and it gets funky.

Welcome to The Keeps. Rooted in Colorado, they are pioneering in the novel genre of indie funk. Denver style, as the band members like to call it, attaching the term to The Keeps’ hometown. On Friday, Feb. 24, their newest single, “Sunshine Bloom”, comes out on Spotify.

“It was focused on making something that felt stanky, yet simultaneously you could bump your head to it,” said multi-instrumentalist Sophie Jones ‘23.

“This is, from what we’ve released, my favorite to sing,” said rhythm guitarist and lead singer Andy Tran. The band currently has eight songs which span six singles (two of which include a B-side). All four members of the Keeps are currently seniors in college. They came together in 2018 when they were seniors in high school. Much of the change over the last five years came as the group searched for their niche in the indie music scene.

“You have to know: how can we set ourselves apart from everyone else? ‘Sunshine Bloom’ is hinting at that,” said bass guitarist Christian Olsen ‘23. “Our last release, ‘Retrace’, was a really big step in that direction as well. We’re sort of building our own style; we call ourselves indie funk.”

According to Olsen, their songs combine the emotion of rock, the warmth of an open synth, and the groovy chord structures of early 80s disco.

That sound is the product of concentrated development beginning when the band first shared their music in 2020 with the release of “Sugar”. That first song doesn’t sound like “Sunshine Bloom”. It starts slower and softer. The lyrical entrance is a little more expected. Even so, to members of the group, “Sugar” is cemented in their origin story.

“…Sugar was written during COVID and it was an experiment on what I could do as a songwriter and what we could do over the phone,” said Tran.

That collaboration from afar was integral for the band as its members moved away over time. None of the band members still live in Denver. Now, the group collaborates to make cohesive music across three different colleges. Jones and Olsen take classes at Colorado College, Tran attends the University of Colorado Boulder, and drummer, Charlie Nicholson, goes to school in Montana. When performing shows in Colorado Springs, CC alum Sam Seymour ‘22 will often sit in as drummer.

Despite their current decentralization, the group nonetheless travels frequently to Denver for rehearsals, maintaining the intimate connection they have built with each other. For some, the friendships go far back. Olsen and Jones, for example, have been friends since kindergarten.

“When we get together, we have to work but it’s never unpleasant,” said Olsen. “It’s always the people I want to be with and people who I feel a strong connection with musically.”

The members feel a similar affection for their fans, some of whom have been listening to their music for the last half-decade.

“Back in our high school, early college days, there was a much more grassroots Keeps knowledge and organization…” said Jones. “We organically connected with people at school, just in sports, it was more of a word-of-mouth type of deal.”

Now, though, The Keeps finds themselves immersed in the modern music industry. The group continues to extend that level of familiarity to all their fans, even as the band’s listenership reaches past the thousands.

“Just making people feel like they’re part of the family, that we couldn’t be here without them,” said Tran. “When you play shows it takes a lot to transport, rehearsal, and all that stuff. And we want to make people feel like: ‘Thank you for being here. Thanks for listening to our music.’”

For Tran, a student at CU Boulder who makes the trip to Colorado Springs for performances, that appreciation is tangible around campus.

“Just walking around, people are like, ‘Oh, I’ve listened to your song.’ I just want to say: Colorado College has shown us immense support. And it’s definitely felt from someone who doesn’t go there…. It’s a wonderful, supportive community. You don’t see that every day.”

Check out The Keeps, their music, and upcoming shows here:

Leave a Reply