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ON BEAT: Keep The Eleven

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Photo courtesy of Keep The Eleven

The love of music is the driving force for Keep The Eleven.  The band of Belmont University sophomores is made up of guitarist and vocalist Reece Bittner, bassist Adam Caruso and drummer William Laskey.

A Belmont junior, management stems from Zoey Pollard.  Through the band's unique and undefined sound, they are inspired by throwback artists like Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.  Where did the name Keep The Eleven originate?

William: So, back in 2019, a group that Reece and I were in dissolved. We kind of started this thing, the two of us, and we were at Portillo’s, a hotdog place in Chicago. I asked Reece to get me a soda while I went to the bathroom and it was $2.49. I gave him $3 and said keep the 11 cent change. I was thinking times out of sixty. You know, my drummer brain was just doing bad math. After a couple minutes, us and our friends were joking about it. Someone said that would be a funny band name, and we needed a band name at the time. It was a joke at first, but we thought 'its kind of got a ring to it.' What is the band’s creative process?

William: We just kind of developed, I guess. It’s changed a lot over the years. We started when we were 15 or 16, so we had to adjust as we matured. Because we all write, what we're doing with this new process is taking two of an equal number of songs that we’ve all written on our own and getting together and “Keep The Eleven-ifying” them– just putting our own band touch on them. Taking our individual influences and blending them with the stuff that brought us together in the first place is where we’re at right now.  Reece: Maybe for a lot of artists write the lyrics and the chords together, and that’s just kind of the song. They build instrumentation around it. I would say one thing that’s cool about our writing and creative process is we start with a riff or a groove, and we jam with it. We always talk about how a lot of our great songs and our great ideas just come when we’re in the moment jamming. With our new music that we’re hopefully releasing soon, we have definitely focused on the lyricism.  Adam: It always starts with something that we would want to hear. We’re not going to do it unless it makes us excited, so if it’s interesting to us that’s where it starts. When we first started, we were immature, and didn’t know what to talk about. Now we're trying to make it a unified experience.  How is the Belmont scene? 

Adam: It’s awesome. The Belmont scene is awesome. The best scene I’ve been a part of so far in my life. I’d say the biggest challenge is playing certain places over and over. It gets hard to get people to shows and make the events fresh and interesting every time, so it kind of creates a nice friendly competition to up your shows and play to the highest capability you can.  William: It’s got its ups and downs because it really is a wonderful scene. It’s how we got our momentum. We’ve played tons of shows. Last year alone we played 50 shows. The difference between house shows and The End, which is a struggle with the scene, is finding the separation of people who are there to party and the people there for the music. That’s what we’re in the process of figuring out.  What is the band’s opinion on house concerts? 

Reece: We’ve played our fair share of house shows. We love them. The turnouts are always amazing. It’s always where we have the coolest crowds. I definitely think that when it comes to the outcome and what comes out of house shows, it’s not that much. It makes a difference when people actually go to venues and shows, and in all honesty, I think that the house show scene right now is kind of a mess and being treated awfully. There are individuals in the Belmont scene taking advantage of it for the money aspect, which I am not a fan of at all.  What makes Keep The Eleven stand out?

Reece: I don’t think we fake this. It’s not a stage persona. We live and breathe what we do, and we’ve never faked a single thing once. We were all friends before we joined the band. We didn’t come here and say let's be in a band to be in a band. We thought, you know we all have similar music tastes and like the same stuff, why don’t we do something with this. Our sound doesn’t have defined boundaries when it comes to genres. We’re always changing.  William: We never sat down and said 'let's start a band.' We were jamming and suddenly we had five tunes. I met Adam when I was 13 or 14, and I met Reece when I was 15. Now, Adam and I are 19 and Reece is 20. We’ve been through a lot, and when I say we do it for ourselves not for the fans, I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s more of a we do this because it interests us. It’s just the best thing ever that people have interests in what makes us happy.  What advice do you have for new artists and bands?

William: Play live! There are bands that have great Spotify accounts and great socials, but if you see someone in the flash blowing your mind, you’re on that band. You’re not like that song is kind of catchy. You’re like personally invested in that artist. There is no better way to get stuck in someone’s head than playing a good show. Also, don’t do what you think your fans want to hear. If it is authentic, your fans will like it.  Adam: Don’t be afraid to be yourself and show who you are. Don’t forget your original vision. Do what you want to do. Never let someone convince you that your idea is not good.  Reece: Stay true to what your vision is. If you have something in your head and you think it’s a good idea, run for it full throttle.

This interview was conducted by Cameron Lewis

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