The dusky atmosphere of downtown Blacksburg venue The Milk Parlor features an indie R&B band that’s been around longer than the Parlor itself.
“We’re lucky enough to always have people in this band that are easy to work with, reliable and overall good people,” said Terrell Worrell, rap artist and songwriter of Speakeasy.
The pinkish hue of the Parlor stage highlights the five band members of Speakeasy: the newest — but quickest to adapt — drummer Jack Scheibe; the steady bones behind the music, bassist Taurus Hawk; the headbang-worthy guitarist, Wynn Yang; the strong soaring vocals of songwriter Olivia Rogers; as well as the lyrical genius and smooth vocals of Terrell Worrell. The band itself has continued for about two and a half years, with the new additions of Rogers as of 2018, and Scheibe as of fall of 2019.
The members themselves are no strangers to music. All of the members of Speakeasy have been songwriting or playing their instruments for upwards of eight years — and it shows. Two of their songs are available now on SoundCloud. One of their singles, “So Low,” begins with Yang’s ethereal mellow fingerpicking of his electric guitar, almost reminiscent of the introduction to Led Zeppelin’s “Rain Song.” Yang’s playing is suddenly disrupted by a scream of “One, two, three, four!” Yang then launches into a soft fast-paced grunge feel, with Scheibe coming in hot on the drums.
Speakeasy’s other single, “Mad Royalty,” is a favorite among them. They often play it at their shows. It features a Yang’s speedy rhythm guitar with a distortion like The Smiths, and explosive vocals from Worrell.
“It’s the one we always start with — it’s a good crowd pleaser type song,” Worrell said.
Speakeasy records its songs at Yang’s apartment. It’s full of well-loved amps, electric guitars and basses leaning in the corners. Yang works as the band’s recording engineer, as well as its guitarist. It’s more than just work to Yang, though.
“These people are some of my closest friends,” Yang said, as they were all five crammed on one couch.
The other band members agreed that keeping the spirit of Speakeasy alive was a fun and rewarding experience throughout their college days.
“I do a lot of stuff and most of the time when I start to get tired, it starts to feel like work to me — but this is something that’s never really felt like work,” Worrell said with a smile. “I’m always excited to come here. Even if we don’t practice until 10 p.m. sometimes.”
Each band member had slightly different reasons, but all shared the similar thread of enjoying one another’s company and having people to share a strong passion for music with. The new edition of The Milk Parlor in Downtown Blacksburg helps to give local bands a place to showcase their music.
“It’s interesting to describe the musical scene around here, because people care more about having a good time on their weekends than seeing music and that stuff,” Scheibe said. “I think it’s just that people aren’t music people primarily, so it’s tricky to get a full house or sell out. ut the people who do care here — since it is a smaller portion of the school — they really care and it’s special.”
When asked if they ever get stage fright before going on, there was collective laughter and nods.
“We’ve played to dead crowds — you can just use them as learning experiences,” Worrell said. “I’m always nervous on stage. When they’re dead in the eyes and just staring at you, it makes you want to curl up in the bathroom and not come out, but you gotta keep up and stay hyped. If you just push through, you’ll be fine.”
All members of Speakeasy plan to keep music in their lives as they grow older. Scheibe and Yang both hope to continue playing in bands. Yang even hopes to delve further into the field of music technology. Rogers will continue to keep her acoustic guitar close at hand. Hawk hopes to start an audio software company 10 or so years down the line. Worrell says he’ll continue to write lyrics throughout his life. Despite their differences, Speakeasy unites these Virginia Tech students who serve as an inspiration to Hokies everywhere.
“Originally I thought this band would be a one semester thing,” Yang said. “A lot of the motivation to keep this band alive was that I just saw the happiness in everyone’s eyes and I thought, it makes all of us so happy, so let’s just keep doing it.”
Prohibition may have stopped in the 1930s — but it looks like the spirit of Speakeasy is here to stay.