Juggling the daily tasks afforded to college students can be daunting and exhausting. Just ask any student about balancing school, leisure and sleep. But for four full-time students, that balancing act also includes trying to find time to rehearse and record, around each other’s schedules.
Local band Merchants of Seven is trying to juggle all of those things. Comprised of Virginia Tech students Wes Fox, Ian Patrick, Jackson Stitzer and Ryan Cunningham, Merchants of Seven was formed when Fox and Patrick met two years ago while living on the third floor of Lee Hall.
Patrick approached Fox after hearing him play guitar and the two began jamming together frequently. Fox’s bluesy soft rock style and Patrick’s harder alternative style meshed together nicely, so they decided to start a band.
After enlisting a bassist, they soon found themselves playing an open mic night through Blacksburg Live Music. En route to its first gig, the band came up with its name in an elevator.
“I always thought 'merchants of something' would sound really cool, and (Ian) was like ‘Seven. My favorite number is seven.’ So that’s how it happened,” Fox, a junior accounting major said.
The band continued practicing together for the next year and booking gigs, all the while composing new material. The hard work culminated in Fox and Patrick’s favorite moment as a band while playing a house party last spring.
“It was a big party — a big show,” Patrick, a senior mechanical engineering major said. “A bunch of people came out and we had a really good time. It was one of the times the band was actually on spot and together, and we sounded really good. We were completely comfortable.”
The band soon entered a professional studio to record tracks for it debut album. It recorded 11 tracks but was not entirely satisfied, wanting to add or re-do certain things to improve the overall sound quality.
Tumultuous times followed as the group's previous bassist had to leave the band to focus on graduate school while the drummer left to take a co-op. Fox and Patrick even considered changing styles and making music with just the two of them.
“We were getting ready to go with two acoustic guitars and two microphones,” Patrick said.
A random chance event fortunately brought the duo together with their future bassist.
“I met Wesley at a party one of my first nights here,” Stitzer said. “I was playing guitar and he came out with his and we just started jamming. We clicked. After I told him I also play bass he said they were looking for a bassist for their band and that I should try out. I got in touch with them a couple days later and tried out, and that was that.”
Stitzer, a freshman university studies major, proved to be more than just useful as a bassist, as he eventually led Merchants of Seven to their current drummer Ryan Cunningham.
“They were looking for a drummer as well and Ryan lives down the hall from me in Slusher,” Stitzer said. “I heard him — he actually has a miniature drum kit in his dorm — so I talked to him and asked if he’d be interested in trying out.”
With the addition of Stitzer and Cunningham, Merchants of Seven was back to being a full band. Fox and Patrick then had to bring the new members up to speed on their songs.
“I wanted to make sure that the transition between him and me (the previous bassist) was as smooth as possible,” Stitzer said. “I’d often ask ‘Is this how your old bassist played? How would you like me to play this?’ They’ve given me a lot of feedback on that and it’s really helpful getting up to speed with their repertoire.”
The band tries to rehearse as often as possible to ensure it is clicking and staying on the same page.
“We’re all busy and working, so we practice when we can and try to get together as often as possible, but sometimes things don’t work out,” Stitzer said.