Local band balances school and music

Local band balances school and music

Five-man band Sauce's setlist features covers from bands like Talking Heads, Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, Phish and the Rolling Stones. Photo Courtesy of Jon Bryant

The room is filled with a vivacious clutter of chords, scales and bickering as five boys clad in jeans and T-shirts decide what they’re going to practice for their upcoming shows.

“I want Red Hot Chili Peppers,” shouts one member.

“No, let’s play some Motown, baby,” yells another.

The band begins their weekly practice with a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s "Superstition."

Electric guitarist John Bryant begins playing feverishly while Barr Miller keeps in tune on the bass. An eclectic funk arises from the corner as John Hooper chimes in on the keyboard. Mason Marsteller keeps a steady rhythm on the drums and Sam Walker, vocalist, grips the microphone.

This is the five-man band Sauce.

Sauce was created two years ago when juniors Bryant, Marsteller and Walker became roommates their freshman year.

“We would stay in that room for hours jamming out and learning songs together,” said Bryant, a junior majoring in business.

Miller, a senior majoring management information systems, later joined the trio as the bass player. The four played exclusively until September when they added freshman John Hooper.

“We met John before a big show one day and he told us he could play keys. I had a keyboard at home and we made him get on stage and play with us having never practiced or played with us before,” Bryant said. “He crushed it.”

Sauce plays covers from bands like Talking Heads, Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, Phish and the Rolling Stones.

“People respond well to the stuff they play. It’s got a little funk to it,” said Turner Griffin, a junior majoring in public relations and political science.

Although most of the band members began playing their respective instruments at a young age, they’re all self-taught musicians.

“None of us have ever had any formal lessons,” Bryant said. “Most of the skills we’ve developed have been through practice and because of our love for music.”

Miller said the band has been working on writing its own music.

“I’ve written a song or two and so has Marsteller, but it’s all a work in progress," he said. "Our main focus is booking gigs and putting our name out there”

When learning new covers, the band plays the original song in the background and while listening and experimenting with different notes until they match the chords with their own instruments. They start, stop, make corrections and start back up again until they’re satisfied with how the song sounds.

“We’ve improved a great deal since our first gig,” Mason Marsteller, a junior majoring in business, said. “We didn’t even have a name then, we used to just get on stage and hope for the best.”

The band got their first gig in 2012 at The Red Shed, where they will be playing Thursday night.

“They were a mess when they first started," Griffin said. “They were still testing out different sounds, but they’ve really found what style of music works for them.”

Sauce now plays up to three shows a week at local music venues around Tuscaloosa.

“They can pack out a show,” Griffin said. “They really bring some heat to the stage.”

The band often plays shows on weekdays. The shows start at 11 p.m. and are often done around 2 a.m. Three of the five band members have 8 a.m. classes.

“We’re students first and foremost,” Bryant said. “We’ll go play a show until late at night and then have to wake up and go to class in the morning.”

Sauce will play Thursday at 11 p.m. at Red Shed and Friday at 11 p.m. at The Booth.

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