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Band Spotlight: The 88

“All in all, The 88 are a great band, they’re really happy to play with each other, the shows have been fantastic, and we all consider ourselves very lucky,” says Todd O’Keefe, bass player for L.A.-based band The 88—a band you’ve probably heard, but you might not know it yet. The 88’s music has been featured on commercials and television shows such as How I Met Your Mother, 90210, and Gossip Girl, and as of last week, you can hear The 88 as the main title theme on NBC’s Community.

The exposure on film and television is nice but more an afterthought for the band—creating music and playing shows have a more personal meaning. “We’re just really excited to play together, and we’re trying to do that as much as possible,” says Keith Slettedahl, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for The 88. Keyboard player Adam Merrin states, “I think we’ve just learned so much, especially in the last year, about what is important.”

Performing, practicing, and making music is, according to the band, what really leads to their success. Keith states, “When we get together, it’s very natural. When we do what comes naturally, good things always happen.”

The 88 has been making its mark on the music scene since 2003 with two independent releases before their major-label debut Not Only…But Also, and they recently released a new single, Love is the Thing. Keith and Adam have been playing together for eighteen years (“we started in preschool!” claims Adam), and although some members have changed, the current group has been together for about three years, “and it’s the best it’s ever been,” says Adam. Keith adds, “It’s not The 88 of the first record. This band isn’t even the same band—we could probably have changed the name.”

The 88’s unique sound is also a contributor to their success. Their catchy combination of 70s-era rock-n-roll like the Kinks, mixed with hooks of British Invasion pop-rock melodies a la Oasis or David Gray, spiced with the smart use of rock piano like Ben Folds Five, a hint of 90s alternative rock R.E.M.-style, all with an occasional swift kick from the Pixies is as addictive as heroin.

It may sound like an odd mix, but it is evident The 88 know what they are doing, and it sounds spectacular. “We’re seasoned veterans,” Todd comments. Even when they surprise you with a tune that sounds nothing like the aforementioned styles, it still seems cohesive and like an extension and evolution of what they have done before. “The music business is changed so much. I just want to change with it, or try to do something different,” says Adam. “I don’t think we’re going to be putting out albums like we used to. I want to put out a song here, three songs here, you know, just do something that’s not so like ‘this is how it has to be.’ [We want to] give people something different than they’re used to.”

Photo source: Piper Ferguson

About the Author 

Cara Batema is a fledgling Los Angeles transplant, and while by day she is a music teacher, by night she is a rock star (in her own mind). She is learning about this fabulous city and loves to share her findings with readers through her writings for Disarray Magazine.

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