“We met in an elevator. But that’s not how the band got its name.”
Last weekend, Rough Draft hosted Midamerican Elevator, a Chicago-based band set to release its debut album this year. Drummer Dean Sinclair ’18 studied history at Hillsdale College.
Singers Beni Yuzawa and Paxton Long met in 2012 during freshman year at Williamsburg University in an a cappella group. Long was already in the group and took Yuzawa up to her audition in an elevator.
“We made the connection that we met in an elevator six months after we created our band,” Yuzawa said.
The two started writing music together three years ago and formed Midamerican Elevator a year and a half ago.
“I’m still kind of shocked at how we came together,” Long said. “I think it’s a fun story about how we found each other. We found everyone through friends of friends, and then we found Dean through Reddit.”
Sinclair has returned to Hillsdale for homecomings and weddings, but this time he brought friends.
“Hillsdale reminds me a lot of Virginia where I went to school,” Long said.
Though Sinclair loved his time at Hillsdale — especially Professor of history David Stewart’s lectures — he said he doesn’t see himself ever coming back permanently.
“Crossing over the Michigan border always hits me with some serious nostalgia, but I can’t say I truly miss it,” Sinclair said. “I miss the memories I created for myself there and so many people still in town, but if I were to come back permanently, it would just be a separate experience for me entirely.”
As the band members set up shop in Rough Draft Sunday, their soundcheck teased the audience with rich, soft vocals and hints of an indie acoustic band.
A mix between George Ezra, The Paper Kites, and The Head and the Heart, this band went above and beyond a normal indie set, adding a subtle, soulful, funk-rock edge to their covers.
Yuzawa and Long’s harmonic duos blended together perfectly. Moments passed by where the band would pause all instruments, and just their voices sang out. They also played original songs, including “Lady Jane” and “245.”
Electric guitarist Greg Taylor even leaned in to join on Yuzawa’s mic occasionally. The rhythm of his electric guitar pushed the band along.
“They’re like Phoebe Bridgers but with good voices,” junior Regina Gravrok said. “They sound like her music but with more funk and vibes.”
Bassist Mike Vendiola grinned along to each song behind Yuzawa and Long. Tucked in the back of the group, Sinclair’s exciting drumming held the whole set together.
“Since the music is pretty chill, I feel like I had to be very intentional in how the drum parts I might create would benefit their sound,” Sinclair said. “I love the challenge of making something I think is unique yet having it sound simple in the context of a recording.”
The first album, which doesn’t have a name yet, is set for release this summer.
“Another fun fact is we recorded the album a year ago before we really had the opportunity to gig or play live,” Long said. “We would love to tour, like an actual tour.”
At the end of the show, Long passed out stickers to the crowd. One student immediately slapped the sticker on his laptop.
“I always love being able to come back and see so many of my friends who stayed in town after graduation,” Sinclair said. “I only wish I was able to stick around for a bit longer.”
It’s impossible to fake the chemistry this band executed — their stripped down tones, remarkably synced vocals, and funk twist made for the perfect indie-acoustic set you’d want to hear on a sunny afternoon.
“It’s just a good group of people,” Yuzawa said. “They’re fun to hang out with. We feel so supported, and that’s been really helpful for us. Being the two people in the front, it’s definitely nice to feel like you have people behind you supporting you.”