Psych! Getting Schooled by the Skoolies
The Skoolies, inspired by the bands of the 80s and onward, kicked off their career at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through socially distanced jam sessions, this band of university professors produced their debut album, Darker Rhymes.
The Skoolies are four Kent State University professors: Phillip Hamrick, associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, singing lead vocals; John Dunlosky, professor and director of the Science of Learning and Education Center (SOLE) in the Department of Psychological Sciences, on guitar; Christopher Was, associate professor in Psychological Sciences, on vocal, guitar and banjo; and John Gunstad, professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, on drums.
As a new band, the Skoolies’ goal was to write as much music as possible. Due to the COVID-19 shutdown, the writing process was done remotely.
“It was very much the case that we would each come to the table with something,” Hamrick said. “We all came with bits and pieces and then somebody else would run off with it.”
This unique way of songwriting incorporated each band member's thoughts and taste into the music.
“One thing that really sets us apart from other bands is the types of music or the genres that we all enjoy,” Was said. “Our inspiration as musicians come from very different places and from very different angles for each one of us. I think it gives us a unique sound.”
The Skoolies described their musical sound as eclectic with a mix between 80s alternative and modern adult alternative.
Although COVID-19 stalled the performing process, the Skoolies never missed a beat. During lockdown, they produced a music video for their first single, “They Only Have Arms.” The music video and song were all produced following social distancing requirements.
Since the release of Darker Rhymes, the Skoolies have played live.
“We actually gelled pretty quickly as a band. There’s this whole experience in the psychology of music that is synchronization, where you literally know what the person is about to do,” Was said. “You just get in this synchronization with people and for me, the experience of playing live is fun. It's an experience of flow, time just goes away and you’re just in the moment.”
As a Kent State professor and musician, Hamrick described how his career path relates to his love for music.
“Teaching for me is taking something that I deeply care about and trying to make it both exciting and accessible to my students, and that’s the exact same approach I take with songwriting,” Hamrick said. “I have something inside of me that I’m so excited about, and I want to share it. But, how do I convey this in a way that appeals to you? If I’m losing you as an audience member, whether it’s in a classroom or on a stage, that feels terrible.”
Aside from the Skoolies, each professor also has other musical endeavors. Was, Gunstad and Dunlosky are part of a cover band called Diminished Faculties. Hamrick and Jennifer Johnstone, associate professor of musicology, are in Harmony Star.
“For me, the purpose of all music creation has always been to make something that I like and to find other people who also like it, so that they can have it,” Hamrick said. “I want to get it in the hands of people who are going to hear it and feel the same way I feel when I hear it.”
This year the band is focusing on creating their second album.
Listen to Darker Rhymes.
Learn more about the Department of Psychological Sciences.