UT Students overcome their fears by exploring their inner musician

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Photo Credit: Alec Blair | Daily Texan Staff

The dynamic environment of the co-op music scene taught two UT undergraduates to overcome their insecurites about sharing and performing their music. 

Whipflash is the brainchild of journalism and psychology junior Jack Keyes and music sophomore James Leblanc. It all began when they wrote a song to receive extra credit for their online government class. While its effect on their grade in the class was insignificant, Leblanc said the song sparked the birth of their band. On March 18, Whipflash released their self-titled debut album which showcases a wide variety of instruments and a uniquely West Campus indie-pop sound.

“We wanted to make music that could be accessible to everyone but has an appeal to the indie kids that listen to stuff that is a little off-kilter,” Keyes said.

The name Whipflash comes from a lyric by an artist who Leblanc cites as one of his biggest influences: Beck. But Leblanc said his band doesn’t limit its influences to just the biggest artists in the genre. Their sound is also inspired by local acts they discovered during live shows at the co-ops in West Campus. 

“(Keyes and I) would find all of these bands, but (when) we’d look at their Facebook page, they’d have less than a thousand likes,” Leblanc said. “Some of our biggest influences and our favorite bands still aren’t huge yet, which is cool and a nice connection.”

All of their influences came together earlier this year during weekends when Keyes and LeBlanc would dedicate their time to the writing, recording and production of their album. Though their original plan was to make an EP, their long hours in the studio manifested in the form of a fully-fledged record.

In addition to their hard work, Leblanc’s ability to translate Keye’s song concepts into music allowed for the album to be produced within a month. Keyes said it was important to write for himself and not just for what people wanted to hear.

“You should totally put yourself into the song and not think about (the audience),” Keyes said. “You shouldn’t withhold something just because you think people won’t dig it.”

This past Tuesday was the band’s first live performance on Longhorn Latenight on Texas Student Television, but Keyes said that is only the start.

The band plans on doing a series of live shows from now to the end of the semester. But it hasn’t always been so easy for Keyes to share his music with others. Plan II sophomore Matthew Mahoney, who recently joined as a guitarist and percussionist for the band, said he would often hear him play in his dorm but never in front of others.

“(Keyes) told me that the songs that (he writes) they are for (him), not other people’s ears,” Mahoney said. “(He wrote) them as a way to express himself, and (he didn’t) want them to
be judged.”

Keyes said he realized he would regret not letting his music be heard. To get past his hesitation, Keyes uses his music as a vessel for insecurities to get out of his head and into the album.

“The fun part starts now,” Keyes said. “I really want to hit it hard and do a lot of shows (and) try to connect with those bands that used to be our idols because now they can be our peers.”

Although sharing his music with the world was once Keyes’ greatest fear, Keyes said Whipflash is looking to make it their greatest strength.