By Annie Arnone
The first time Little Boxer performed it was without a stage in the basement of the Smiling Buddha, a bar on College Street in August 2014. The sweaty crowd stood two feet away from the musicians and cheered them on as they stumbled through their clumsy set as a new band.
“We needed a name,” said Zachary Erickson, a fourth-year politics and governance student and the group’s lead guitarist and singer. “And the first thing that came to my head was Little Boxer.”
It was chosen to illustrate the underdog vibe of the four students who came together to form a band.
Fast-forward to a year and a half later and the underdog band is playing the prime time spot of 11 p.m. at Canadian Music Week (CMW) for the second year in a row.
“It started off in the beginning as a folk duo with drummer Dave Silani and I,” Erickson said. “I wanted to make music with people … and then we found Juan.”
Fourth-year industrial engineering student Juan Udarbe started his post-secondary music career with Musicians@Ryerson and was involved in a project where, as a back-up band, they played with various singers — including Erickson.
“He mentioned one time that their bass player just left, and jokingly I asked why he didn’t ask me to join,” said Udarbe.
Erickson asked him to join the next day.
“Eventually it turned into Juan and Dave feeding me a bunch of music and it worked. We got Liam [Driscoll], recently for lead guitar,” Erickson said. “We wanted something with a lot bigger of a sound than what we could get with just three people and our sound was off the charts.”
Little Boxer is part of the record label Dungus Records, which was founded by Silani in 2014. Most of the bands who are a part of the label had their start at Ryerson, including the fusion funk band Mayraki and sister duo the Lifers. The music groups perform and record together. Their most recent show was their Springtime Revue on March 26 at the Garrison — the same day Little Boxer released their second EP, entitled “Volume II.”
Their EPs consist of songs they have been playing since the conception of the band.
“They were our first attempt at recording and were an exploration of trying to find and solidify our sound,” explained Erickson.
“The first one is more rock-based, more energetic and lively while the second volume is a slower more melancholy approach where we started to explore the use of electronic sampling.”
Taking pride in the fact that they don’t subject themselves to one genre, Little Boxer describes themselves as an “alternative rock band mixed with funk and bass and a little bit of juice.”
“Right now we are working on new music and we have a pure, three-chord punk rock song, and then [in the next track] we have electronic ambient music. If it’s good music, it’s good music,” said Erickson.
Little Boxer will be the only Toronto band featured at CMW on May 6 at the Painted Lady venue — one of the group’s favourite venues.
“I think we take it for granted because we are based in Toronto — a fucking amazing city. All these bands want to play in Toronto and we are already here,” said Udarbe. “It humbles us to have these people come visit our home-town and play on the same stage as us. Canadian Music Week is pretty great.”
Udarbe said the band aims to practice at least once a week and their creative process can only be described as trial and error.
“Someone will start something and if it sounds good everyone will add in their own stuff. By the end of the jam if it’s good, it stays. But a lot of them just dwindle out,” he said.
“We’re working hard and we’re working smarter than we’ve ever worked,” said Erickson. “We just finished recording two EPs. And we’re not going to stop.”