In high school, freshmen Madeline Pape had a high school bucket list and performing live was on it. Freshman Lee Foxall, her classmate and friend, had plans to perform live a their school’s Battle of the Bands as a solo electronic act.
“It’s not really a Battle of the Bands if I’m just hitting play on my computer, so I said ‘Do you want to collaborate?’” Foxall said.
And they did.
It was the beginning of Fellows, the musical collaboration of Foxall and Pape.
They had only a week before the Battle of the Bands. Every day after school was spent in Pape’s basement, learning each other’s music and struggling to produce an act for the show at the end of the week.
At the beginning of the week, the Portland, Ore. natives intended their Battle of the Bands act to be a one-time gig.
“But by the end of the week it definitely wasn’t a one-time thing. We’re going to college together; there’s no way we’ll stop doing this. It was too much fun,” Foxall said.
“I was really nervous. That was my first gig ever,” Pape said.
They ultimately played at the Battle of the Bands and didn’t win, but regard it as their first gig as a duo.
“It was stressful. It made our friendship stronger. I feel like without that week we wouldn’t be where we are now because that really forced us to really figure it out,” Pape said.
Since then, they’ve been Fellows, a name that derives from the camaraderie and friendship the two share.
“It’s more the concept of fellows. And I’m not sure if that makes sense but it makes sense to us,” Pape said.
The Portland natives came to Knox together and five months into their duo act, they’ve performed a total of five gigs, moving from an initial “acoustic folk pop with alternative tendencies” genre to “folk punky,” according to Pape.
Their “rehearsal space” is an average dorm room in the Quads. It’s Pape’s room, personalized by posters and Polaroid photographs —a lot, noticeably, of both Pape and Foxall. Pape practices on her keyboard and Foxall stands over her with an acoustic guitar. Sometimes, Pape picks up an acoustic guitar as well, practicing a series of both old and new songs. Some are covers, but most are originals.
Thus far, they’re enjoying Knox and feel that the small environment has yielded to good music and inspiration.
“People like us here. In Portland it’s hard to get people to go to your shows and here you don’t have to go very far to go to the shows. It’s not like you have to take the Max downtown or pay $7,” Foxall said.
The two believe that just being at Knox has provided new opportunities. The first time they practiced together in Galesburg, their music sounded better holistically, which Fellows took to be a good sign.
“It was like Knox College, here we go,” Pape said.
It helps that college is typically a time of transition and various emotions, which, according to Foxall, provides inspiration for new music.
“It’s a big time in your life so the sound quality is sort of better because you’re going through more emotional stuff. If you’re just fine, there’s nothing to write about,” Foxall said.
The two find themselves inspired by physical space and place. But that means something different for each of them.
“Location inspires me a lot. I’m very place-oriented. I have my Oregon tattoo,” she said. She recently wrote a song with the lyrics “It’s autumn time in a small town in Illinois,” a reference to Galesburg.
Foxall is inspired by more specific places. In Portland, he would stand at a wall and “scream at it until the lyrics came out.”
Now, he stands on top of his dresser.
“That’s the only place I can do it. I feel like I can write a song there,” he said.
“I have these weird spurts of inspiration. I’ll be sitting down and playing covers of stuff I already know and I’ll fiddle around with another chord and words start to come out, and I don’t know where they come from. I can’t stop doing it,” Pape said.
“If you stop, it becomes so difficult. The best songs are written in less than 10 minutes.”
Foxall and Pape do quite a good deal of collaboration – something they’ve only picked up since they’ve come to Knox.
“We’re knowing each other’s styles and working together. If we have part of a song and can’t figure it out, we work on it. Now when I play my songs, I don’t think it sounds right without the guitar and harmony. Now we’re a unit instead of two separate beings,” Pape said.
They’re also growing as both friends and musicians.
“We get on each other’s nerves a lot as friends, but as musicians it’s a safe zone. We’re allowed to talk about whatever with our music,” Pape said.
Fellows is growing as a band and hoping to record an album, continue to play more gigs and keep collaborating.
“What’s great about collaborating is that if something doesn’t work, we’ll know it doesn’t work,” Foxall said. “And I feel comfortable saying that.”