When the members of the Marcellus-based band Posted took the stage at the Jewish Community Center of Syracuse on Jan. 14 to compete in the annual Battle of the Bands, they had a clear goal in mind.
“Stage presence,” bassist Riley Burns says with an assured smile.
“We knew we had to interact with the audience,” adds guitarist Dan Wrona, “and let people see how we really enjoy interacting and playing off of each other.”
It was Posted’s second time competing, (last year they placed third), and they were ready to show what a difference a year had made. With a carefully crafted set of covers and originals, the classic-rock influenced quintet bested the other eight bands in the competition to win a $200 cash prize and a free recording session.
Wrona credits the band’s numerous followers, who turned out in force to support Posted that night. “We fed off that energy from the crowd, which was great.”
The JCC has hosted the competition for 15 years. It’s Central New York’s biggest battle of the bands competition for high school students.
The win was yet another milestone for the young band, formed four years ago. At the time, all were active in their middle school music programs. The band was originally a short-term project, formed for a school talent show.
“We played ‘Counting Stars,’ the One Republic song,” Wrona recalls. “We actually had a trumpet player and a keyboard player. They ended up leaving the band shortly after that show. Being a beginner band, we learned really quickly that we wouldn’t be able to incorporate trumpet into a lot of stuff.”
Now high school juniors, Wrona, Burns, singer Nate Murphy, and percussionists Sam Hayduke and Josh Winoski are juggling paying gigs with SAT prep and part-time jobs. They also have something of an in-house mentor in Dan’s father, drummer Greg Wrona, a veteran of the local music scene and a current player in the band Red Spider. Since Posted rehearses at a nicely appointed space in the basement of the Wrona home, it’s not unusual for Greg Wrona to take in a few songs and offer some pointers.
“He’s our ears,” Murphy says. “He knows what things should sound like.”
All the boys cite Marcellus High School band director Michael Cirmo as a key cheerleader, and say the support of their parents has been critical for keeping the band together this long. Parents have served as roadies, sound mixers, webmasters and, perhaps most importantly, reality checkers.
“Oh, our parents never sugarcoat it,” Murphy says. “They tell us when there is something we need to work on.”
Each member brings diverse musical interests to Posted. Hayduke has a keen interest in jazz, Winoski leans toward classical, while Murphy developed his vocal chops with choral music, show tunes and Frank Sinatra songs. Wrona, also a jazz fan, says his dad’s love of classic rock was another influence.
“My dad played in a band with Sam’s uncle, and they played a lot of jazz,” Wrona says. “Sam and I both grew up with a lot of classic rock and jazz.”
When he was small, Hayduke kept beats with anything he could get his hands on until he got his first drum kit. “I remember going to Chinese restaurants and I would take the chopsticks and start playing on everything,” he says.
“I’ve liked the band Rush since I was 5, mostly because Neil Peart was a crazy drummer and I looked up to him,’” Hayduke continues. “But since I was little I was always more geared toward playing jazz. I started listening to more classic rock after I got in the band.”
Winoski adds that in addition to his love of classical, he became interested in West African drumbeats at an early age. “It’s unusual, but that’s what I was drawn to.”
As far as current influences, the guys agree on songwriters John Mayer, Ed Sheeran and Ryan Adams, and jazz-funk fusionists Snarky Puppy.
“We listen to a lot of stuff that’s not on the radio,” Wrona says.
“My advice to other young bands is to just get out there and play out. Getting out of your rehearsal space and playing in front of real people is important.” — Nate Murphy
Despite being a group of busy teenagers, Posted has maintained a fairly regular rehearsal schedule and work often on original material. Burns says including originals in their JCC set may have given Posted another slight edge over the other bands in the competition.
It also didn’t hurt that the band has plenty of experience playing live. Posted recently completed its third year playing the Rock and Bowl series at Marcellus Lanes, which features live music every other weekend from November through February. Their biggest gig was performing before 700 last May at a Boy Scout camporee event.
Murphy laughs when he recalls the band preparing for those first sets at Marcellus Lanes. They were offered that gig shortly after their talent show reveal. “We had to work so hard to get enough songs ready to fill a two-hour slot,” he says. “It was crunch time. We were really driven at that point.”
These days, a Posted show could include anything from The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” to “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince.
The members of Posted credit their longevity to the fact that they were always “friends first.”
“When I look back on my high school years, I’ll think of playing the Rock and Bowl with my best friends,” Murphy says. “We cram that place and it’s great. The
owner gets good business and everyone has a good time.”
The musicians say they have no plans to disband after graduating next year. They hope to continue playing shows during college breaks.
But they realize that Posted will soon be taking a back seat to other life goals. Wrona and Burns say they expect that they will always play music in some way. Hayduke says he will make an effort to continue drumming and may minor in music in college. Murphy, who has become a fixture in Marcellus High School musical productions, is considering studying vocal performance or music education.
“I think all of us will want to continue playing in some way,” Burns says.
Posted plans to use one of its Battle of the Bands prizes, a full day of recording time at More Sound Recording in Syracuse—one of the event sponsors—this summer. They hope to record a full album of original material.
“We have five or six originals ready to go, but we really want to have nine or 10,” Wrona says. “We are trying to round out our sound. We want the recording to be kind of a timeline of our existence.”
Murphy and Wrona both expressed gratitude to the JCC for sponsoring an event that offers exposure and opportunities. For new bands, Murphy says, those opportunities are crucial.
“My advice to other young bands is to just get out there and play out,” he says. “Getting out of your rehearsal space and playing in front of real people is important.”
It’s also important for band members to have fun, Burns says, and play for the enjoyment of interacting musically. “When we play, we respond to what the crowd is doing, and the feedback. But we play for ourselves, too.”
By the way, the band’s name is not a reference to the social media culture that its members have grown up in. Wrona says the inspiration actually came from a piece of land that he and Winoski used to play on—a short walk from their suburban homes, but seemingly a world away. The boys would build forts and chase frogs. Until one day. . .
“Well, we went there and we noticed that someone had put up a sign: ‘Posted. No Trespassing.’ We couldn’t go there anymore.”