Featured Artist: Metro

Each member in Metro, a local alternative indie band, brings their own eccentric style to the group, creating lively performances for the Palo Alto community.

 With the beats and sounds of the previous rock band still vibrating through the air and coursing through the floor, the next performers take their places at the idle instruments. They assume their positions in front of the pink and green fluorescent lights illuminating the asymmetrical banner reading “PARADOX” plastered on the wall, take a deep breath, and start on the count of five, six…five, six, seven, eight…

Metro is an alternative indie band that produces all of their own music — which they perform at local venues, where they are booked for commission and produces their own music. These are notable feats for the average musician and all the more impressive for the group of four teenagers: Marina Buendia, Joseph Cudahy, Toni Loew and Rein Vaska.

Loew, a keyboardist from Castilleja School, initiated the creation of Metro last December after the breakup of her former band. After about a month of writing and performing solo, Loew knew she wanted to produce music with a band again so she turned to social media, where she discovered a potentially compatible bandmate, Buendia. 

Organizing the event was such a valuable experience and it was so rewarding to bring the community together through a wide variety of music.”

— Toni Loew

When they first met, Buendia, a vocalist, suggested they reach out to Cudahy as an electric bass guitarist and Vaska as a drummer to complete their hypothetical band. “And by the end of that day, we had a four-piece band and three shows booked,” Loew said. 

After just a couple of practices in Vaska’s garage, Metro performed its first local gig at Cubberley Community Center. “In my past band experiences, we basically didn’t play gigs at all so the fact that we had so many lined up right away made me super excited,” Buendia said. 

Bands are not always guaranteed this success, even if they are comprised of talented artists. This rare, sudden success was, in part, a result of their instantaneous connection and compatibility. “From the first moment we all met, we meshed really well,” Buendia said. “Which is really important because even if every single person is good at their instrument, they have to blend, compromise and know how to play with each other or they’re not going to be a good band.”

Metro also attributes part of their success to their shared ambitions. “A lot of people our age who are serious about their music have had a lot of experiences where they end up having to play music with people who don’t care about it the way we do,” Cudahy said. “So it was really special to find people who approach it the same way I do and who I can relate to about music.”

After performing at events from competitions such as Battle of the Bands to local venues such as the Winter Tavern, the band’s undeniable ambition recently led them to organize an event of their own: PARADOX Music Festival. The long hours and many moving parts required for the planning and event coordination gave the band insight on how much goes into a serious music career and what goes on behind the scenes. “Before managing a band, I had never realized how much organization was required and how integral making connections was,” Loew said. “I’m relatively quiet so reaching out to venues and organizing gigs really helped me find my voice and learn how to convey information and communicate with others effectively.”

Not only was Metro introduced to the administrative side of the music industry, but they also learned how to promote their brand and grow a following. They utilize social media and word of mouth to keep their audience updated on new releases, including upcoming gigs and their latest merch. 

With many live performances, Metro started to master the logistical side of live events, which included complex sound systems and sound engineering. For most recreational bands, these responsibilities are often overlooked, but the members of Metro have accomplished more than average teenage musicians. “Having a group this serious about writing, performing and recording has mostly taught me a lot about working together and collaboration,” Vaska said. 

After many hours practicing with each other, performing live and learning how to manage the smaller details of logistics and promotion, Metro gained insight into the bigger impact their music can make. “Organizing the event was such a valuable experience and it was so rewarding to bring the community together through a wide variety of music,” Loew said. 

With a diverse group of performers at PARADOX, Metro was able to push themselves to new boundaries. “We invited a lot of hard rock, grunge and metal bands so we worked up a much higher energy set than we normally play,” Vaska said. “It was so much fun to really get into the music and play hard high energy music, even though that’s not really the sound we generally play.”

The festival highlighted how versatile the band is as a whole, but each individual member also has a lot of variety in music taste and style. As the primary instrumental writer, Loew’s personal music preferences and inspirations influence her compositions for Metro and motivate her to produce the best possible product. “I take inspiration from indie-rock, punk, metal and even ragtime music, but the single artist that inspires me most has to be Queen,” Loew said. “Every song they’ve written is a masterpiece with their inventive chord progressions and song structure, meaningful lyrics and the emotion and energy they put into every work or performance.” 

We all have slightly different styles and music tastes, so we all bring something unique to the table.”

— Marina Buendia

Vaska is also inspired by professional artists, but unlike Loew, he uses these idols as technical teachers rather than inspiration for composing songs. “My drumming techniques and styles are mostly inspired by Cage the Elephant’s drummer, Jared Champion, and I’ve unintentionally adopted a lot of his techniques,” Vaska said. 

Buendia originally discovered her passion for music while performing in musicals and choir, but she found that performing solo with her guitar or in a band is her favorite. Personal expression is common for many musicians, and for Buendia, singing and performing on stage has always come naturally and allows her to be open to sharing her personal experiences through songs. “For me, it’s harder to play a cover than an original because I know the lyrics so well and the lyrics are so personal to my own life experiences that it’s easier to have emotion while singing,” Buendia said. 

While Cudahy plays the fretless electric bass for the alternative indie band, individually, he primarily draws from jazz, funk and fusion inspired music. He also informally records his own tracks, but he chooses to keep this music private. “I have a lot of reservations about sharing it because the music is really personal and designed to be exactly what I want to make and play, not what people want to hear,” Cudahy said. “It’s not that I’m scared people won’t like it, but I care so little about what it means to anyone else because that’s not who I’m trying to appeal to.”

Despite the contrasting styles and inspirations, Metro comes together as a unique, harmonious unit rather than a conflicting, disjointed one. “We all have slightly different styles and music tastes, so we all bring something unique to the table,” Buendia said. 

For Metro, the next steps are to record and produce their music, including releasing their first EP, a major step for Metro’s growth. After initially beginning to record at a studio in San Francisco, Metro is now recording and mixing on their own in hopes to publish their EP in the near future. 

Photos courtesy of: Sydney Loew and Kris Loew