On a Friday night in early March, the audience crowded the stage of The Drake to witness five local college bands battle it out in a WMUA-sponsored event. One of them was Amherst’s own Hivemouth, consisting of Nichole Fernandez ’25 on guitar, Alice Burg ’23 on drums and keyboard, Sam Spratford ’24 on bass and all three on vocals. Grounded in a mix of defiant riot grrrl and lo-fi “outsider” sensibilities—think Bikini Kill meets Sonic Youth meets Daniel Johnston—their music was at times “sillier” (in Fernandez’s words), at times sweetly earnest and, sometimes, both. (See: an untitled song from the perspective of a cowboy, which included ambient tones, mantric lyrics and attire á la Butch Cassidy, or the punchy “Anti-Fruit Song,” which featured lines like, “We go back to his place/Where he shows me his bookmark collection.”) I sat down with Fernandez, a second-year architectural studies major, and Burg, a senior philosophy major and cartoonist, to chat about the music and more.
Q: How did you three start playing together?
Fernandez: I started teaching myself guitar in July and I wanted a structured way to keep practicing with other people. The three of us were basically on the same level with our instruments; we’ve been learning alongside each other.
Q: I’m interested in your writing process. How did you come up with the cowboy song?
Burg: I wrote that song recently. If I have a spark of an idea that I think will form into something more complete, I'll find a very small, very shallow, natural body of water, and swim. It draws something out. So there's no concept, really. It's just something that happens and then I write it down. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.
Fernandez: Speaking for everyone, it was probably the quickest song we've ever thrown together. We started jamming over it within the week before Battle of the Bands. We’re really mutually supportive: If there's a chord progression or a verse that someone writes, we'll all find a way to make it work.
Q: How have your creative, social and academic experiences at Amherst connected, if at all?
Fernandez: Overall, for me, it's been a pretty major lesson in learning to take initiative. I'm from New York, where it felt like there was so much happening around me all the time, whereas Amherst, in the beginning, felt so silent. I needed to figure out for myself what I wanted to do and how I wanted to make it happen—there wasn’t anything immediately laid out for me. Creatively, I owe a lot to my friends.
Burg: I think academics, creativity and social life are deeply intertwined, especially living here. It's a very bubble-like place, in good ways and bad ways. At Amherst, I've realized the importance of prioritizing social and creative practices alongside academic practices. I think they're all very mutually beneficial—if one is lacking, it is harmful to the rest.
Beyond Hivemouth, Burg is looking ahead to graduating this semester. (“Don’t remind me!” adds Fernandez.) Burg’s postgrad plans could include carpentry and welding. As for the future of the band? Says Fernandez: “There are a lot of maybes.” These multitalented students seem just fine with that.