Simpleton: ‘Charter School’ Is Out


Noah Mandac, Luck Murray, Robin McAdoo (from left) Photo – Zoë Downer

Luke Castrina, Editor

Passion demands three things from a person whenever they are struck by its commanding influence: A need to follow an idea–wherever it leads, a hunger to achieve accomplishment–whatever it is, and finally, a vigor to persevere–no matter the obstacles. In the case of three friends, a passion for music struck them, and the pandemic wasn’t going to stop them or their love of music. They made their way through it together.

Released on Jan. 30 2021, ‘Charter School’ marked the first album released by Simpleton, an alternative and indie rock band made up of local high school students including two IWBHS Juniors. Charter School is the first collection of songs released from a growing list behind the now 4-piece band, releasing on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud to local success. The magic behind the impressive debut album? A decade-old friendship that sparked a passion for playing music together. 

Founding members Robin McAdoo (17), Luck Murray (16), and Noah Mandac (17) all met in 2009-10 at Southwest Charter School, now The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science. “[Southwest Charter School] that’s where we met in kindergarten and went there all the way through 8th grade, so Simpleton was formed there. As far as non-musical influences go, that school is the biggest” said McAdoo, the band’s bassist.

In 6th grade, the three had developed an interest in music and playing instruments, prompting Mandac to suggest the idea of forming a band. “[I] didn’t really care about music until maybe 6th grade when Noah was like ‘we should start a band!’” said Murray.“I started listening to the music that he [Noah] listened to, like Weezer and stuff, and Nirvana. Then, in middle school, Simpleton became a thing, and I started getting more and more into actually listening to music that wasn’t just on the radio.”

Starting off like many bands playing covers, Simpleton slowly developed over the next couple of years, writing their first songs and holding their first performances. “It was around 7th grade and we were just playing covers. We covered a Nirvana song, “Lithium,” at our 8th grade talent show,” said McAdoo. 

Murray, who is the lead song-writer, vocals, and guitarist for the band, described how the band changed positions. For the first couple years of us being a band, we didn’t really write songs that much,” they said and then me, and our now drummer, Noah switched. I was already singing but then I was on guitar.”

The swap between Mandac, who was on guitar and Murray, on drums, was noted as a major help in the song-writing process. “At first we just jam a riff I came up with and I make up some words or whatever, but then, I think over time I started going off on my own and writing riffs and melodies,” Murray said. “I had a lot more of a vision in my head of what I wanted for it. But I think now we are sort of going back more towards just jamming it and finding the songs we like there.” they said.

Though the band was starting to write their own original material, the influences of the band were not specific to the music they listened to, explained Murray. “Honestly, I don’t take much influence from the music I listen to for Simpleton,” they said. “Most of the time when I write a song for it, it’s just like ‘what’s something I haven’t done yet with this band that like, isn’t too out there?’”. However, Murray and McAdoo did mention that indie rock bands like Remo Drive, Built to Spill, Pup, and Novacane did inform their music interest and how they play. 

Settling into a steady creative process for songs and improving on playing their instruments, the band felt ready to take the next step, playing live shows. “We started playing shows our sophomore year,” said McAdoo. “We got into it at the very wrong time, we had been going to like local house shows, basement shows, for the entire year. And then around late winter, early spring, we played our first show, in, I think, February. And so that came to a quick halt. We played two shows before the pandemic,” he said.

Unfortunately, like a lot of good things, Simpleton’s schedule of live performances was cut short by the pandemic. “Yeah it really sucked, we had like 4-5 shows scheduled and just yeah. We had a show scheduled for March 14, which was the first official day of lockdown,” said McAdoo. Though the band’s roll had been slowed by the pandemic, their short taste of live performances was sweet.

McAdoo shared his experience with the band’s first live shows, “I think that they felt really good. We were definitely learning how to play live music. We had some technical difficulties our first show ever. The kick drum broke in the middle of the set so we were playing without a kickdrum,” he said. “And then, that same show, Luck’s pedal got unplugged for a second, and I had to like, while they were still playing the song, I had to get down to plug their pedal back in and figure it out during the middle of the song. But our second show felt really good. We had a lot of people there that were our friends and stuff, so they knew our music. We had people singing along and stuff, that felt really good and the energy of live music was like really, really sweet.”

Riding high after successful live performances and the release of singles ‘Wait’ and ‘Barklow’ on Soundcloud, Simpleton was ready to produce their first album and put the best of their music out there for people to hear. Unfortunately, like the live performances, the pandemic complicated the matter. “We were set to start recording in April of 2020 but then, yeah, pandemic hit. We weren’t gonna do that,” said McAdoo.

However, there was a silver lining behind the delay. The band greatly improved their musicianship and allowed more time to work on the album. “I think all of us as musicians have improved drastically over quarantine,” McAdoo said, “because what else are you going to do sometimes than just play your instrument when you are stuck at home. It just gave us more time to really master our instruments more and more. That was a period of learning for all of us that yeah, really improved [the album].”

Overcoming the challenge of the pandemic, Simpleton was finally set to debut their album, and on January 30th, Charter School was out. Though the true release was that of the band after all that had led up to this milestone. “There was this big sense of release,” McAdoo said, “that we had really accomplished this thing because it had been such a long time coming and it was huge. It’s just been good to hear that response from it and to hear that people really enjoyed it,” he said.

With an album under their belt, a desire to get back to live performances, and a second album set to record later this fall, Simpleton seems poised to continue their success and keep making ‘have a good time, feel good’ music. Though fans of the up and coming band will have to wait for new music, they can take comfort that the future of Simpleton is not only bright, but glorious.

“I think the thing I am most proud of involving Simpleton is like the way that we have all stuck together, and we’ve all been playing music for so long together, and known each other for so long, we all became musicians and grew as musicians together, doing Simpleton. So that’s my proudest thing, how we all have just done it all together from the start.” – Robin McAdoo