Q&A with The Waves — the Akron band making a splash in the local music scene

The Waves, an Akron “no-genre” band, plays a live show.  

Maria McGinnis

The Waves is a “no-genre band” from Akron that has been gaining impressive notoriety since its members began playing together in high school in 2014. The group consists of Jake Mally on vocals and keys, Dom Merlitti on guitar, Dylan Radik on bass and Jack Conrad on drums.

Bassist Radik spoke on the band’s behalf for this Q&A with The Kent Stater and KentWired.

Q: So, when did you guys get started?

Dylan Radik: I think our first real practice was our sophomore year of high school as soon as the (year) started.

Q: Were you friends in high school and then just decided to start a band together?

DR: Yeah. Our drummer and lead singer were friends before starting the band, and our guitarist transferred in from another school sophomore year. And I knew the other guys before starting the band, just not very well — so the band is what really brought us together as friends.

Q: What’s the inspiration behind your name, The Waves?

DR: Well, I wish I had a cool answer to give you, but if I recall correctly, we were talking over an Instagram DM about what a cool name would be. I said “The Waves,” and everybody liked it, so we stuck with it.

Q: I saw on your website you call yourselves a “no-genre” band. What does that mean?

DR: So, the four of us are all very different musicians. Sure, we grew up listening to some of the same stuff, but what we listen to now is all completely different. When it comes to the writing process, we bring all of these ideas together, which makes something that we can’t even put a genre to. When we say “no-genre,” we mean if you look at our songs deeper, you can connect with (several) genres. And it’s also a cop out for not saying we’re an alternative band or a rock band.

Q: Do you play a lot of your own songs or covers? What’s your discography like?

DR: We have two EPs out. The first one is called “The High Tide EP,” and the second one is called “Restless.” That’s 12 original songs. … We’re working on a full-length album now. We also have a handful of covers that we do that people have grown to expect to see at our shows. Those covers go anywhere from “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers to “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine.

Q: Do you remember when and where your first live show was?

DR: I don’t remember the date, but our first show was in our friend Jack Tecca’s garage. He was throwing a party for his birthday and said we could come play, and we said, “Why not?” Our first … was at a festival that needed a band outside of Canal Park. They paid us $50 an hour to play outside before the first Akron Rubberducks home game.

Q: Do you play live shows often?

DR: Yeah, to a point where you don’t get nervous at these shows anymore because of how often we’re doing them. It’s kinda just another day at the office. I’d say per month we probably play eight to 12 shows all over from Akron, Kent, Tallmadge, Cleveland, Lakewood, etc.

Q: Are all of you in college?

DR: Yeah. Two of us go to Akron, one goes to Stark State and one goes to Kent.

Q: So what’s it like balancing live shows, band practice, your personal lives and also attending college?

DR: Well, it’s not easy, I can tell you that. Aside from college, every body has a job, family and other things they need to take care of. When it comes time for a show, we can all come together and find time to do that. Practice is the hard thing because it’s hard to find time in the day to sit down for four or five hours and try to write music. But when we do it’s very productive; it’s a gift any time we get together to practice.

Q: Looking back, did you ever think the band would be where it is now? What would you say to your past selves?

DR: I know freshman year of high school (me) would be saying what we’re doing is amazing. Playing at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Vans Warped Tour and the House of Blues are all things I’ve heard about since I was a kid, and by the time I turned 20 I was able to do all those things. It’s a really gratifying thing to be able to look back and say I’ve done all these things before I’m even allowed to drink alcohol legally. Now that I’m in the mindset of having worked with this band for the past four years, I’ve gotten a taste of what it could be, so we keep working. … It makes me hungrier to be the best that we can be, and that’s how the entire band feels.

Q: What are your future plans for music? Can you see yourselves doing this for years to come?

DR: All of us plan to graduate college within the next five to six years with a degree to be able to support ourselves if music doesn’t work. Once we graduate and Jack, who’s in the National Guard, if he gets deployed, then by the time he gets back we’re just going all out with it. We’re thinking about trying to tour all over the country. And if it doesn’t work, we have our degrees and we’ll be ready to start life. Music will always be a part of it, just to a different degree.

Q: You guys won the Tri-C High School Rock Off and got to play on Vans Warped Tour. What was that like?

DR: Winning that was probably one of the happiest moments of my life. I started playing in the Rock Off when I was a freshman with a different band, so by the time The Waves won, I think I had done eight Rock Off performances. When we played and won our senior year, Jack was at basic training, so we were down a drummer. … We found Jake Mally, who is our current lead singer. The price was to play Warped Tour and that was something Jack had always wanted to do, so we decided to work very hard to make the best performance we could. We practiced maybe three to four hours a night every night. We had sleepless nights with how hard we worked for that. But when we got around to finally doing the show, we felt very confident going into it. The announcer just said, “From Archbishop Hoban High School, The Waves,” when we won — the whole crowd just started screaming. When we got up on stage to accept the award, the spotlights hit. … I immediately had tears come because that’s the hardest we’ve worked for anything, and it’s nice to get what you worked for.

Q: Having attended Warped Tour as fans, what was it like being the performers?

DR: In terms of connections, playing Warped Tour was probably the best thing The Waves could’ve done. We’ve become friends with a lot of great bands we’ve gotten to play with. We look at the people that play Warped Tour as gods, so the fact they look at us as their equals makes us feel pretty good about ourselves.

Q: If The Waves hadn’t won the Rock Off and gotten to play Warped Tour, do you think it would’ve changed where you are now?

DR: Wow, that is a great question. I definitely think it would’ve changed almost everything. The Rock Off was really the first time that someone had said to us, “Wow, you guys really have something” — it was really the spark that ignited where we are now.

Q: When you first started dedicating your time and effort to the band, did you guys have a lot of support from family and friends? What kind of response did you receive?

DR: At first, people looked at us like we were just the high school kids that knew how to play instruments. It was really only our close friends that would come to shows or let us play in their backyards. … My parents just thought it would be a phase at first, but once we started playing shows and people saw what we could do, that’s when everyone’s mentality started to change. Since then, it’s been the fans and our friends that have pushed us to keep going and getting better.

Q: If someone was asking about The Waves and wanted to know if they should look you guys up, what would you say sets you apart from other local bands?

DR: I often find myself trying to sell the band to people. Whenever I get the opportunity, I just show people our music and videos and let them see and hear what we’re about. The thing about music is you only like it if you connect with it and feel it. So, I really just let the music and what we do, do the talking for us.

Q: Anything else you’d like people to know about The Waves?

DR: For anybody who truly enjoys music or finds themselves with the ability to escape to a different place through music … the goal of a musician is to be able to take that intangible thought and turn it into something physical that someone can hold onto. What a musician needs to be able to do is make someone feel an emotion and love a song for more than just hearing it. … I think that’s what The Waves do. That’s why I think we’re successful because we come from so many different backgrounds and upbringings that the music we make together has something for everyone to relate to and love. I guess the point of life is to try to figure out, you know, where you belong and what makes you happy. If someone hears about The Waves or sees us in (the Stater), I would tell them life is all about trying new things, so why not try out The Waves?

The Waves’ music is available to stream on Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp. The band’s music videos are also posted on YouTube.  

For more information on The Waves, follow the band on Instagram and Twitter @_wearethewaves_ and on Facebook.

Maria McGinnis is a features writer. Contact her at [email protected].