Three teenagers with three instruments come together as one band to make one musical sound and become Octopi.
Octopi is a prog band based right here in Mehlville, and they are taking major steps to get their music to the public. However, the story of the band goes farther back, almost seven years, when guitarist Devon Finley and Drummer Jared Meier met in fifth grade.
“I actually started getting into the drums in fourth grade,” Meier said. ” I got the drum set for Guitar Hero and I thought I was the coolest kid ever in fourth grade because I could play the drums on Guitar Hero on expert. I really thought I was cool. Then I started hanging out with Devon in fifth grade and found out he could play the guitar and it made me want to play the drums even more because now I had someone who I could jam with.”
No one would ever guess that Meier first learned to drum from a video game, especially looking at the talent he has now. It all started as two friends playing guitar hero.
Finley’s story of how he picked up the guitar is a lot different from Meier’s Guitar Hero influences. Finley grew up in a musically involved family and first learned the guitar from his grandfather.
“My grandpa first let me play the guitar when I was around five years old.” Finley said. “I heard him playing one day so I walked into the room and he started teaching me and that was how I first learned and it really just kind of went from there.”
Finley and Meier started playing music together during grade school, but the third member of the band didn’t really come into play until much after. It wasn’t until their sophomore year of high school when Meier met Samir Knox, guitarist.
“I met him in our public speaking class and we found out that we had a mutual respect for music,” said Meier.
Knox’s origin story with playing the guitar is quite similar to Finley’s but is also a lot different. Knox started at an even younger age of only three years when his grandfather bought him a guitar for his third birthday.
“He spent a lot of money on this small guitar that he got from the Chicago Music Exchange,” Knox said. “I remember coming home and it was this guitar which was really small because it was made for little kids. I then remember trying to play it and thinking to myself ‘this is really hard’ and I ended up popping two or three strings and so I didn’t play again for almost ten years.”
When Knox turned 12 years old he picked the guitar back up and went back in starting to learn it.
“After about two years, my dad saw that I had been playing again and he went out and bought me an electric guitar,” said Knox. “Once I got it,I could sound like some of my favorite artists at the time. I could sound like Green Day, I could sound like the Misfits and that really got me going. Then I just started getting into harder and harder music the more I got older.”
Each musician has a different story to how and why they decided to get into music and their particular instrument, but one thing that was common for all three of them is the fact that they had to face some struggles in learning their instrument.
“Anybody goes through this struggle when it comes to learning anything, especially an instrument or music,” Knox said. “Basically, whenever you are trying to learn something you will always have these long periods of not progressing and you are just in this funk.”
Finley faced that same struggle when going through the phases of learning the guitar.
“The hardest part is commitment,” said Finley. “Kind of like what Samir [Knox] said, I had a long period where I just stopped playing but I picked up at like 10 years old. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I became really committed to playing the guitar though.”
Meier says his biggest struggle in teaching himself the drums was self doubt and inspiring creativity.
“Along with self doubt and lack of creativity, I struggled big time with time constraints,” said Meier. “I always had to try and find time to play drums and that was the hardest part.”
From the early stages of learning to play their instruments to now, each member has progressed differently but significantly based from their words. In learning music each member also found different types of music that they enjoy listening to and playing. Before they came together as a band Knox, Finley and Meier all played different sounds.
“When we first came together as a band it was evident that we were all on different pages,” said Knox. ” Devon, when we met, was very bluesy. He loved playing the blues. I was really in to hair metal, though, I was dying to have a hair metal band. Then Jared was over here playing deathcore.”
They had to jump around genres a lot to find one that would fit all of their interest. This caused Meier to listen to less heavy music in the past year and the two guitarists met in the middle with progressive rock.
When the band finally found out what genre of music they would play together, it was time to start performing. They started meeting every Wednesday at Meier’s house to practice. Then Octopi started off with small performances around Mehlville mainly playing for students at the front gates of the football games or in the school talent shows, but this was enough to get people to start recognizing them.
“I think we can all agree on what it feels like to perform,” Knox said. “Even if it is for only 12 people it is fun.”
Each member can express different emotions they feel while performing in front of a crowd. Meier describes it as being on top of the universe.
“There is nothing better than the feeling of being in front of people and playing music that I actually care about,” Meier said.
There is no doubt that music can be be this universal language that can just speak to the listener and cause a river of emotion to flow into that listeners mind. As a musician it is sometimes easier to express emotions through music. Whether that emotion is anger, sadness or joy, music is the bridge that gaps the musician’s emotion and the musician’s audience.
Some of the best songs ever composed causes the listener to feel an emotion and each band member can testify that when they are playing their instruments that they can feel a certain emotion behind every note.
“There are definitely some days where I just want to break my strings because I am so angry,” said Finley. “Other days I feel like I am on top of the world. It just feels fun to play.”
After a few public performances, the band decided to sit down and start writing their first single. The process began when Knox came to the other two band members with a simple three chord progression. A chord is where a set of two or more musical notes are played at the same time, a chord progression is where another chord is played right after the first chord. Chord progressions are usually the base of how most songs are made.
After the band agreed on those three chord progressions, Knox and Finley once again came together added some more pieces to the song while adding a second progression. Finally, they brought in Meier to add in his drums. After that long process of writing the song, the band met up with Rick Wagner of Gaslight studios to find a date to record their first single.
“I really had no idea what type of music St. Louis studios could produce because the only people who track here are like rap artists.” said Meier.
After hooking up a few different studios and being turned down by some, the band was able to find a place to produce their sound: Gaslight. The producer at Gaslight wanted to focus on making Octopi sound like a unified band instead of plugging tracks on top of each other which is exactly what the band wanted. They got to the studio early just to be professional.
“I remember when we got there [Gaslight Studios], there was a crazy moment of realization after years of work that we are here.” Meier said. “This is our first step of actually doing something.”
According to Knox, this was the first time in years where no one in the band said anything.
“There was a moment of silence that was just beautiful,” Meier said. “I felt it in my gut. It wasn’t a nervous feeling but it was like just a ‘wow’ moment.”
The studio time started with Wagner tracking (recording) the whole band together. This was a rough start for the band due to the delay between Wagner’s and the band’s sound equipment. After about 40 minutes of that, each member tracked their instruments separately. Meier tracked his drums first which took almost an hour. After the drums, the studio time transferred into Finley tracking his guitar which took about 45 minutes. Then Samir got in the studio and did his track guitar and bass which took an hour and fifteen minutes.
“There were specific sections that we had to keep going over,” Knox said. “That week after we finished according I hated the song. I literally was tired of listening to it just because we had played it so much in the studio.”
A week later the band went back to do the mixing session. Mixing is the process of blending all the individual tracks into one to make the best possible version of the song. After mixing, the studio then masters the new blended track which is just polishing up anything that sounds wrong on the song. 3 days later the band received the mastered track from Gaslight and now it was time to start promoting the song.
“A big struggle was not to show anyone the song before release day.” Meier said. “We needed to raise the hype because if I just go show a bunch of people they wouldn’t care much for it when the actual song came out.”
Another problem that the band had to face was coming up with a name for the song. They tried many different titles but it wasn’t until after they recorded the song they came up with the permanent name “Seaside”.
“After we inverted some of the chords we decided that this song sounded a lot more wavy and oceanwise,” said Meier.
According to Finely the band had to literally sit down and look up words to describe what they were feeling.
“I felt like I was sitting on my little recliner on the beach, sipping out of a coconut,” Knox said. “It is just really beachy.”
Now that the song is out and it has an appropriate title, the band is finally able to relax as if they were sitting on a beach by the seaside.
“This is our first big stepping stone.” said Finley. “We have written random songs before but it was just so exciting because the song could have turned out better but we finally accomplished our first step into something bigger.”
This song is everything they have been working towards for the past three years.
“Something we have gotten a lot is that they expected it to just be alright for us being a first time band and not that experienced in writing music,” said Knox. “but this song proved that our dedication was worthwhile.”
The members of the band each have a different emotion of what they feel when they listen to Seaside such as success and completion. Yet the fans may feel something totally different.
“I remember listening to the mastered song for the first time and I was literally in tears,” Meier said. “This is the first thing I have done. I want people to feel goosebumps when that listen to it. I like songs where I can feel it and I think you can feel this song. I want it to lift people. I want people to think that today will be a good day when they hear it.”
Finley also want the listeners of the song to feel the hard work that was put into this song.
“I want people to just enjoy it,” Finley said. “I know a lot of our friends are listening to it because they are our friends but I want people to listen to this song and really enjoy it.”
Now that Octopi has taken the first step to being a successful band, they are looking into future plans for the next few months before college starts.
“We want to get a album out before we go to college,” Knox said. “It’s a time crunch but that is our plan.”
If you want to stay up to date on Octopi, you can follow them on instagram @octopi_music and stay on the lookout for their expected album. Also you can listen to their single “Seaside” on all streaming services, or you can click HERE.