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Artist Profile: Weld 16 On Yardfest, Music, and Chance Encounters

The members of Weld 16 take a bow after their opening set at Yardfest 2023.
The members of Weld 16 take a bow after their opening set at Yardfest 2023. By Courtesy of Sophia Wang
By Maria F. Cifuentes, Crimson Staff Writer

Chance brought Weld 16 together, but their shared desire to uplift others through music inspired them to put themselves out there. From spontaneous sing-along sessions to an opening set for singer Jeremih at Yardfest, the band has come a long way. Weld 16 sat down with The Harvard Crimson to share the story of how it all started and their willingness to embrace the unexpected.

Weld 16 is a student band composed of Ethan P. Hsaio ’26, Raghav Mehrotra ’26, William Murray ’26, Kainoa S. Paul ’26, Bradley H. Shearer ’26, and recently graduated Christian Wagner ’23. The name stems from the unlikely place that brought the members together: Their freshman year dorm. Remarkably enough, Wagner was a resident of Weld 16 during his first year where he would regularly play the bass, not knowing that he was starting a tradition of impromptu jam sessions that would become the essence of their band. Not only do the members have a passion for playing music, but they also prioritize having fun while doing so and want to share this joy with others.

“I think whoever listens to the stuff that we play will also have fun and that’s our main objective here. That’s who we are,” said drummer Mehrotra.

Although the band has considered writing their own songs in the future, they currently perform rock cover songs. They draw inspiration for their energetic and captivating performance style from other rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Rush. Additionally, the members strive to put their entire heart and soul into their work just like one of their idols — singer-songwriter and pianist Billy Joel.

Music has always been an essential part of each of the members’ lives. For some, their musical journey began at a very young age. Mehrotra started playing the drums at the age of two, Paul learned to play ukulele at age five, and Murray participated in choir starting at the age of six. Eventually, each of them fell in love with music and the power it holds to bring people together. From listening to songs on an iPod for hours, learning the bass for a talent show, and playing the ukulele with family and friends, music was always intertwined with their everyday lives.

Shearer, one of the band’s guitarists, only recently started playing. He shares that he values being able to use his skills to create a welcoming atmosphere where everyone can come together to sing.

“I just think it’s a really special thing to just be able to sing along with a group of people like that and not need to speak,” said Shearer.

The thought of forming a band in college had never crossed their minds, but somehow their paths met and it all fell perfectly into place. Hsaio, Murray, Paul, and Shearer were placed in the same freshman year dorm and it felt like a random coincidence that they were all musically inclined in some way. They began fusing their talents which not only drew them together as roommates but also as friends.

“Yeah, I remember our very first day on campus, Will’s mom was helping him set up the piano that we have in our room. And I had brought my acoustic guitar up and I just remember like, sitting down and playing our first song together,” said Paul.

They even purchased a guitar on Facebook Marketplace, which is actually one of the guitars they played at Yardfest. Although the band had vocalists and guitarists early on, it felt incomplete without drums. At that point, Murray reached out to Mehrotra.

“Raghav and I have had a lot of overlap. So we did the First Year Arts Program. It was our pre-orientation program. That’s where we met and we also kind of worked together for ‘In the Heights’ in the fall,” said Murray.

While Murray performs on stage with Harvard College ¡TEATRO! and in student written productions, Mehrotra usually plays in the pit band.

But the most astonishing aspect of how the band fully formed was that Paul was lucky enough to meet Wagner through the Harvard Outing Club. Even though they had already auditioned for Battle for Yardfest, they were in desperate need of a bassist.

“So they auditioned. Got the gig and after their audition, I joined the band. I only just met them, when we performed that was the third time that I really interacted with them,” said Wagner.

When asked what made him agree to being part of the band on such a short notice, Wagner replied, “I generally always say yes to playing in any band. Because I like to play music. And, yeah, it's just fun like you don't always get the opportunity to play just like, like pop music.”

As someone whose musical background was heavy on jazz, Wagner felt that he could not let this opportunity pass. Throughout his years at Harvard, Wagner played the bass for many worship bands and dedicated time to creating original music. But this was the first time he could be part of something different with fellow musicians.

The band was fortunate enough to come together, working towards their goal of performing at Yardfest required determination. The members managed to find rehearsal times amidst their hectic schedules because they never viewed playing as a chore. Instead, they prioritized and looked forward to playing together, which also made it special.

“I think music itself for all of us is like a catharsis. It’s a nice place to let loose. I don’t think it's a work commitment, or it's an extra curricular commitment. It’s something that we do because we like it, and it's a cliche – it’s the joy in the music. But it really is, it's something that takes you away from everything that is happening at the school, good and bad, and kind of puts you in a different place where you can reflect in all of that and put it through your music,” said Mehrotra.

At Battle for Yardfest, they did not expect to win a spot as an opener but their hard work evidently paid off.

When asked how they were feeling while waiting for the results, Wagner said, “Moments before I was sitting next to Kainoa, and I was just telling him I was like, no expectations like it was fun. We have to be satisfied with having done a good performance and having fun doing that. And then like right after I finished saying that. They just announced that we were the second opener.”

After achieving an accomplishment that many student performers strive for, Weld 16 plans to continue playing together and preserving their fun loving spirit. They hope to inspire others to go after their musical career goals, even if it all happens unexpectedly. The band’s experience goes to show that when opportunities present themselves and you find your people, it really is worth it to take a chance.

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