A new studio EP and a brief summer tour were derailed by COVID-19 for pop band The Graduating Class. Nevertheless, the group stayed busy, recording new music from home studios in Eugene and Portland while editing a music video shot entirely on Zoom.
They also released a new single during lockdown, “Girl (Like the Summertime),” produced by Grammy-winning Miami-based producer Mark Endert, who’s worked with Maroon 5, Fiona Apple, The Fray and many others. Add to that, the band is set to live stream June 13 on Twitch, as part of the Virtual Valley Music Festival benefitting Oregon Food Bank.
Not only will this be the first time the group has tried live streaming, it will be the first time the musicians have been in the same room since March, says drummer Nate Hansen, the band’s de facto press representative. Unlike several other members of The Graduating Class, who studied music at the University of Oregon, Hansen graduated from the UO with a degree in journalism.
It’s all been a way for the band to stay active during the pandemic and not lose momentum, Hansen says, but also to “not lose our minds.”
How The Graduating Class came to work with Endert is an unlikely story: They simply asked. “We were shopping around for someone just to mix the song,” Hansen says. “We had a reference from our engineer,” who gave the band the email address of Endert’s management.
At first the band received the standard “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” but Endert heard the song and liked it well enough to rearrange his schedule, a great vote of confidence.
In production, Endert massaged the song’s tempo, “giving it more ‘head bob,’” Hansen says, adding percussion and some pop vocal flair. The result is a finely tuned serotonin hit, slick enough to slip smoothly in the ears, but also interesting enough to find purchase in the grey matter between.
Above all, it’s rare to hear a song with such mainstream ambition emerging from the Northwest, or really anywhere outside of Los Angeles, New York or Miami. One simply doesn’t meet a band with so much pop potential while still on the come up — imagine artists like Justin Timberlake actually rehearsing.
The closest thing to The Graduating Class is, perhaps, Maroon 5 or even The Killers, bands that seemingly emerged from the ground to land fully formed in our Spotify playlists.
Hansen knows his band is a sonic outlier in a land of garage bands and indie rock.
In a recent conversation with the band’s publicist, in fact, Hansen was asked if The Graduating Class consider themselves a Portland band or band from Eugene. Three of the five members live in Eugene, while two live in Portland.
“There aren’t really contemporaries for our sound in either one of those scenes,” Hansen says. “You might have to go as far as Los Angeles. We’re definitely not from Los Angeles.”
“Ultimately, we’re our band,” Hansen goes on. “We come out of left field. We do things a little bit differently.”
The Graduating Class’ new single “Girl (Like the Summertime)” is available on Spotify. Virtual Valley Online Music Festival, originally scheduled for June 6, is 1 pm Saturday, June 13, on Twitch; FREE, suggested donation. All proceeds benefit the Oregon Food Bank. For more information search Virtual Valley Music Festival on Facebook.