What's in a name?
Band Votary blends devotion to faith, music
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 21:09
They had been playing together most of their sophomore year, but Jack Thweatt, lead vocals and guitar, and Travis Thompson, pianist and keyboardist, never could settle on a name. With their first official gig quickly approaching, they needed to decide fast.
“We had about a billion ideas, some good, some bad, and some really bad. I decided that if we couldn’t think of one an hour before the application was due, we would go to Dictionary.com and name our band the word of the day,” said Travis Thompson, senior mechanical engineering major.
The word of the day happened to be “votary.”
“A votary is a passionate or devout follower of someone or something,” Thompson said. “We were like, ‘Well, it’s a nice word and it has a cool meaning. Let’s do it.’ And it kind of pertains to us because we’re all followers of Jesus.”
Now, this Votary is not to be confused with the Russian melodic, death-metal band that recently took the same name. And the name is not “The Votary,” “The Voltary” or “Jack Thweatt and the Votary,” though they have been mistakenly listed as each.
“It had a cool double meaning for us because it reflects that we’re really passionate about everything that we do with this band,” said Thweatt, senior aerospace engineering major. “It’s about the music and that’s why we’re doing it. And on the other side it reflects who we are and what our character is. What’s important to us is our relationships with Christ and how we’re passionate about that.”
Thweatt and Thompson met in the Commons Lobby, and even though Thweatt was playing with another band at the time, the duo began to casually play music together.
“I met [Thompson], and he was just this killer pianist,” Thweatt said. “So we started to bounce ideas off each other when we saw each other in the Commons.”
The two were roommates their sophomore year and started playing gigs around the Bryan-College Station area. They tried out a few other members before finally settling on Conner Wright as a drummer and Michael Burgess as a bassist, both of whom had been counselors in the same Impact camp as Thweatt.
“The first time I played with Votary, [Thweatt] just asked me to fill in for a show, so I got to hear the music really objectively. When I was rehearsing with them, I remember the music being a lot better than I expected from a friend’s band,” said Wright, junior supply chain management major.
The four first played together as a full band at MSC Town Hall’s Battle of the Bands last year, which they went on to win. Not only did the cash prize help Votary record its first album, the publicity from winning and their subsequent connections in Town Hall helped to get their name out, Thweatt said.
Votary plays a unique brand of acoustic pop, which stands out in an area dominated by country music.
“You just have a natural product differentiation, if you look at it that way,” Wright said. “If music is a product, almost everyone around here is either country or blues rock, so that makes it easier.”
Votary has managed to continue to play in venues around B-CS, while its members have maintained their status as full-time students.
“The hardest part, I would say, is just the time commitment,” Thweatt said. “We’re all in extremely difficult majors and also involved on campus in organizations.”
While balancing classes, organizations and a social life, these four students have taken on the additional pressure of creating and promoting their own music.
“It’s harder to be in a band when you’re a full-time student, and it’s harder to be a student when you’re in a band,” Wright said. “But there’s a reason that we’re doing both, and it’s because we’re passionate about it.”
All four members work hard to balance their work in the band with being involved on campus.
“It’s cool because being in this band is a great experience and a lot of fun,” said Burgess, senior nutrition major. “But all of us are so involved with A&M that it’s not like it’s something we do on the side. It’s almost like we have two different lives that are independent of each other, but at the same time they mesh really well.”
Despite the challenges involved in beginning a music career while in college, Thweatt said College Station has been a good place to start.
“There’s not an easier place to promote music as a new band than a college town and the college scene,” Tweatt said.
Votary released its first album, “Ground Beneath Us,” in April 2013 and has plans to release more music. They are hoping to release some EPs this year, Thweatt said, and see where they can go from there.
“It’s a hard industry and it’s hard to generate enough revenue to keep something like this going,” Thweatt said. “We’re aware of that, but we’re working as hard as we can at it. We’ll see what doors are open when we’re done.”