Delve into an unknown Molehill

Molehill isn’t part of the “in-crowd.” But that doesn’t stop them from attracting capacity crowds at their shows. This Champaign-based trio is the best local band no one has heard of.

Molehill has existed in one form or another for two years but has only begun to come into their own in the last year. Molehill’s two original members are Peter Manhart and Drew Russell, who met through a Jazz combo and several music classes. With Manhart providing guitar and vocals, and Russell on drums, the band lacked a consistent presence on bass guitar.

Their revolving door of bass players often forced the band to find someone at the last minute and teach them the songs the day of the show.

For one show, the band was without a bass and had to resort to trying to steal one from a former bass player who had left the band after playing a few shows. Without a dependable third member, the band’s live shows suffered.

Last summer, Molehill finally found its third member. John Supple had been on drumline with Russell and known him for several years before being introduced to Manhart and joining the trio. Since Supple’s arrival, the band has honed its sound and continued to get better and better. With a consistent bassist, the bands live shows have also improved dramatically.

After going through names such as “The Slam Dunks,” “The Tomahawk Jams,” “Session” and “Bulls vs. Blazers,” they settled on Molehill. The name was fitting for a band struggling for recognition.

“People get a bad impression before they hear us,” Manhart explained. “We’re not really hyped up, we’re just a molehill.”

Molehill’s influences are an eclectic mix that includes Spoon, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and Coheed and Cambria. The band describes their sound as “Jeans and
T-Shirt Rock and Roll.”

With songs that range from reserved to manic in nature, it becomes a difficult task to accurately compare Molehill to any single band. At a recent show, one audience member compared the band to a cross between Jack Johnson, Radiohead and Modest Mouse.

Audience members can expect a high-energy, no-frills live show packed full of solos, stage seizures and crowd interaction.

“If you think you know someone who can solo on guitar, come see Peter, and you might change your mind about that person,” Supple said about the band’s improvised live solos. Molehill is also quite proud of its interaction with the crowd.

“I’m proudly going to cuss out the crowd,” Manhart said. Molehill’s interaction with the crowd is anything but average. At a show played on Mom’s weekend, the band dared a Mom in the crowd to chug a beer and then berated her after she failed to chug her entire beer. At another show, Manhart had a competition with the crowd to see who could yell “fuck you” the loudest.

Even after filling Cowboy Monkey to capacity for their last couple shows, Molehill remains relatively unknown. The band blames this on the fact that they always play off-campus at Cowboy Monkey and that they “don’t sound like Fall Out Boy.” Without the word-of-mouth buzz and press coverage that comes with being a part of the “in-crowd,” Molehill has dwelled in relative obscurity.

Molehill has plans to change all of that. According to Supple, “World domination starts in Chicago.” After moving north, the band will continue to play regular shows in Champaign-Urbana, while attempting to get signed in Chicago. Getting signed would give the band the connections needed to go on tour, something that they have been unable to do so far.

For now, Molehill will continue to play shows in the Champaign-Urbana area. Their next show is Saturday, June 24, at Cowboy Monkey. They will be playing with experimental rock fusion jam band Soap. Cover is $5 and the show starts at 9:30 p.m. Molehill will take the stage sometime around midnight.

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