Ohio is for High School Jazz Band: An Interview with PUBLIC

It all started in a high school jazz band in Ohio. Add some classic rock roots, a bit of Guitar Hero (2 or 3, the exact game is unsure), and a handful of unique opportunities and you’ve got the band PUBLIC.  

Because of their jazz backgrounds, each member was not familiar with their current instruments. Vocalist/guitarist John Vaughn did not sing, bassist Matt Alvarado had only tried a bass guitar in video game form and drummer Ben Lapps only knew guitar. After Alvarado put down the saxophone and skipped his lunch period to practice bass, Vaughn and Lapps invited him over to jam.

Vaughn remembers after their initial jam session that he sent an overly dramatic text to Alvarado. Although Lapps was still figuring out drums and Vaughn wasn’t quite the vocalist yet, he knew that this was something worth pursuing. His dramatic text was only to make sure that Alvarado felt the chemistry too.

At first their original songs were formed during their jam sessions. As their songwriting progressed, so did their want to perform outside of the local music scene. “When we were playing locally in Cincinnati, our attitude was very much ‘let’s work really hard’ ...We’ve always wanted to be the sore thumb in our scene in a good way. We want someone to come by the show and if they remember any of the bands, we want them to remember us. Taking that mentality into a bigger mindset when we were out on the road with the Walk the Moon tour, at that point it’s time to buckle down and put on a really awesome, tight show because you have the opportunity to make a lot of fans because you’re in a different fan base,” Vaughn said.

By getting the incredible opportunities to play with bands like Walk the Moon and Twenty One Pilots, they had to really focus on grasping the attention of a fan base that was strictly there to see a band that wasn’t PUBLIC.  “It really taught us a lot about both proving what we’re made of in front of fan bases that aren’t ours and also just seeing how bands that have been doing this longer than us carry themselves onstage, offstage and how they handle having a fan base that responds to them,” Vaughn said.

One of the major elements they learned from watching these bands was communication. Their comfort level on stage has really progressed since their first shows together as a band. In the beginning, they focused on playing as energetically as possible because that’s all they knew at the time. Now that they’re gaining experience in playing live shows, their ability to deliver a stage performance in multiple aspects has bettered them as musicians.

Their latest track, “Perfect”, is getting a lot of buzz from its message to women. What began as a love song addressed to one girl soon turned into much more. “I don’t feel like I’m talking to one girl in this song, I feel like I’m trying to explain to women nowadays that you really don’t have to adhere to these standards that you may see. Social media and pop culture can actually be so discouraging. I wanted to address that, not in a super heavy way because I don’t pretend that it’s that kind of song, but just enough to where it’s got some integrity,” Vaughn said.

With their already impressive resume and the support of some of today’s top 40 radio artists, PUBLIC’s upcoming releases should attract audiences far and wide.