Sometimes a band can shoot up like a blossoming flower in front of a time-lapse camera. Quickly emerging, very quickly fully formed, the band finds itself in real time, right in front of our eyes. Bellingham's Learning Team is such a band. Though Learning Team has only existed for a short period of time, the band has produced more and sprinted farther than one can reasonably expect - having released about an LP's worth of material, spread out over three EP's and about a year.
What started as a folk-pop band has already begun to evolve into more propulsive indie rock.
"I had some stuff that I had been working on, as more of a solo deal, and when I got together with (Matt Ogle) and (Lincoln Lute), we kind of jammed, played this open mic night, got asked to play this battle of the bands, before we even really considered ourselves a band," says Learning Team frontman Emile Panerio. "After that happened, we decided to add some members, and things kind of picked up from there."
Panerio attributes part of Learning Team's momentum to the music scene in Bellingham, which promptly got on board with the band's style of upbeat indie folk-pop. After filling out the group, Learning Tree immediately went into the studio and began recording. Soon after, the band landed an opening slot at a Cave Singers show, which only furthered Learning Team's reputation and increased the fan base. Now, Learning Team is getting bigger gigs with bands like the Cave Singers, Los Campesinos! and Motopony, even as the band's members continue the process of really figuring out just what Learning Team really is.
"We're getting further and further away from folk," says Panerio. "That's exciting, because I think that we always wanted to go more in a pop direction, but we just hadn't been playing together that long. Our latest EP is the first one that we've really, truly, collectively written."
Standouts like "MLK" on the Daypack EP really show off the difference between present-day Learning Team, and the band less than a year ago. "MLK" was featured in a demo version on Learning Team's first EP, and while its structure is more or less the same, the communal handclaps and tambourines have been replaced with buoyant drums and sunny harmonies, effectively re-framing Learning Team as an ebullient pop band, unified by a sonically immaculate sheen.
Learning Team's sudden success has a little to do with the band's sound, which reflects that of many in-the-moment bands. What Learning Team has going for it, though, is an absence of pretense. There are no shaggy beards or affected Southern twangs to create an illusion of depth. The band succeeds on the basis of the songwriting, much of which drops back in influence to the glory days of pristine indie pop like Death Cab for Cutie. Such simple times.
How exciting, then, to be able to watch Learning Team sprout up in front of our eyes, to evolve and change with the agility only befitting of a band that's young enough to recognize the dignity in growth.
with Makeup Monsters
Tuesday, March 20, 9 p.m., cover TBA
The New Frontier Lounge, 301 E. 25th St., Tacoma