Wander anywhere near Goodman Hall after classes, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear the Silver Lake Waves giving it their all at full volume.
An Oglethorpe student-led band, Silver Lake Waves, by their own description, specialize in “bangers for anxious souls.” The band includes Ryan Holtzen ’20 (guitar and bass), Liz Kontyko ’20 (synth), Milo McGehee ’21 (vocal and guitar), Max Wagner ’20 (drums), and alumnus Jake Van Valkenburg ’19 (vocals and bass). They began to come together during the spring 2018 semester.
“It originally started as Milo and I writing up really absurd and ridiculous songs on our acoustic guitars,” said Van Valkenburg. “Then Ryan joined the fray with a third guitar, and it was just three dudes and three guitars — way too much. By necessity, I picked up bass. Eventually, Max joined after jamming with Ryan, and Liz came on board in fall 2018.”
In their first form, the band was known as Hallucinating Arkansas — a reference to Beat poet Allen Ginsburg’s seminal 1956 counterculture work.
“Once we started veering away from acoustic-driven song, the name […] didn’t feel like the right fit. The name had a psychedelic connotation […] and we were becoming our own thing,” said Van Valkenburg. “Silver Lake Waves came out of a brainstorm session. […] The place has served as a sort of haven for our group of friends. It’s incredibly peaceful and serene.”
The group draws its name from nearby Silver Lake, which had been part of Oglethorpe University’s original 600-acre campus. The lake has sentimental value for the band.
“I visited Silver Lake on my first day of college,” said McGehee, “far before I had any idea of forming a band, and have been visiting constantly ever since. The lake was (and still is) a space to reflect, read, and walk. […] Silver Lake is all about reflection.”
For the band members, the formation of Silver Lake Waves filled a niche in the campus artistic scene, which also offers a student-led improv troupe, creative literary magazine, theatre group and art club.
“During my sophomore and junior year I felt very restless,” admitted Van Valkenburg. “I saw how alive city life was in Atlanta with their arts and music scenes […] I wanted to be more involved[.] I see the founding of the Silver Lake Waves as a means of starting something that wasn’t there before. Now, we want to foster that artistic culture and engage as many people as we can.
“[W]e all loved music and we all wanted something to happen on campus. Insofar as DIY music and student-led art efforts, there wasn’t anything going on on campus that went as far as I wanted it to go. I hope that the band is a testament to get out of your room, make art, and do it all on your own terms.”
“Silver Lake Waves came together because of our desire to invigorate the arts scene on campus,” said McGehee. “It is incredibly gratifying to bring students together: everyone needs a space in which they can express themselves, share their art and ideas, and interact with a diverse group of individuals. It is important to be engaged with the arts, because it is through the arts that one can come to better communicate with themselves and with others.”
Music, for Silver Lake Waves, is an intensely personal experience that they want to share with their listeners.
“I’m a quiet person so I tend to spend a lot of time observing and taking things in, ” said Kontyko. “Making music is so exhilarating to me because when you’re playing, it’s the exact opposite of that. You’re totally in the moment, putting things into motion, expressing yourself in real time, and propelling emotion outwards.”
“Oglethorpe is like this powder keg full of talented, passionate people,” said drummer Max Wagner, “and I hope that [Silver Lake Wave’s] continued presence on campus and in the Atlanta music scene will inspire many, many more students to join together and start making music!”
“Oglethorpe students really care about supporting each other and really want to see each other’s creativity on display.”