Wailing City Spotlight: Interview with Element 88

Published August 31, 2023
Interview by Meghan Killimade

Recently, while doing some show promotion on WailingCity's Instagram page, I stumbled upon Element 88, a teenage rock band out of Westerly, RI, who are seemingly making quite a buzz in the area. 

Video clips of the band's recent live shows highlight their energy and passion and there is an obvious chemistry within the group that stands out in their performance. As they work to carve out their own unique sound, you can absolutely hear a more mature musical influence of classic rock, jazz, funk and blues... blended with a more current indie rock. The sound that these guys are creating is quite impressive for a group aged just 13 & 14. 

There is no doubt that the young band have put quite a bit of work into their project, boasting a slew of well-built original songs - one of which includes "Bluffs", their newly released debut single.

Having showcased their songs at "Youth on the Mic" nights at the The Knickerbocker Music Center in Westerly, RI - and honing their skills with the support and instruction of  The RI Phil Music School at the United Theatre, they've created quite a buzz... this band will be one to watch! 

I recently asked the guys how they got started, about the new single and what they have coming up. Check out the interview and new single below!

What’s the history of the band? 
The band is made up of singer Yousef Al-Rawashdeh (age 14,) bassist Brendan Speck (age 13,) guitarists Ben Labonte and Jacob Harwood (both 13,) drummer Leo Paradise (14,) and keyboardist Logan Duranti (14). We've all been playing our instruments for around 2 years. The band was formed by Brendan around August of 2022, and by that time the band was only made up of Brendan, Ben, Jacob, Leo, and a third guitarist that would later go his separate way around March of 2023. Yousef, a friend of Brendan’s, and Logan a friend of Leo’s, were later additions to the band, (January and June of 2023 respectively). Our all Westerly lineup has been the same ever since.

Is there any meaning behind the band name and how did you come up with it?

Early in the life of the band, before we even played a gig, we were playing under the name Inersha. The day of our first performance, we messed with the idea of being called Element 82, lead) which is associated with writing, storytelling, and toxicity. We decided, though, that the name was too similar to Blink-182. Finally just hours before the first open mic night, we settled on Element 88. There's not much intended meaning behind the \ name, but many people find their own meaning in it . We all just decided it had a good ring to it.

I’m hearing a lot of different styles/genres in your music – rock, pop, blues – what would you call yourself genre-wise?
We don’t tend to classify ourselves into a genre because there are so many different styles of music that you can hear in each of our original songs. However, prominently, we have hard rock, blues, and funk roots.

What are some bands/musicians that you listen to/inspire you guys?
A couple of musicians and groups we all look up to are Queen, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Guns 'N Roses, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The musicians mentioned have put thousands of hours into their instruments and are virtuosos each in a very special way. One day, each of us aspire to reach some level of that greatness. But for now, we all are just putting in the practice and rocking and rolling in Jacob’s garage.

Tell us about the songwriting process! Do you write as a collective or do certain members do the majority of the writing and then bring it to the rest of the band?
Usually, how most of our songs are written is one person comes to practice with a rough outline of a song and the band tries to flesh it out. Write a chorus, a melody, some lyrics, whatever kind of love it needs. Everyone writes their own part until we are able to run through it as a group. After practicing it a few times we decide what we'd like to change, what we'd like to keep, or if we should just scrap it. Sometimes it’s an easy and painless process when we try to focus. Sometimes not so much.

Talk about your debut single– tell us about the writing and recording process!
Our debut song is called "Bluffs". It’s a much slower and calmer song than what we usually make while still containing that rock and roll feel to it. On the surface it’s a typical love song, but the more you look into the lyrics there is some deeper meaning. It’s supposed to represent that feeling of excitement you have when you first start a relationship. The rough idea of the song was written by Jacob, but the melody was definitely tough to flesh out. The melody ended up being a collaboration throughout the whole band. We recorded it at the studio of our producer Joey Michel, who we have to give credit to for really bringing the whole song together. Joey’s studio is a home studio but we know it as “The Well.” Joey has previously produced his own music and music by Macayla Lavender. He also plays guitar for the band Three Times Distilled, which you should definitely check out. This was our first time in the studio and we certainly learned a lot about the recording and mastering process. We have improved so much from the experience, and we are so thankful for the opportunity.

How would you describe your live show to people that have never seen you play?
An all out good time that we, quite frankly, don't think you're ready for. It’s very energetic and raw. It’s certainly an experience that’s sure to get your head bopping and shoes tapping.

What are some of the places you’ve guys have played – and what are some places you'd like to play?

As of right now we have only played at The Knickerbocker Music Center in Downtown Westerly for their "Youth on the Mic" nights. The Knick is an incredible place and the opportunities it’s given us we are so thankful for. We have a lot of upcoming gigs around town and throughout the state soon, though.

Are there any local bands that inspire you or that you’re digging these days?
The youth music scene has really been flourishing the last few years thanks to our local RI Phil Music School at the United Theatre. Bands like Purple Tide, Sinclair, and Corvus are all local teen bands we’re proud to be in the company of. A lot of crazy incredible talent that our group admires.

What’s coming up next for you guys? 
We are excited to have a bunch of shows lined up, including the Next Up Music Festival on September 2nd in Wilcox Park, Westerly and the Celebration of Surf Festival  presented by Westerly Sound on September 23rd at The Misquamicut Drive-In in Westerly. We always play in the Youth on Mic Nights hosted every other month by the United Theatre at The Knickerbocker Music Center; and we are really proud to be part of organizing a Rock Against Cancer fundraiser which will take place at the Knickerbocker in January 2024. The Rock Against Cancer event will showcase local 18-and-under bands with the goal of raising money for childhood cancer. As for coming out with new music we will continue to be working on recording more songs with our producer Joey Michel to release an EP for Spotify, and hopefully a limited edition vinyl!

Any shout outs?
Of course we want to thank our friends and family, who have been super supportive of all of us from the beginning! We also have to thank Tom Foley and all the amazing people at the RI Phil Music School at the United Theatre that we’ve taken lessons from and who give us the opportunity to play at the open mic nights! And finally, Joey Michel, our producer.

Just for fun: Anything else you want to include or wish we’d asked?
You are only young once. Have fun. “Abuse your innocence”
One time during a school rock band performance Leo tripped on Logan’s power cord for his keyboard and unplugged it mid song.
Yousef is a mad harmonica player.
Leo’s dad was a professional drummer and was a member of many bands.
Brendan used to be an accomplished BMX rider.
Ben is an accomplished swimmer.



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