It’s not like we’re just getting together playing music. We’re getting together to experience life together.– Jon Havens
For some, playing music is a phase. But for others, it’s a calling. Bylines is a case of the latter, a tale of five longtime friends discovering how vital music is to their happiness and, in embracing that revelation, arriving at their sound.
Comprising vocalist and guitarist Mike Arnoldi, guitarist Dave Cohen, keyboardist and guitarist Jon Havens, bassist Ethan Sanchez, and drummer Ben Trapp, Bylines started as an informal outlet for old friends to reconnect with each other and the creative process. Prior to Bylines’ genesis, Jon struggled with the idea that his life as a musician had run its course. “There was this nervousness when the last project ended because we thought ‘Is that it? Are we done?’ ” he recalls. “We’re all in our mid-thirties. We were going to try to get back together to play music, but all the cards didn’t fall into place right away.”
During their time apart, each member felt something was missing in their lives. “It’s like a muscle that you’re not exercising,” explains Mike. “There’s definitely a therapeutic aspect to getting together with people you are close to and creating something.”
The band draws from three former groups, among them the long-established Olympic Year and the more recent Hurricane Roses. While the unit didn’t start from scratch—some of the members have played together for the better part of 20 years—Bylines was eager to establish a new creative identity.
At the start, the group played with no expectations, and despite the established working relationships, it took almost a year for them to find their style. “There was one night where we had a talk and asked ‘Is everybody in? Are we going to do this, because if so, we need to make it a priority in our lives. There’s plenty of other priorities that could take precedence,’ ” says Dave. “And everybody said yes.”
“The next practice had so much more meaning to it,” Ben adds. “Before, we had been trying to pull things out of the air. After Mike brought a couple complete songs and we played those, we were like ‘This is what we sound like.’ We applied that feel to the other songs we had been working on and thought ‘These feel better now.’ ”
While Bylines offers indie rock as a starting point to describe their sound, they’re hesitant to compare themselves to specific bands. To the group, such connections appear in retrospect: they don’t try to sound like anyone. Similarly, the band’s name reflects their seasoned attitude, and Bylines means exactly what it implies—a signature denoting creative ownership.
Listening to the group with their former affiliations in mind, there’s a tenderness and deliberation to Bylines’ songwriting that stands in opposition to Olympic Year’s former mantra: when in doubt, rock it out. While space exists in the composition for all five members to create, the group’s experience shows in those moments when the music unfolds and is allowed to simply be.
Dave has certainly found value in that approach. “For so long, there was a specific pathway to success in whatever project we were in before. We had to market ourselves a certain way and have a certain look, and try to do all these things that fit a certain mold. It didn’t work,” he says. “Then we got into a band and tried a different way of going about it. It didn’t work. Now, we’re in a band because we know what it feels like to not be in a band. We do it because it’s who we are. That’s the only reason we need.”
Written by Brandon Roos
Photography by Arabela Espinoza