Guilty Pleasures

Junior Andrew Martin’s band brings new music to St. Louis

Guilty Pleasures performs at the Red Flag downtown in June. The band was competing in a battle of the bands, which they ended up winning. “There was a crazy crowd, a lot of fun. We got to meet some awesome people and cool bands. I honestly didn’t know if we were going to win — it was so up in the air [and] all the bands were really good,” junior Andrew Martin said.

Courtesy of Andrew Martin

Guilty Pleasures performs at the Red Flag downtown in June. The band was competing in a battle of the bands, which they ended up winning. “There was a crazy crowd, a lot of fun. We got to meet some awesome people and cool bands. I honestly didn’t know if we were going to win — it was so up in the air [and] all the bands were really good,” junior Andrew Martin said.

While students are going about their regular Friday night business—catching up with friends after a long week, making plans or simply trying to debrief the past few days—junior Andrew Martin has a different weekend hobby: rock. He got his start playing drums alongside his sister in their band Interrobang, but now, Martin has a new band and a Spotify release under his belt.

Martin started his band, Guilty Pleasures, with his friend and guitar player Carson Kilo, a student at Maryville University, after the two met through a mutual friend. They soon added bass player Ryan Litteken and rhythm guitar player Evan Konnor, who both attend Parkway South. After searching for a singer, Guilty Pleasures found Nate Vaughn on an Instagram live, and the band was formed.

“We used to do just covers, and when we did covers, we did 70s and 80s kind of rock, some 90s and new stuff, but a lot of 70s stuff. The energy stuff. But now when we write stuff, we take inspiration from fun rock [music] of the 70s, but we put modern elements to it,” Martin said. “People ask me [what genre we are]. I don’t know how to answer it because it’s always changing too. But generally, if I said the word ‘rock,’ probably what you [would first] think of [is the kind of music we make].”

Guilty Pleasures takes inspiration from artists like Van Halen, Jimmy Hendrix and Dirty Honey, as well as modern bands like Maneskin and local bands like Bleach.

“I would say we’re new-fashioned rock and roll. We have blues, jazz influence, pop influence, metal influence, because we all have different backgrounds. I’m like a 70s classic rock guy, our singer’s more like metal, our drummer’s more 90s, so it all just kind of blends together and you get Guilty Pleasures,” Kilo said. “We used to try too hard to sound like something, but we just realized that we’ve just got to play what we want to play, and the sound will come eventually with experience.”

Since the band was completed, they have begun to perform at venues around St. Louis and beyond. Their first performances were at Martin’s father’s restaurant the Circa Pub and Grill, but the band soon began to play at other St. Louis locations and even traveled to Columbia, Mo. for a gig.

“[Live performances] used to be a lot different. We would get a gig at a restaurant or party, and it was a casual band experience at a restaurant. So it used to be just everyone sitting down. Now, it’s gotten crazy. We started just seeing random faces in the crowd. It used to be our friends, but now there’s been a lot of people that we haven’t seen before. It feels good… especially when they’re singing your song that you wrote nonsensically at 2 a.m.,” Martin said. “[Playing live] is so addicting. There’s nothing like the feeling of an audience watching you, when you’re doing what you love. It’s like a drug: it’s addicting.”

Beyond the Circa Pub and Grill, Guilty Pleasures has performed shows at the Red Flag downtown, Q in the Lou, the Sunnen Lounge at Webster University and the University of Missouri in Columbia. They plan to perform soon at the University of Mississippi.

“I was looking at some videos of [our first performances] back in the day, and it was dead. We didn’t have a lot of fans and we weren’t very good. So I think we’re making good progress. I used to know everyone on a first name basis. Most of the time it was just my mom and her friends. But we’ve definitely grown to some people that I’ve never seen before, which is cool. [Our first performance] was awesome. I knew right then that this is what I was going to do, because I can’t do anything else,” Kilo said. “[Performing is] a blur, but it’s like the best kind of blur in the world. Like I couldn’t really remember anything that we just did 10 minutes ago, but I just know it was fun, and it was loud and people like that. It’s just adrenaline.”

Guilty Pleasures does more than perform, though. They also write original music, some of which they released on music platforms like Spotify. The band’s first release, the single “600 Miles” written by Martin, Kilo and Vaughn, dropped Oct. 15 and has received over 8,000 streams on Spotify.

“It’s got a lot of 90s pop rock in it, but also it’s still got our underlying grounded rock tone that we like. Of course [there are] guitar solos, and it’s pretty bluesy, but it’s not too bluesy where it’s like a 12 bar song,” Kilo said. “I wrote it because I was honestly making fun of the way new songs sound, [I used to think] anything that’s new sucks, rock’s kind of dead, but it turned out to sound pretty good, which made me listen to a lot more new music, which I’m thankful for.”

Following the release of their single, the band dropped an extended play record (EP) called Fine Print of four original songs, including “600 Miles,” Dec. 10.

“We wanted to have a bit of everything. There’s a nice slow song in there, there’s a punch you in the face song and then there’s a calm one, but it still rocks. I hope people like [the EP], I hope people can open their minds to new music. We have catchy stuff, but it’s just fun when I can just see people capturing energy from other types of music. Sounds cheesy but I hope people open their minds and I hope people like to party,” Martin said. “I think the EP will [help us gain traction] because obviously people can understand us more. It’s hard to [understand us], unless you see us live. If you’re just going on an Instagram page, you don’t really know what we’re all about. But hopefully this EP can get people understanding.”

The band recorded their EP with producers David Beeman and Daniel Mehrman at two different studios: Native Sound and Midtown Soundhouse. The process took a few months, and the four songs on Fine Print were recorded in about two weeks.

“We can record everything we did in two weeks in one day now. We were so dumb the first time we were in the studio. It seems so simple to record something but we kept redoing it because we didn’t like the way it sounded. We weren’t happy with anything… we weren’t satisfied. There were like 14 hour days, we’d spent all day in the studio,” Martin said. “I think [recording] is a process and it’s expensive, but if you get a group of people that you really like writing with, it’s the [most fun] thing ever. It’s just like a playground. It was a bonding experience, but it taught us about how we interact too, and it taught us about how we should go about our problems. We’re all really stubborn, so I guess [recording taught us] to be more understanding and not think you’re right all the time.”

Earlier in the band’s career, Martin took on much of the band’s management tasks that a band manager would usually handle, like keeping track of performances.

“If you want to book studio time, it’s exhausting. [Managing a band involves] a bunch of little things that if you lose track [them], stuff gets out of hand. Like, the time of the show, when does it start? If you have five shows you’re scheduling, you’re bound to forget a time of one, which is just a disaster because somebody else [is] rely[ing] on you,” Martin said. “It’s just little things like that. When you’re one person who’s also playing and has to focus on the equipment and focus on the transportation, it gets to be a lot. It used to be just me doing it, [and] then I was like, ‘I can’t do this,’ so they’ve all helped me out. I’m so fortunate to have other band members that will help me.”

Guilty Pleasures drummer Andrew Martin, guitarist Carson Kilo, lead vocalist Nate Vaughn, bassist Ryan Litteken and rhythm guitarist Evan Konnor pose for a photo. (Courtesy of Andrew Martin)

Guilty Pleasures plans on performing more this winter around the St. Louis area, with upcoming shows at the Red Flag and Circa Pub and Grill. They also have more original songs written outside of those on Fine Print.

“I’m so excited to go in and start recording more music for everyone. We already have pretty much another EP written, maybe an album, who knows, but you’re definitely gonna hear more from us in the future,” Kilo said. “[Our goal is] just to keep playing and [realize] that we can do anything. We’ve already surprised ourselves with a ton of things, like winning battle the bands. Just playing music and having fun, that’s pretty much all there is to it. We’re not trying to be too serious about it. We just want to have fun because I think that this is one of the coolest jobs someone can have. And just being able to do this at this level already is incredible.”

With the band’s varying ages, some still in high school, Guilty Pleasures is unsure of where their music will take them next.

“I’m torn [about traveling with the band]. I don’t know what I’m going to do. But it’d be great if I could just do my thing. Who knows what’s gonna happen? Hopefully, we’ll be all around [traveling], but [we will] probably [stay in St. Louis]. We got a good thing going here,” Martin said. “It’s been crazy, it’s been awesome. There’s been a lot of [highlights]. There’s been funny ones. There’s been crazy ones. There’s been ones that make me mad. There’s been ones that make me happy.”

Regardless of the band’s next steps, both Kilo and Martin expressed their gratitude for the band and the St. Louis fans who have supported them.

“[The band is] just a brotherhood honestly. It’s like a family at this point. We scream and fight a lot, but it’s so fun. And we love each other. It [gets] hard to live with five teenage dudes every once in a while but we make it work. We have fun,” Kilo said. “[To our fans:] I love you all, you guys are crazy. Seeing you guys at our shows, seeing the same faces over and over again, it literally makes us all so happy. You guys are literally the only reason we do this. I hope you guys know how grateful we are for all [of] you.”