The Sweaters are a band born and bred in Columbia, Mo. Since they started playing music together a few summers ago, they’ve hit many of the local music venues around town, opening for touring artists or playing their own shows. They even played at a stage at Roots ‘n Blues music festival, and at True/False Film Festival. Ben and Henry Cohen and Anders Harms are The Sweaters—and they’re all playing and performing their way through their teenage years.
Harms and Ben Cohen are both 16 years old, and Henry Cohen is 13. The three of them met at Compass, a music camp for teenagers in Columbia, where they discovered their similar music tastes and styles.
“We were all really interested in music and we liked some of the same stuff,” Ben said. “We kind of bonded initially over like, 90s alternative music and stuff like that, but we've kind of branched out a lot, we all kind of like different stuff now.”
The band gets together to practice in Ben and Henry’s basement. Their sound has indie-rock influences, and sounds much more advanced than might be expected from a high school band.
In the last few years, the boys released an EP and have been playing lots of local shows. They have been written up in different local publications, and even appeared in a student publication in Arizona.
Aarik Danielsen, the arts and entertainment editor at the Columbia Daily Tribune, said The Sweaters surprised him with the maturity of their sound, and he could see them getting more popular.
“I mean, the more that they work on their stuff, and the more that they play out of town, I could see them getting some attention elsewhere,” Danielsen said.
The band has found over the past few years that Columbia is a great place to be for three guys who love to make music.
“Columbia's music scene is amazing, in the shortest of words,” Harms said. “Like It's Me: Ross, Sissy Paycheck. Even people that aren't even as new, like people that started here.”
Ben Cohen agreed, noting that the presence of other local bands has helped The Sweaters grow.
“A bunch of members of Violet and the Undercurrents, a band in Columbia, Phylshawn and Violet especially have been really really incredible and helping us kind of navigate the music scene,” Ben said. “And there's people like tons of people like that, who really want to see the scene get bigger and expand and it's it's really incredible to be a part of that.”
In the last few years especially, Columbia has become a great place to be a young musician. Danielsen says in his roughly 10 years of writing about music in the area, he’s seen college bands come and go. But right now he’s seen more bands that are in high school or younger than he’s ever seen before.
“People are letting these kids that do have talent, have places to play. I don't know, I don't know what the like confluence of forces is there. But I think that's really cool,” he said.
The band also operates with the help of Ben and Henry’s mom, Kristen Bowen, who acts as social media manager and chauffeur, and says she loves seeing her kids putting their energy into something creative.
“That the boys have found something that they can do together that is collaborative and creative and takes them out into the world to make new art,” Bowen said. “I mean, it's just really incredible watching them and inspiring, actually.”
As for the band’s name, “The Sweaters” came to be out of a clothing coincidence before the band’s first show.
“We got asked to play a show at Cafe Berlin in 2017, I think. And we didn't have a name. And we showed up and we're just gonna play three songs, and we didn't have a name,” Ben said. “And two out of the three of us were wearing sweaters. And we didn't have a name and we just decided, hey, that's a better name than any other I guess. And we stuck with it and it's worked out so far.”
Since that first show two years ago, the Sweaters have grown their creative process. Henry said their process comes pretty naturally.
“Well, it definitely depends on the song. But usually one of us will come with like a basic idea, and then we'll all just build on it,” Henry said.
Ben added that it’s usually collaborative.
“It kinda depends on where we'll start with the lyrics or the or the music itself,” He said. “Often I'll bring lyrics or I'll bring lyrics with music or Anders will bring music and we'll write lyrics and chords together but it's kind of just organically we work on it together and we write together and kind of just whatever happens happens.”
Right now, the Sweaters are working on their first full-length album. In the meantime, you can find them in the studio working on that, or just practicing and hanging out in Ben and Henry’s basement.
This piece was originally aired on Off the Clock hosted by Emily Aiken.