“We never really planned to be a ‘band,’” say the members of the Amherst collective Kids On A Hill. “We were just a group of kids who enjoyed each other’s musical company and wanted to have fun playing likeable, danceable music for other kids at school.”
Formed in 2009, the 10-piece act—featuring Ben Falkoff (guitar), Ben Silverman (guitar, percussion), Craig Holland (bass), Nick Pope (drums), Christian Tremblay (keyboard), Alec Hutson (alto saxophone), Greg Blair (tenor saxophone), Chris Kazarian (vocals), Madeleine Maggio (vocals) and Nora Murphy (vocals, percussion)—joined forces as a substitute group put together by Pope when the band he was scheduled to perform with at UMass-Amherst’s annual Fill the Hill concert cancelled five days before the event.
After being well received at the show, the group decided to keep going, taking its name from the site of the concert, a big hill near the Van Meter dormitory on UMass’ campus, where many of the members hung out during their freshman year.
“We would set up on the basketball court and jam, because we didn’t have any other place to practice,” the band says. “A few times we drew a decent crowd and provided impromptu entertainment for all the kids that were hanging around outside at night.”
Eventually, with each member of the band either a songwriter or in the midst of pursuing music as a hobby or career, Kids On A Hill’s sound evolved from the simple playing of covers to include a mix of vocally-driven soul, R&B, rock, funk and jazz. Some original tracks like “Magic Lover” have earned rave reviews from the moment they were first played live, while others, like the popular jam “Mr. Stern,” have become enduring favorites that showcase the band’s tight playing and well-arranged hooks.
The band says, “We aim for the fun-for-the-whole-family feel of classic soul and funk acts like P-Funk and Sly and the Family Stone, but with a bit of edge from artists like Jeff Buckley and D’Angelo. You can also usually expect us to bring it down for a few minutes, since we’ve got a few romantic and sensual slow jams that we can’t resist playing.” In the coming months, Kids On A Hill hopes to release a 10-song album that it began recording in January. Though the band hasn’t worked out exactly when and how the record will be released, the members sound quite excited when they talk about how anxious everyone is to get into the studio.
“As a band that has mostly focused on playing live shows, it’s been exciting to revamp our songs for the album and take the time to craft something we’re really proud of and make it just the way we want,” the band says. “We don’t currently have any shows scheduled, since recording is our priority right now. [But] we hope to play somewhere in the Valley when our album is released.”•