Rite of Passage all mediocrely photoshoped into one image

Photo by Maddie Hawkes

Rained-Out Rite of Passage Rocks Clock Conference Room

Jacob Downey




On Oct. 7th, the Student Art Collective held its annual Autumn Music and Arts Festival. A veritable bazaar of local artists, SAC also booked four alumni bands including Castle Island, Girl Scout Cookies, Out of Water, and Rite of Passage. While the event was cut short due to inclement weather, the latter band specifically was unable to play entirely. Silence cannot be equated with absence as Rite of Passage appeared on campus, groupies in tow ready to bring an alternative take to alternative music.

Vocalist Maddy Hawkes ‘23 shot the infamous “want to start a band” text to guitarist James Grady on a day when being an admissions counselor for Brandeis University meant doing a whole lot of nothing. Grady responded with a resounding “oookay”, then thought nothing of it for about a week before remembering “Oh, I agreed to that.” The two then recruited former American Sign Language classmate, Ethan Wasiejko on keytar and Brandon Bakken, a friend from Hawkes’ days as a theatre kid, on bass. 

The band, several of whose members identify as LGBTQ+, according to Hawkes, “have all dyed our hair blonde at some point” leading to an inside joke that would inspire the name of their musical act. With “Blondie” already taken, the quartet struggled to find a name that fit their unique musical backgrounds.“I was thinking about [dying] my hair blonde” recounted Grady, “[Hawkes] was like ‘do it, it’s a gay rite of passage.’ She texts me an hour later, like, ‘I found our band name!’” 

Bakken, who has yet to become blonde, enjoys the room for interpretation the name offers. “A lot of the music that we play is more pop punk, alternative kind of stuff. I feel everyone goes through their teenage angst rite of passage.” 

“And some of us need to relive it” added Wasiejko. 

“I think it’s a unique take on that stuff because there’s a lot of, you know, downtuned guitars, a lot of synth beds. That’s really not a lot of stuff you normally see in like traditional like pop-punk alternative stuff” said Grady. 

With a taste profile so eclectic that both Lady Gaga and Loathe covers shared the same setlist, a fact Waisejko hopes Gaga herself would be satisfied with, Rite of Passage spent a lot of time trying to narrow in on a specific sound.

“We were just talking and we were all throwing songs out there. And first, it was like ‘no, no, nope, nope, no, I want to do this I can’t do that. I want to do that. I hate that song’… But I think part of the reason that we can kind of do this stuff is that we don’t just take songs and be like, ‘Alright, here’s how they played it.’ We do our own thing” explained Grady.

Wasiejko thinks this fact “speaks to the general ping pong that I think each of our brains have. Or ADHD if you want to call it that.” This was met with resounding “for sure”, “yes”, and “true” from the other three members.

Hawkes saw their performance at the Autumn Music and Arts Festival as a homecoming for her as an alumna. “I have a lot of friends who have been involved with [SAC] and we saw it as a really cool opportunity to kind of have a full circle moment. You know, come back to campus and celebrate music.” The rest of the band was excited to play for an audience and outside of Bakken’s dad’s garage.

“Especially post-college, you don’t often get those opportunities to formally be with your friends doing something fun together.” said Bakken, “ At this point, [we’re] putting in that effort, to see each other, to work together, to create something new, which I think is really fun.”

Rite of Passage’s future goal is mainly to play more shows and start recording their own music. They admit it may be a generic goal and that they are not completely sure on the order, but relish the opportunity to play together as friends. As for the immediate future, they have been in talks with clubs and restaurants in the Waltham and Newburyport, MA, areas and can be found online at @riteofpassageband on Instagram.