From open mics to EP: The evolution of The Intrusion

The band plays at The Gold Bar in Grafton, Illinois, in October 2020. What started as a single gig turned into a bigger opportunity for the band; the bar’s management was so impressed they booked them five more times in a single week.

Shortly after being voted out of his own band, Joe Whiteside got a text asking if he wanted to start another. The text was from Preston Schepers, a then-junior at Alton High School who saw Whiteside’s departure as his chance to fulfill a lifelong goal. 

“I’ve been wanting to be in a band for all my life,” Preston said. “So I looked around the local musicians around the high school, and then I found Joe Whiteside … me and him, we jammed one day and we just connected, and then we just started going from there.”

Whiteside said he knew after this jam session that he and Preston were onto something. 

“We got to know each other, Preston and I, and we jammed for a while, and we said ‘We’ve got to get more people in on this,’” Whiteside said. 

Whiteside recruited one of his former bandmates as a bassist, sophomore jazz performance major Jacob Pullen, of Alton, Illinois, by calling him on short notice.

“He had given me a call about a week or so before a show, and he goes ‘Hey … do you want to learn an hour and a half of music in however many days?’ … and I was like ‘Okay, sure,’” Pullen said.

Ashton Schepers, whose brother was already in the band, became the group’s rhythm guitarist about a year ago. The dual dynamic of being brothers and bandmates is not lost on Ashton. 

“It can be some hard times because of arguing, because brothers argue,” Ashton said. “But then there can be some good times, like after the gigs, we’re fine with each other.”

A band was officially born — but like any newborn, it needed a name, and like many names, “The Intrusion” pays homage to its predecessors. 

“Preston’s grandfather was in a band back in the ‘60s called The Intruders, and they were popular in the St. Louis area, and so he wanted to do kind of a callback to them, and we came up with The Intrusion,” Whiteside said. “And I’ll be honest, I hated the name at first, but it’s kind of grown on me, you know?”

With members selected and a name decided, it was time to define the sound of The Intrusion, a process still ongoing as the group’s individual influences range widely. 

“We play an interesting brand of indie rock. Our influences range from Led Zeppelin to Billie Eilish. We all kind of bring our own influences into the mix,” Whiteside said. “Me personally, my guitar playing is influenced a lot by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and … my singing is mostly inspired from acts like Tears for Fears … like Rick Astley, I love Rick Astley.” 

Preston said his influences amount to a sort of historical rock music timeline. 

“I’m the drummer, so I listen to almost everything from the old ‘60s rock to the new rock [of] today,” Preston said. “Where I found my sound is from the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, all that classic rock … just trying to bring [those] old rock vibes back into the scene.”

While Pullen’s inspirations vary widely, he said he doesn’t try to emulate anyone but himself. 

“I listen to a bunch of progressive rock, I’ll listen to Yes and Genesis, stuff like that, and then also, I guess I have to listen to a lot of jazz,” Pullen said. “I just kind of play how I naturally play.”

Ashton said one of his strongest influences was his father’s taste in music.

“When I got started, I was big into Led Zeppelin and everything because my dad listened to it too,” Ashton said.

Family ties would prove to be a running theme throughout the band as the Schepers’ uncle, Mark Rice, got involved after listening in on a practice session.   

“One day my nephew calls up, Preston, he says ‘Uncle Mark, I started a band.’ I’m like, ‘Really? Alright, cool,’ and he says ‘You need to come check us out,” Rice said. “About a week later … I stopped by there and they were having practice, so I stopped in and I was pretty amazed because they were playing old school rock and roll.”

Rice was so impressed, he noticed the band’s lack of sound equipment and offered to be their sound man, equipment included. The Intrusion now had everything they needed to start performing, which they did almost anywhere they could.

“Our first shows were just local music festivals,” Whiteside said. “Stuff like BushFest and Trinity River [Festival], those were things that I had played in previously … people would see us, but we didn’t have any more contact other than that.”

While these gigs held the band over for some time, according to Whiteside, things started to pick up after Rice began managing more than just their sound equipment. 

“Our drummer’s uncle, Mark Rice, stepped in and offered to manage us, and he’s been playing music all his life ... he knows a bunch of people,” Whiteside said. “In the span of just a few months ... we went from open mic nights to some spots at bars, and then we got into Grafton eventually, and we played at this one place ... The Gold Bar, down on their patio, and ... the crowd loved us.” 

Rice said The Gold Bar’s management was also impressed. 

“They liked us so much, they booked us five more bookings within a week,” Rice said. “And then it kind of just snowballed because they were really liked and really wanted, and so for us, it’s been actually a good year as far as The Intrusion.” 

This steady increase in gig prominence culminated in a show at Red Flag in St. Louis last December, which Whiteside said was unique for the band in several ways. 

“It was really eye opening to me, who had only ever played in bars, to see what playing in a club was like,” Whiteside said. “For one, people were watching us, they were paying attention to us instead of going ‘Oh, those guys are cool. I’m going to get another beer.’ It was a concert, versus a gig. And the people there, they bought tickets, is another thing … it wasn’t ‘I went to the bar and there was this cool band here,’ it was ‘I’m going to see this band,’ and we never had that before.”

After spending so much time on the road and stage, Whiteside said the band wanted to try recording in a studio. 

“Because we were gigging so often, we never really had a chance to sit down and write, but we really wanted to make a recording,” Whiteside said. “Mark got in contact with one of his friends who owns a studio … he said I’ll record your songs, so get 4 or 5 songs that you want to do, we’ll make it into an EP.”

While Preston said he prefers to play live, he also enjoyed the studio process.

“Playing live is always fun, I think that’s probably my favorite, but going into the studio was a different experience,” Preston said. “You had to be on top of your A-game … even though it was our first time going into the studio … it’s fun to see how everything builds up into a song and everything.”

Whiteside said he preferred live performance to studio recording for a few reasons. 

“I prefer performing live because if you mess up, it’s not as big a deal,” Whiteside said. “I don’t have to focus on my vocals as much — I probably should, but recording and listening to yourself playing and singing over and over … I love to do it, but it’s tedious.”

Pullen said his experience in the studio inspired him to get creative. 

“At first, I thought I was going to like performing more ... but then I started getting into the studio and … the gears just started turning, I was like ‘I have complete freedom over this. It’s like we can do whatever we want in here.’”

The results of this studio time vary widely in both sound and subject matter, according to Whiteside. 

“The sound ranges … There’s music on there that you can vibe to, music that you can cry to, music that you can bang your head and get mad at ‘the man’ to … there’s also music you can laugh to,” Whiteside said. “The overarching theme is us and how we relate to other people, whether it’s people in our families, such as on the title track ‘Everything’ that’s about a strained family relationship … there’s a track called ‘Television’ which is about how people change when they’re engrossed in things like social media and watching movies and TV and all these expectations … and just how that can damage a person.”

These themes suggest that throughout the band’s time together — on the road, stage and studio — many lessons were learned along the way. Whiteside said that between his last band and The Intrusion, he learned to let others have the spotlight. 

“I have a major ego, but I’m also incredibly aware of it, and I’m constantly trying to make sure that doesn’t get in the way of anything,” Whiteside said. “The last band I was in, we were fairly dysfunctional at times … I started The Intrusion with the intention of fixing all of the problems that I had in my last band, which, a lot of them included fixing my own ways of thinking and conducting myself.”

Preston said he’s learned how far honesty can go in strengthening the group’s bond.

“Just [be] true and honest with everyone,” Preston said. “Don’t try to go over anyone’s back or lie, just tell the truth and we’ll be tighter as a team.”

While Rice has been instrumental in getting the band to this point, like any good manager, he has big plans for the future.

“I want to take these boys as far as I can,” Rice said. “One of my goals is to get them on a tour and start hitting some of these big cities one of these days, make a big tour of it and get these guys well-known.”

The Intrusion’s debut EP, “Everything,” will come out this spring; while no official release date has been set, fans should stay tuned to the band’s Facebook and Instagram pages for updates.

                  

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