Local alternative rock band One Fret High perseveres through COVID-19

By Lane Phifer, Pittsburg High School - KS

For some people, music is a hobby, for others it’s an experience. But for the members of the local band One Fret High (OFH) — it’s a lifestyle. 

Lead singer, lyricist Ari St. Claire and drummer, lyricist Will Donnivan, known off stage as Colton “Donny” Donaldson, spent a majority of their childhood listening to music and knew early on that they wanted to create their own. 

“Music is everything to me. Music is both what gets me going and what calms me down. Creating music is how I express my genuine emotions and how I explain my life to others,” Claire said. “Music is both a career and a hobby, but it’s also so much more than that. I do it because I don’t see a future where that isn’t something I do.”

The band was created on May 1, 2019 by Donnivan and previous lead guitarist and current manager Xander Dye, in hopes of being able to create and produce their own original work.  

Within the past two years, the band has gained members such as rhythm guitarist Colton Stacy, bass player Andrew Turner, and lead guitarist Gaelig, known off stage as Gibson “Gibby” Bates. 

However, the name of the band wasn’t determined until January of 2020, shortly after Stacy joined.  

Prior to One Fret High, the band went through names such as “Born Victim” and “Kill Switch Overdrive.” 

“We found the name for the band one night at rehearsal. It was Donny, Xander and I, Xander was strumming on his guitar and he quickly caught himself and said, ‘Dang it, I was one fret high,’” Stacy said. “Then the guys and I looked at eachother and once we heard it, it was like we couldn’t unhear it. It just fit.”

With a name being set in stone, the band decided that aside from rehearsing songs from Green Day, Blink-182, Nirvana and more, the band would begin writing their own music. 

Main lyricists are Claire, Donnivan and Stacy. One of the first few songs OFH wrote and produced is called “Siren’s Call,” which has more than 1,000 streams on Spotify. 

“The song is about falling into temptation and doing something wrong when you know what’s right. ‘I hear the sirens call tempting me, leading me far away from this place, but don’t follow. It’s the siren’s call,’” Donnivan said. “It talks a lot about this voice that a lot of us have in our heads and trying to overcome that.”

According to Donnivan, he hopes that by creating their own music, someone can relate to what they produce. 

“Being able to play one of our songs on stage and having somebody in the crowd understand what we’re talking about is what’s in it for me at the end of the day,” Donnivan said. “It’s not about the money or the fame, it’s about having somebody understand where you’re coming from with your music and being able to relate and to have those soulful connections.”

With having seven original songs and eight official covers, OFH has been able to perform live throughout their community. 

“Being able to perform live is like nothing else I, or really any of the band members, have ever experienced,” Claire said. “I remember how, after our first show, someone had asked us to autograph a copy of our set list for that evening and being able to see the support we had in the crowd and within our community is something we’re grateful for.”

However, as a result of COVID-19, OFH has faced a multitude of challenges. From only being able to rehearse once a week and limited performing spaces, they’ve found other ways to interact with their audience through social media and streaming platforms. 

According to Donnivan, the band has had 14 streams from California on Spotify within the past two weeks.

Through creating music, self taught band members like Bates has been able to increase his skillset and challenge himself. 

“Being in this band impacted me by not being afraid to show my wild side a little bit and to just have fun without the care or worry of other people’s judgments,” Bates said. “What I like most about being able to interact with music is being able to feel and cherish the time you play and create new ideas with new people or even by yourself, with music or anything really, you can never stop learning.”

The band hopes that by producing their own work, they can inspire someone else to do the same. 

“We hope that someone can not only relate to our music, but be inspired by it to create their own. If you want to join a band or explore music, do it for no other reason than yourself,” Donnivan said. “For me, this is what makes me happy and it’s a part of my life that I never want to forget.”

This story was originally published on The Booster Redux on April 18, 2021.