The Six of Spades are all in

June 25, 2024, 10:31 p.m.

The musicians had been trying to find a time to rehearse for the past couple days. It was Family Weekend 2023, and along with problem sets and readings to plow through, many of them had parents and relatives to schedule around too. But all were determined to make it work, even if that meant gathering on a rainy Sunday in late February.

Six of Spades was scheduled to play its first ever show within two weeks. These six frosh, who weren’t a band a month earlier, and who had rehearsed together just once before, were ready to get down to business.

In due time, that is. 

Hey got a late start this morning, Kai Charp ’26 texted his new bandmates at 11:46 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26. Gotta bring over all my equipment – does anyone know what I need to bring? I have a keyboard/amp and mics

Yeah if you wanna bring the keyboard bring it otherwise theres a piano, replied Ty Hosein ’26, the lead singer. 

Emiyare Ikwut-Ukwa ’26, their bassist, said that he was running late: Just woke up. Btw i will be late

Kai seconded: yeah gunna be late too we got an extra hour tho so should be good

Yeah no worries im gonna go down and eat lunch if thats the case and we can start in half hourish, Ty responded.

Drummer Sid Yu ’26 announced that he too was behind schedule: I’m gonna be late as well 🙂

Kai, the band’s pianist, walked into Braun Music Hall around 1 p.m. lugging an amplifier. Jules Jackson ’26, the guitarist, carried an electric guitar he had borrowed from a friend. They greeted Ty, who was already there setting up equipment, and were soon joined by Sid, Emiyare and trombone player Andrew Zhang ’26. 

The band spent the next four hours going over Kai’s arrangements of cover songs: Mark Ronson’s “Valerie,” Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part” and more. But mostly they hung out, getting to know each other’s sense of humor as much as each other’s style of music. Practice ended with a 10-minute rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” extended with multiple solos and improvisations by each member. 

Other than Jules and Ty, all are trained in jazz, which helped create the jazz-pop fusion sound they are now known for. But other factors were not in their favor: prior to their debut show at CoHo, Ty had performed live only once. And of the six, none entered Stanford with the intention of pursuing music, at least not on the performing side. 

The band got its start on a text chain. Just before 11 p.m. on Feb. 9, 2023, Kai sent out this proposition: Hey guys — thinking of starting a cover band! We could gig around campus and play parties (maybe open for some bigger musicians if we get in touch w the concert network). It would be covers of tunes and some originals! All really fun stuff. You down?

A string of yesses appeared quickly. Many of the members already knew each other, or knew of each other, and playing as a unit came quickly. Kai and Ty decided on the band’s name before their first practice, and Ty even sketched out what their logo would be: a figure 6 inside of a spade shape. 

Five of the members of Six of Spades pose for photo onstage at CoHo, holding up a spade symbol.
Five members of Six of Spades pose for a photo during their first ever set at CoHo. (Photo courtesy of Six of Spades)

Between their first gig — with a setlist of jazz-inspired covers of older pop songs — and now, Six of Spades has made huge strides. This summer, the band plans to independently release a 7-track album of original songs, all co-written by Kai and Ty. They released their first original single, “Take!,” in early November 2023, followed by a cover of Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part” in early March this year. 

Both releases helped expand their brand and popularity, but it was their social media presence that made them take off. At the end of fall quarter 2023, their Instagram account had 10,000 followers; it now has over 75,000. Their social media popularity led Indify, a platform that connects investors to independent artists, to reach out. 

Indify uses proprietary data to identify potential talent in need of financial and marketing support. They are known for being among the first to feature Khalid, Billie Eilish and Post Malone when they were upcoming artists. The platform collects a certain percentage of the money that the artists make off of streams until they break even, at which point the rest of the money goes directly to the artist. 

“It was pretty wild, especially when we realized that the platform was exclusive, like you can’t reach out to them, so you really have to be discovered by these people,” Ty recalled. “It just felt good to be recognized.”

ON STAGE

Today, with dozens of performances behind him, Ty has developed into a natural front man. He begins every show by hyping up the crowd, yelling for friends and fans to get on their feet and rush to the front of the stage. He is often dressed in a tank top and loose fitting jeans, comfortable but classy. 

This style is reflected throughout each of the band members: solid colors with a pop of color here and there that draws the eye whenever the focus is on them. Each has their own flare too though: Emiyare likes to match colors, wearing the same shade jacket and shoes. Jules is more “hippy,” Kai said, with funky graphic-tees and colorful pants. 

Kai describes their performance style as very genuine, representing each person as they are in real life. On stage, he is usually set up at his keyboard on the far left or right, rarely not smiling. Whenever a bandmate solos, his face takes on a “can-you-believe-this?” expression. 

They most recently performed at “Spade Rave,” an annual event they organize for Admitted Students Weekend in April. This year, they invited Peach Fuzz and The Move, two other student bands, to join them in entertaining prospective frosh (ProFros). 

Six of Spades arrived at Casper Quad around 3 p.m. on the day of the event, even though they weren’t scheduled to perform until 11 p.m. (though in classic Spade timing, they went on late). 

But where else would they want to be on a Friday afternoon? The band is as much a social group as it is a musical undertaking, and setting up the event basically consisted of hanging out and playing music with friends. It was one of the first warm afternoons of spring quarter and many passer-bys lingered to listen to parts of a song that was being rehearsed.

Members of the other bands were there too, and before long it became a musical mash-up — the musicians even swapped instruments, which came naturally to Six of Spades members as each member can pretty much play every other instrument in the band. 

Members from Six of Spades, Peach Fuzz and The Move set up for Spade Rave in Casper Quad.
Members from Six of Spades, Peach Fuzz and The Move set up for Spade Rave in Casper Quad. (Photo: GRETA REICH/The Stanford Daily)

At one point, Ty sang “Just The Two Of Us” by Bill Withers and Grover Washington with the pianist from The Move, Haohan Wu ’27, and Emiyare on bass, while the lead singer of Peach Fuzz, Tamish Pulappadi ’26, was live mixing.

“Wait, wait, wait — make it reggae,” Ty said with a curious expression on his face. Without a hesitation, the beat got groovier, each person moving to the new rhythm. 

Then Tamish took the microphone and Ty switched to playing the piano, practicing Bill Withers’s “Lean on Me.” Members who weren’t playing were setting up lights and sticking six of spades cards to trees and poles around the quad. (Each Spade member also carries a six of spades card in the back of their phone case.)

This collaboration between bands is something the Spades tries to foster. During spring quarter, along with other bands, they took part in the creation of a voluntary student organization (VSO) with the goal of giving student bands more power in requesting compensation for performing.

They demonstrated this band solidarity at Crochella, which they headlined just five days before Spade Rave. Near the end of their set, Ty invited each of the nine bands who had played before them to join the Spades on stage to sing “Yellow” by Coldplay. As the song was ending, he yelled to the crowd, “Musicians deserve pay and recognition!” 

Spade Rave wasn’t organized for financial reasons though, as Ty was sure to mention. It was more of an excuse to perform and to show ProFros what fun at Stanford could look like. 

And as far as anyone watching could tell, the ProFros had fun. By the time Six of Spades closed the set, there were over 100 audience members, many wearing glow sticks on their heads and wrists, bouncing along to the songs. 

At the end of their set, many ProFros came up to the bands to take pictures and follow them on Instagram. Some even asked Six of Spades for autographs. 

ProFros gather around Casper Quad as Six of Spades perform at Spade Rave.
ProFros gather around Casper Quad as Six of Spades performs at Spade Rave. (Photo: GRETA REICH/The Stanford Daily)

ON THE ALBUM

During each performance, Six of Spades performs one or two of their original unreleased songs from the album. While the crowd favorites tend to be the cover songs that they know all the words to, the band wants to generate excitement for their album with the original songs. 

Ray Obiedo is producing the album. He is a friend of Kai’s piano teacher from Berkeley — where Kai grew up — and a well-known producer who has worked with West Coast jazz giants like Herbie Hancock and Tower of Power. 

In contrast to many of the band’s cover songs, the album is a bit more soul-folk than jazz-pop, taking inspiration from Bob Dylan’s style of songwriting. Rather than classic love songs, Ty described this album as “songs about love in different ways,” speaking to both romance and generational issues.

Putting together an album requires more work than the six members have the capacity for though, so at the beginning of spring quarter, they recruited some of their friends to help out with the business-end of things. 

And it’s clear that they could use some gentle pushing from someone outside of the band to manage their time. At a rehearsal scheduled for 9 p.m. in Braun on a Thursday night in early May, the band did not step foot into their practice room until about 10:15. They didn’t start playing music until 11:30.

Ty had arrived late because a meeting for another club ran over. Kai was in the building but was practicing piano on his own. The others had a variety of class assignments to focus on too — their majors range from human biology to business to computer science (because it wouldn’t be a Stanford band without at least one of those).

Once they were all at Braun — minus Emiyare who was camping with friends — they settled in a tiny practice room on the second floor of Braun Music Hall. Bright fluorescent lighting and the very close quarters made the room slightly too warm for comfort. 

Kai sat at the piano, Sid behind the drums, Ty on top of a speaker, Jules and Andrew held their instruments on chairs and Dina Hashash ’26 — a friend who helps with their photography and social media — on a high top placed precariously in front of the door.

“This is just something that’s so integral to my well-being at this point that it’s not a sacrifice, it’s just something that I do sometimes instead of school,” Ty said from his perch, referring to how he balances commitment to the band with academics. 

The others nodded in agreement and Sid jumped in.

“What makes it special is that this type of band is really unique to, like, any college. It’s not just unique to Stanford, it’s unique to any college band. We’re trying to have an album, trying to get into the music industry,” he said. “I didn’t do the research, but I feel like that’s kind of rare.”

“You didn’t?” Ty responded in a mockingly incredulous tone. 

“We’re doing it because it’s what we want to do,” Andrew added. “Because we’re pursuing a passion and people here see that and they’re also really fucking cracked at whatever they’re doing, so they’re willing to help us in whatever way they can.” 

“I mean like, we have fucking Dina,” he said to more head nods and agreement in the room. “She’s so insane. She films shows for Netflix.”

Dina, a friend of Ty’s and photographer for Six of Spades since their inception, is a sophomore studying computer science. She has worked with Netflix as a computer graphics generalist and research intern. 

She works with Kai’s girlfriend, Vivien He ’26, to edit social media videos. 

This year, they enlisted three more people: Ty’s girlfriend, Miranda Johnson ’26, and two mutual friends, Lily Kerner ’26 and Claire Dean ’26.

The purpose of that rehearsal was partially to go over new management. 

“I think it’s very important that we respect the people that we’re gonna be working with,” Ty said to the room about an hour in. 

“It’s important to kind of have a relationship with all of them that’s kind of, you know, ‘Even though I’m friends with you, I will not fuck with your deadline, I will not fuck with this time that I need to be at this certain thing,’ he said. “Because they’re gonna be serious, especially Lily. Lily’s intense, and that’s just kind of in her nature.”

At that line, noises of agreement resounded in the room. Dina smiled a bit and jumped in. 

“Along those lines, everything that we do is not to overstep, obviously not to attack anything personal,” she said, perking up in her chair. “It’s just purely, like, we’re speaking in the interest of having you guys do the best that you can in the market. And then you guys speak up for yourselves as well and we won’t take it personally either. We just wanna build the understanding from the beginning that no one has any animosity toward one another.”

“No, no, the way that Claire was talking about me earlier…” Jules interrupted, with laughter from all of the members. “She was out to get me.” 

They continued working through various agenda items like potential social media posts and songs they needed to practice. They also talked about love lives and professors, occasionally playing an instrument idly.

“Forewarning, I am forcing you guys to do a fit check,” Dina said, bringing the conversation back to business.

Immediately someone said, “No.”

“Yes,” Dina responded. 

“Like, clothes?” someone else clarified, making the others crack up. 

“No, like a physique-check,” Ty joked, striking poses to exemplify. 

“Just be aware of that, I will also text you guys tomorrow morning as a reminder, but be fitted!” Dina said. 

“Actually, there’s something Vivien has always wanted me to say… try to wear colorful clothes, if you can,” Kai jumped in.

“Not part of my palette,” Andrew said. He was wearing a neutral brown shirt and gray pants.

“Or at least a fit that has some kind of dynamism to it, because when she’s color grading, things get really flat really fast, especially if we’re wearing these, like, grays and blues,” Kai continued, pointing to Ty’s outfit of dark blue and black. The only thing that gave his outfit a bit of a sparkle was the necklace with a spade on it, which each member of the band had.

Ty looked hurt. “That was really cold when you pointed at me! Put that in the article!”

ON WHAT’S NEXT

Stanford is not known for producing popular musicians. Tech tycoons and business billionaires, sure, but rock stars? The one who comes to mind is Sameer Gadhia, lead singer of Young the Giant, who dropped out in 2004. 

Sid can also name Chris Beachy ’13, the singer in the band Sure Sure, and Jack Conte ’06, a member of the duo Pomplamoose (who also founded Patreon). But three in the past two decades is not much, and none of them were six-person bands.

It makes sense — people don’t come to this school for the music scene. But Six of Spades is hoping to have both music and academics. 

The band is shooting high with their album. If it does as well as they want it to this summer, they might even plan a tour. But a lot of things have to go right before that happens, and they only have so much time together in the near future.

Jules is planning to go abroad this fall, and Emiyare in the spring. So they’re using the last of the time they all have together with efficiency. 

Dina planned a couple days in late May for a full band photoshoot and to record reels to post over the summer. Many members have also been driving up to Ray’s home studio in Berkeley to finish recording their parts for the album. 

They also have final exams and papers to be completed too. 

But as they say, doing things for the band is what they usually want to be doing anyways. 

“Kai always uses the term ‘pit of passion,’ like always, he’s always fucking saying that,” Ty joked during that same rehearsal from early May, getting a laugh out of Kai. “But that really is what it is.”

Greta Reich '26 is the vol. 265 co-Magazine editor, University desk editor for News, staff writer and copy editor for The Daily. She is studying Political Science and Communication and can almost always be found at CoHo. Contact her at greich 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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