Live Music Magic: An Interview with Sheryl’s Lips

Paige Graf
Contributing Writer

When you think of music at a frat party, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Yes, we all love some bumping bass to get down to, but at Sewanee, the answer to this question isn’t always what you’d expect. The music scene goes far beyond a good Spotify playlist. Live music takes the place of a DJ at many events. Student bands are an integral part of Sewanee magic on a night out. One of the bands at the forefront of the live music scene is none other than Sheryl’s Lips. 

A five guy band, Sheryl’s Lips is made up of Ian Atwater (C’23) on piano/guitar, Tripp Chinn (C’22) on drums, Bo Edwards (C’24) on bass, JoJo Fogarty (C’23) on guitar, and Ryan Wax (C’22) on vocals and guitar. 

When asked about the history of the band, even before the creation of Sheryl’s Lips, it went back to a group called “Dirty Mike and the Boys” which included Chinn and Wax. Post Dirty Mike group, Sheryl’s Lips was formed in 2020 through what Wax called, “COVID boredom.” Let’s face it, everyone picked up some kind of hobby during COVID to get through, and for Sheryl’s Lips, it was jamming together in the old ATO Chapter Room. The group started by opening for the former student band “Bloody Mary Situation,” and after that they took off.

The band rose in popularity pretty quickly. They cultivated a sound and a stage presence that always seemed to bring the right vibe to a party. If you’ve seen Sheryl’s Lips live, you probably know what I’m talking about. They genuinely look like they’re having a good time up there, and they interact with the audience well. Atwater and Fogarty further described that feeling of seeing everyone, “smiling and yelling at a concert” and “feeling the energy” saying that’s what makes their performances so fun. 

All the guys come from various musical upbringings, and Fogarty  described their vibe as a “hodgepodge of all of our different backgrounds and interests and tastes in music that sometimes sounds really cool.” Their sound skillfully comes together as their own from this blend of influences. 

When asked more about their original music, the band described it as a hard-rock heavy sound mixed with gentle indie, using words like loud, ambiance, and energetic, with a touch of psychedelia. The band is currently working on a five song EP. They went to Nashville a month ago where they recorded in the historic Columbia Studio A. They also credit Sewanee alum and Plateau Records owner Peter Keeble as a great support in finding their own sound.

Although the band’s first priority is finishing their EP, the members still plan on performing at Sewanee. They have gigs lined up for the year, and are planning to play soon. Performing at Sewanee parties is something special, and during our conversation the guys reminisced on their show at DKE and opening for Flipturn. Chinn describes some of his memories seeing live music at Sewanee, even back to Dirty Mike and the Boys in the beer garden at ATO, as “core memories” and something so cool; it’s “Sewanee personified.” It’s true that the music scene here is magic, and it makes going out on a Friday night even more special. Live music can be exciting, romantic, nostalgic, but most definitely memorable for Sewanee students. 

Wax, now an alum and living in New York City, even goes on to say that people don’t always know much about Sewanee in New York, but they’ll often say, “‘Oh I’ve heard of that place, I heard the band scene is crazy there.’” Wax said, “it’s just cool that Sewanee has that reputation in a city across the nation.” If legends of Sewanee have made it to New York, then we have something to hold onto here. 

Finally, I questioned the band a little bit about challenges they’ve faced. It seems like every band has drama, and I wanted to find out what conflicts they’ve dealt with. However it seems like this band is drama-free, and I’m not surprised based on their stage presence and collaborative talent. The guys are friends outside of their group, and they genuinely enjoy hanging out with each other. They say they all have a blast playing, even in long hour practices, and this adds to why they have so much energy because they genuinely like being together. Wax says that his time with the band was “the best of years playing and jamming and goofing around.” It’s clear that a band built on friendship, sincerity, and fun is bound to be a successful one. Sheryl’s Lips is an undoubtedly talented group of musicians. I’m excited to hear their new EP, watch them play more on campus, and see where they go in the future.