Fischli’s Animals Rock Out at Scripps

By Katie Hanson ’25

Fischli's Animals perform at The Claremont Colleges

Among students who aren’t majoring or taking classes in music, singing or playing guitar can feel like an extracurricular activity compared to writing an essay or preparing for a class discussion. But a fall 2021 Core III course on the history of Los Angeles rock and roll, taught by Professor of Music and Bessie and Cecil Chair in Music Hao Huang, allowed art history and humanities major Tali Maximon ’24 and Eleanor Henderson ’24, a dual major in philosophy and media studies, to flex their live performance chops.

Under the guidance of Huang, Maximon and Henderson created a band for their final class presentation. Janey Matejka ’24, a guitarist, is a friend of Maximon, while Lauren McAllister ’24 offered to play drums in response to a GroupMe message sent to the Scripps Class of ’24 group chat. After performing a punk rendition of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” for Maximon and Henderson’s class, the group decided to keep jamming.

“We thought we would play this one show for the Core class and then be done,” says Matejka, a psychology major. “That was the first time I had really played guitar for other people, so it was really nerve-wracking. But as we’ve gone on, each show has gotten more comfortable. We can have more fun doing it and let loose a little bit.”

Maximon and Henderson recruited more members along the way, including Pomona students Jordan James ’24, Ben Schneider ’24, and Becky Zhang ’23 (who is filling in as the lead vocalist for Henderson while she studies abroad), and Scripps student Mita Kongetira ’24. Together, they decided to name their band “Fischli’s Animals,” a nod to an animal sculpture created by artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss.

As the band evolved, their sound followed suit. With Henderson as lead singer, Fischli’s Animals focused on a pop punk sound, covering bands like Paramore. Now the band has taken on an alternative indie sound with Zhang at the helm, covering artists like Mitski and Phoebe Bridgers. Experimenting with their sound is one of the many ways Fischli’s Animals exercise their creativity.

“I’m interested in art, so I think it’s fun to have a creative outlet of my own,” says Maximon. “I think that playing music is a really good way to blow off steam or to focus on something fun.”

Even though the band serves as a creative outlet for many of the members, their schedule is far from relaxed. Prior to Thanksgiving, they had a show every weekend for three weekends in a row. When they don’t have upcoming performances, the band practices two to three times a week—and sometimes more—in Pomona’s music room.

While the group is enthusiastic about the equipment and resources at Pomona, they’re excited to play in Scripps’ new music room, currently being assembled in Vita Nova. With their Scripps roots and majority-Scripps members, Fischli’s Animals are ready to rock out on their home turf.

McAllister, a biology major, began developing Scripps’ band room as a student employee for the Humanities Institute with support from her Core professor, Director of the Humanities Institute Martha Gonzalez. McAllister said that Gonzalez, the Grammy Award-winning lead singer of Quetzal and a recent MacArthur Fellowship recipient, empowers her to direct the project and understand student needs concerning the band room. The pair received funding to outfit the room from the Intercollegiate Department of Chicana/o Latina/o Studies, the Hive’s Student Creativity Grant and Scripps Associated Students, with McAllister acquiring a drum set, public address (PA) system speaker, microphone, and amplifiers. Once the room is complete, she plans to lead open mic nights, community songwriting events, and jam sessions.

“It would be really nice to finally have a music space that’s actually our own at Scripps,” McAllister says.

For now, Fischli’s Animals is focused on strengthening their performing skills, trying out new songs and considering writing their own music. With each development, they refer to their strong community and musical chemistry as a basis for their growth. Matejka said that while they’re excited for upcoming performances, the part they enjoy most is creating music together.

“At the end of the day, the reason we put this band together was for ourselves,” Matejka says. “We’re here to learn and get better at our instruments and have fun doing it. So being able to get up on stage and actually have fun being there is the thing that we’re still learning, but it’s definitely getting better with each show.”