Suit Up, Soldier band gains popularity

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Suit Up, Soldier’s band members Dan Ankenman, Wesley Monahan, Gavin McMahan, Josh Cooper, and Alessandro Improta perform at Provo’s Rock Canyon Park on Sept. 13. (Hannah Miner)

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This routine, get-to-know-you question caught a young high school junior off guard. Wesley Monahan replied with an answer even he wasn’t expecting.

“I want to sing in a rock band,” he said.

The class laughed.

He laughed.

Years later on Sept. 13, the crowd cheered:

“Encore! Encore!”

Monahan and his bandmates had just finished their performance at Rock Canyon Park. Dozens of couples sat huddled on blankets — some with young children and others with dogs running around. There had already been two hours of group performances and his indie band, Suit up, Soldier, was the final group. 

Suit Up, Soldier released two new singles this year: “Tongue Tied Twisted” and “Rivers and Cities.” “Tongue Tied Twisted” is a rewrite of a song that was first released in the band’s first album, “Lost You,” in 2018. Monahan described the song as simple compared to the other songs he wrote. He said it’s based off the simple chord structure reflected in Paper Route’s song “You and I.”

“It was nice to write a song based off of a model of a simple chord structure that still was so creatively and emotionally inspiring to me,” Monahan said. “I used that chord structure and sped it up. … Once I had sped it up, it just kind of felt like a dance.”

“Rivers and Cities” was another single that, since earlier this year, has received more popularity. 

Though Monahan is fulfilling the dream he had in high school, that doesn’t mean he is immune to the challenges it brings. He not only has to juggle work and music but also being a father.

Wesley Monahan, singer and songwriter for Suit Up, Soldier sings at Concert in the Canyon. (Hannah Miner)

“I salute anyone that pursues the venture of raising children and especially those who are musicians,” Monahan said as his daughter Nora fidgeted on the couch. He talked about how his family is his support system.

Monahan credited his wife for the support she has given him and the care she gives to their daughter while he’s busy.

Though he has been the backbone of the band since the beginning, not all of the members decided to stay. According to Monahan, the band has seen around 13 members come and go. At one point, there were only two members: Monahan and Josh Cooper, the band’s current keys player and a student at BYU.

When the band started to gain popularity and become busier, Jake Yorgason, the band’s former bassist and a founding member of Concert in the Canyon, said it became too much of a time commitment, so he decided to leave. He said being in the band was too much of a time commitment when paired with being a college student and full-time work.

Yorgason offered a word of advice to those who want to follow their passion for music:

“You’ve just got to prioritize it. If it’s something you want to maintain, make it a priority,” he said.

Despite seeing members come and go, the band stands strong. They are continuing to release new songs and perform at various venues.

Cooper is also facing a lot of responsibility. Every day, he works to balance his work in the band, computer science studies and his programming job at the Harold B. Lee Library. 

He talked about how work and band events occasionally overlap in his busy schedule and said he often has to get time off from work in order to spend the afternoon setting up for shows in the evening.

Although he has a busy schedule, Cooper said he is still passionate about music. He even expressed interest in helping the band more when the semester ends. As a computer science major, he has ideas for how he can contribute to the band by doing things like programming synthesizers.

Although the band members have changed over the years, members such as Monahan and Cooper continue to set goals and welcome new musicians.

On making and achieving goals, Monahan said, “I would say to anyone who’s pursuing a dream, you gotta find yourself and work hard to put in a lot more work than you were probably expecting to put into a nine to five,” he said.

Rock Canyon Park continued to fill with chanting from the audience:

“Encore! Encore!”

“Do you guys want, like, sultry or a little more dancy?” Monahan said.

“Dancy!”

He turned to his band. “They want dancy.”

With a tap of the drum and a stroke of a chord, Suit Up, Soldier once again began to play.

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