Photo by Lauren Caravan.
Purple and orange lights darted between the audience and the empty stage as techno music vibrated against the dark, peeling walls. The crowd eagerly rocked back and forth in their Converse, Docs and Vans, waiting to catch a glimpse of their new favorite band. The beats bolstered anticipation until finally, the five college kids pulled back the curtain and took the stage to raucous applause.
Not many college bands can say their fan bases stretch beyond their campus. In 2021, rock fusion group Seeing Double was started as a passion project to confront pandemic boredom. By the following year, the three songs the group released garnered millions of streams on Apple Music and Spotify. The unexpected fame kicked the band’s summer into high gear as they scrambled to book a mini tour, shocked by the overwhelming response to their music.
“When we got news that we were playing on a radio station in London, I think that’s when I kind of knew this was really gonna go somewhere,” said Zach Torncello, the drummer for the band.
Mercury Lounge is a small club venue tucked in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The stage was just big enough to fit the five-member band. After a brief pause to glance at the crowd, the band abruptly counted into their first song as if becoming charged by the electric energy of the room.
The venue shook with each cymbal strike of their newly released satirical dance hit, “Take It Or Leave It.” The lyrics serve as a relatable punchy reply to an enemy or hater.
Take it or leave it
My pretty little gift to you
You’ve got an answer
For every little thing I do
When you cry you sharpen my knife,
I’m not cutting slack
The band was visibly floored to see that the crowd knew every word to their latest release. Seeing Double materialized from the vision of lead singer and bassist Allie Sandt. She began searching for band members when the pandemic deterred students from moving back to her campus at SUNY Oneonta. Sandt met fellow members, guitarist Mike Aaron, backup vocalist and percussionist Ali McQueeney, drummer Dylan Travison and guitarist Zach Torncello on campus. All musicians but McQueeney are studying music at the state school.
The group started off playing gigs at their local bar Oneonta Armory, rotating stage time with fellow Oneonta bands there and venues around town.
“It’s a really supportive community. All of us are friends and we all hang out,” said guitarist Mike Aaron.
It wasn’t long until the ‘70s-inspired hit “Leah” blew up on TikTok. Thousands of people began using the song in their videos, placing the band on the map. In just two months, “Leah” and another song of theirs, “Don’t Wait,” received over 1 million streams on Spotify.
“We would show up in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, and there were people there that knew ‘Leah.’ It was just crazy,” said Aaron.
However, booking venues outside of Oneonta wasn’t easy. Aaron recalls the booking process for their summer as a really stressful time. Most issues stemmed from the fact that some venues are 21+, an age the band members weren’t at the time.
“I think I emailed maybe upwards of like 100 venues along the east coast — starting up in Maine and ending in Maryland — and maybe out of 100 you only hear back from 20,” he said.
Despite the road bumps, the band hit the road, making stops in major cities including Syracuse, Philadelphia and New York. They ended their tour with a sold-out show at New York City’s oldest rock club, The Bitter End.
“It was so weird walking out and seeing so many people. They were all cheering and there was a lot of family too, which was really nice,” said McQueeney.
At Mercury Lounge, fans were treated to an electric 35-minute set — an impressive feat given that Seeing Double has yet to release a debut EP or album. Between songs, McQueeney led the band in a touch up, whipping out hairspray to spruce up their styles.
The group mixed in some well known covers into the setlist, adding their own twist to each one. Their harmonies on Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” lingered in the air for a few seconds before their accompaniment filled the silence. Sandt and McQueeney provided the vocals — with help from Aaron — as the packed audience danced and sang along.
In club venues, encores are never guaranteed. However, Seeing Double returned to the stage to play a song whose lyrics fit perfectly with the venue’s backdrop. It took seconds for the crowd to recognize the beginning notes of Harry Styles’ “Kiwi.”
“It’s New York, baby, always jacked up,” sang the room.
Between their chilling vocal harmonies and impressive musicianship, Seeing Double rivals bands that have been in the industry for years. While Sandt is currently the only songwriter, she trusts that the band’s chemistry both in the studio and on stage could easily translate into successful group songwriting sessions.
At the merch table, fans were able to meet the band members, creating a uniquely intimate experience at a crowded show. The long line cemented their promise for future success.
Since August, the band has already returned to the city multiple times, most recently playing a show on St. Patrick’s Day at The Bitter End. They also released a new song, “Bygones” in early November.
As the members simultaneously pursue their college degrees, they continue to play locally around their school. A few days ago, they posted in honor of Seeing Double’s two-year anniversary. The caption thanked their fans — doublers — for streaming their music and continuing to follow their journey.