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With a skunk, badger or bear mascot, Hyber seeks to rouse Salem from sleep

Hyber has some ambiguous graphic design. 

They’ve branded their EP sleEP, drum heads and t-shirts with the singular image of a small furry animal cuddled up in a ball. But no one can agree on what that animal is.

Some say it’s a badger. Some say it’s a skunk. Others even see a rat. But Hyber says it’s a bear. And it’s a bear that solidifies that logo as a nod to the band’s name, musical style, and history. 

“It’s whatever people see, I guess,” said guitarist and frontwoman Kris Musto. “But we’ve just thought of it as a bear sleeping — a bear ‘hyber-nating,’ I guess.”

Formed in 2016, Hyber grew out of a school assignment for Musto, a Salem State music minor. A band she had booked to record for her audio class backed out at the last minute, leaving Musto to hack together a hodgepodge ensemble that, for the first time, put her playing next to bassist and Salem classmate Eliza Kessle. 

“We started playing together [more frequently], we were playing with some other people who came and went but we really needed a drummer,” Musto said of the band’s next steps after that one-off recording session.

They found their drummer in 2017 in the form of Jeanette Abbene, who Musto met in a fledgeling acapella group in Salem.

“It’s kinda been a snowball type thing since then,” Musto said.

Indeed, in the two years since their first practice shortly after Musto met Abbene, Hyber has, like the bear on their cover art, risen from sleep to a wide awake battle stance. They’ve dropped an EP. Booked countless shows. And expanded their reach to now exist as a band straddling the Lowell and Salem scenes. 

When all this started, though, Abbene had very little experience playing on the full drum kit and Kessle had taken a break from regularly playing the bass.

“I was just trying to figure out how to somehow keep up with these guys,” Kessle said. “They’re both super talented.” 

As they got more familiar with their instruments, though, particularly Abbene started driving the band in a harder, “crunchier” direction. 

“I wanted to be part of it and be really loud,” she said.

These days, Hyber plays like cartoonishly ominus thunder over the famously halloween loving town of Salem. 

They rehearse in Abbene’s basement and do so loudly enough that, according to Musto, Abbene’s neighbors are all familiar with the Hyber discography.

The trio’s lyrics are dark, born from the emotional experiences of Musto, in particular, and crooned through harmonies between both Musto and Abbene.

And the drums sound big. Very simply, Abbene hits hard. Those hits resonate. 

Yet just as Hyber peaks in the volume of its metaphorical belly yell, they’re making their bed and lying back down, like their effective mascot, for another hibernation. 

“I’m just ready to take a break,” Abbene said. “We were excited after the EP to play a bunch of shows and show our music to everyone but now we’re stepping back and I’m excited to get time to work on some new music and come back when the weather gets nice and feel refreshed.” 

As the bear on their EP cover lies in a circle, almost taking the form of an arrow folded back in on itself, Hyber hopes to establish their career as one focused on cyclical patterns. They built themselves up and, eventually, reached the climax of releasing their EP. Now they would like to go back to square one to rest up, write, and do it all again. 

They are temporarily scaling things back. But when the snow melts in the spring and they emerge for another year, Hyber wants to be rocking loud enough to rouse all their fellow hibernating creatures from sleep.

Laughing, Musto, Abbene and Kessle agree they can do that whether they’re mascot is a bear, a rat, badger or skunk. 

By Dakota Antelman