Viral song ‘Make You Mine’ is by PUBLIC — and they want you to know that


Courtesy of PUBLIC

PUBLIC, pictured above, wrote a song that went viral on TikTok. “It’s kinda like the track is a bigger presence than the band is, which is something we’re trying to work on now.”

The Tuesday-night Thalia Hall crowd came together in harmony as Tom Higgenson of Plain White T’s-fame led them through the final bar of “Hey There Delilah.” The roaring enthusiasm replaced the disappointed sigh released by the crowd after hearing that PUBLIC, famous for the song behind the TikTok sensation “Make You Mine,” would be unavailable after coming down with the flu.

The Band of Brothers Road Show, a collaborated tour of American Authors and MAGIC GIANT, with PUBLIC, was on its Chicago leg of the tour. Higgenson’s performance was followed by a round of Plinko to decide which of the two bands would perform first, MAGIC GIANT ultimately being the victors. The energy of their indie-folk, alt-rock electricity was embodied by the frayed hairs of Zambrick Li’s viola bow.

American Authors followed, whose arrival was circled by Adam Galante and Andrew Waite since November. The two have been fans since the saw American Authors with the Frey.

“What they brought to the music in a live venue was just so cool,” said Waite.

The show was an exciting collision of bands from different backgrounds, with Tom Higgenson’s opening being the surprise addition to the performance. Rebranded as Million Miler, he brought on stage Fairview, a local duo who are members of his independent, Chicago-based label, Humans Were Here.

Higgenson came to fame in an era far removed from today’s. His “traditional” rise came in a world that preceded social media, a marked difference from the world lived in by the void he filled.

PUBLIC’s ascension is a story oft-heard in today’s music landscape. Comprised of Ben Lapps on percussion, John Vaughn on guitar and lead vocals and Matthew Alvarado on bass, synth and vocals, the trio met in their high school jazz band in Cincinnati. Their first EP, “Red,” was released in 2012 and they soon began to open for bands such as Twenty One Pilots and Walk the Moon. They experienced the grind every new band goes through, taking advantage of every opportunity that presented itself.

“We’ve been a band that played every opening slot we could while self-releasing our music,” Vaughn said. “Learning everything we could from the artists we’ve toured.”

PUBLIC’s music has a fun, energetic tone, with a wide variety of influences that include pop, rock, funk and disco. Their discography offers a variety  of sounds for listeners.

“We like to think there’s a little something for everyone in our catalog,” said Vaughn. “And if you see us live, it all melds into a high-energy rock and roll show.”

Amongst such tracks as “Sugarcane,” a raucous articulation of feeling in love, or “One That I Want,”  a euphonious confession of love, it was “Make You Mine” that soared.

Released in 2014, “Make You Mine” was written by Vaughn while in a piano class during college. He’s said before that it’s a song to celebrate the little things in a relationship instead of the grandiose, sexualized elements that are emphasized  in other music. The song serves as a reminder that small gestures are crucial to a relationship.

“I was in a piano class in college and I was supposed to be working on a scale,” said Vaughn. “I ended up playing the notes in the hook and went home as soon as I could to write the chorus. A little later we took the song into Ben’s parent’s basement and fleshed out the full arrangement. I was in the middle of my first serious relationship, so I had a lot to pull from for the lyrical content.”

A few years down the road on the video-sharing app TikTok, people began announcing their love for somebody, either asking them for marriage or simply asking them out, with “Make You Mine” as the background song. And thus, the “Make You Mine Challenge” was born.

The viral sensation captured the internet’s eye and the song gained  great deal of popularity. The song’s music video received over 12 million views in a span of only four months and was on Spotify’s U.S. Viral 50 chart. “Make You Mine” receives its most streams from outside the U.S., according to Lapps.

“While we always felt that ‘Make You Mine’ was a special song, and there was definitely something magical about the recording, I don’t think any of us anticipated the viral nature of the track,” said Lapps. “We loved playing it live and hoped people would enjoy it there, but all of the TikTok attention starting last year definitely surprised us.”

Social media radically changed the music industry. Since  early YouTube sensations like Justin Bieber, the internet has served as another platform for artists to be discovered or to take off, and PUBLIC is another example of a group that received that boost.

“It’s changed absolutely everything,” Alvarado said of TikTok. “I think even more specifically than just the access to new music, it’s also given life to older songs and undiscovered artists that may have once been cast aside or forgotten and brought new life into those projects. We’re pretty much a prime example of the power of TikTok and what it’s capable of doing.”

But while TikTok fueled the massive popularity of “Make You Mine,” it’s also been an obstacle for PUBLIC in and of itself. People often associate the band with the song and not the other way around. There is more to PUBLIC than a song that blew up on TikTok, a song they still take pride in, but not a song that is only part of who they are.

“People seem to be so familiar with the track ‘Make You Mine,’ that not a lot of people know and/or yet care that our band created that song,” said Alvarado. “It’s kinda like the track is a bigger presence than the band is, which is something we’re trying to work on now.”

“Of course we love the track and the attention it’s getting, but there’s so much more to PUBLIC’s identity than just the breakout track. We’ve got personalities we want to display and upcoming new music that we’re all very excited about. As John likes to put it, these are ‘Champagne Problems’ that the band is more than happy to have.”

At their fundamental core, PUBLIC is a band that maintains the original purpose of many bands: A group of people who come together to create music they are passionate about. They bring energy to their shows and that energy is reciprocated by their fans. They’re fueled by a love for making music and a love for playing their instruments.

The story of PUBLIC is not yet finished, and “Make You Mine” may only be a chapter.

“Now that we have a really solid team in place behind us, we’ve found less time to ourselves and more time flying in for one-off shows, radio visits, or writing sessions – just staying really busy overall,” said Alvarado. “If there were a singular point of focus right now, it would be: How far can we take ‘Make You Mine’ and how do we follow that up? There’s a lot of work that’s been put in, but still a lot more to go.”

Their desire is to not to live off one piece of work, but to sustain musical output. Satisfying their fans with only one hit song isn’t enough for PUBLIC. They  want to build a strong relationship with their followers and be more than a TikTok sensation. And they’re on their way. In Alvarado’s words, they’ve “got a lot of fuel we’re adding to the PUBLIC fire.”