Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Unpublished article on young bands and their dreams

Thank you, Sabrina Campagna

By Chrisanne Grise

Dozens of college students milled quietly around the dimly-lit room. Boston-based funk band Frit jammed at the front of the room, encouraging attendees to “come get their groove on.” Most chose to stand along the walls instead, tapping their toes along with the beat, but a handful of brave souls moved towards the center of the room to dance.

Guitarist Rob Compa, a Berklee College of Music dropout, spontaneously broke into his own rendition of 2pac’s “California Love.” Inspired by the surprise venture into 90s hip hop, many of the previously shy wallflowers ran forward, finally ready to boogie down.

The members of Frit are just four of the thousands of college students in Boston pursuing their musical ambitions. The chances of making a living off of music are slight even at the best of the times, and in today’s world of stimulus packages and file-sharing, the futures of wannabe rockstars seem more uncertain than ever. But Frit and many of their peers are still following their dreams, the risks be damned.

Justine Bowe has been in Ferris Wheel, her first and only band, since she was a sophomore in high school. The freshman at Tufts University is nowhere near graduation, but is already dreaming of the day she can quit her day job and make music for a living.

“For me, the goals and ambitions and dropping out of school are inseparable,” she says. “Don’t tell my mom, but I’m hoping that the band does become successful enough that I have to drop school or take a gap year or something.”

The members of Frit also have long-term ambitions.

“Right now our long-term goal is to be playing the festival circuit during the summer time, playing more around the country,” says drummer Cameron Tyler, a sophomore at Emerson College. “We all have our thing but I feel like we’ve got some opportunities, if we can actually get heard and get some people with higher-power interested.”

“We’re at a level, promotion-wise and musically that it’s a good time for us to expand. We’re not really held back by anything except money,” adds Noah Schy, Frit’s keyboardist and a sophomore at Berklee.

Ferris Wheel is still young; they did not start seriously writing and recording until October 2008. Yet they are already earning the attention of music blog critics and local Boston venues.

Mike Moschetto, Ferris Wheel’s guitarist and a junior at Emerson College, is proud that his band is gaining momentum so quickly. “Our EP came out [in February] and got a surprising amount of attention without a lot of promotional effort on our part,” he says. “I feel like a lot of bands take a fairly long time to get to what we've achieved in just a few months.”

Likewise, Frit’s members are also proud of their hard work and the current status of the band.

“I’ve always put myself in a position to be a better musician. It’s like fixing up a really old car,” Schy says. “It’s a piece of junk and you spend all this time working and working on it, and finally, when it’s ready, you don’t always get to drive it. But we’re actually driving around in this car that we’ve worked so hard on.”

“And it’s so decked out!” Compa adds, using his arm to indicate the motion of hydraulics.

Frit and Ferris Wheel do not see failure—or even modest success—in the future. Yet many older musicians could teach them a thing or two.

Tripp Underwood, bass player for the punk band The Unseen, quit his teaching job just three years after graduating from college. But when he looks back on the experience, he has mixed emotions.

“I’m 31 years old, I’m back in school, I work shitty manual labor jobs because when all my peers were getting married and having kids, I was out playing rock ‘n roll music,” Underwood says. “I got a little bit of money saved but not as much as someone who played by the rules and went to college and started a 401K at 22. I don’t regret it, but there are times when after a crummy night at work, I’m like ‘God, I’m too old to be doing this.’”

Bill Madden-Fuoco, 37, played in the band Resolve throughout high school and college, and now occasionally plays with a much more laidback group called Gladiola. Music may no longer be the focus of his life, but he says the experience of touring during college was worth it. “I look back at it fondly, with pride rather than feeling like I wished we’d been bigger,” he says.

For many bands, devoting a life to music is the only way to be happy. Pursuing a musical career during early adulthood is worth the risk of manual labor jobs or worse, failure.

“We bled for that band for so long that it seemed like if we didn’t take that chance, we’d sit around thinking ‘What if?’ when we were older,” Underwood says.

Today’s young musicians agree with Underwood. Music is their future, with or without success.

“I have always felt like the band was my ticket out,” Bowe says. “Out of where? I don’t really know. Maybe out of a normal life.”

The members of Frit also say that while it will take a lot of hard work to earn more fans and gain in popularity, it will be worth the effort and sacrifices.

“The whole point of music is to give it to other people,” Compa says. “You don’t just do it for yourself. It’s so other people can hear it.”

“And for the sake of the funk,” Tyler adds quickly.

“And for the sake of the funk,” Compa agrees.


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