Sherwood: The Road to Success

16 Nov

Click here for a timeline on the success of San Luis Obispo-based band Sherwood.

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Cal Poly Theatre and Dance Department Puts a New Spin on a Classic Story

11 Nov

Spotlight On: Antigone and Letters to Soldiers Lost

Antigone and the Body of Polyneices

Antigone and the body of Polyneices

  • Classic Greek play Antigone gets a makeover
  • Director and writer Al Schnupp explains his process
  • Ryan Austin, who plays King Creon, shares his views

Most are familiar with Antigone, the Greek play by Sophocles. In the story, both of Antigone’s brothers are killed fighting on opposite sides of a civil war. King Creon decides that while one should be honored, the other should remain unburied, a sign of dishonor. Antigone decides to honor the second brother, disobeying King Creon, and facing dire consequences.

Perhaps less familiar, are the books “Shrapnel in the Heart” by Laura Palmer, “Letters on the Wall” by Michael Sofarelli, and “Offerings at the Wall” (Turner Publishing, Inc.). These books contain a collection of touching, emotional letters left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

For the next two weekends, Cal Poly’s theatre department will be presenting “Antigone and Letters to Soldiers Lost,” a combination of the classic Sophocles play and letter readings out of the three books listed above. By placing letters in between the scenes of the play, Schnupp is able to set the tone and heighten the emotions of the show, which revolves around the central theme of how survivors deal with the aftermath of war.

“I had read some letters many, many years ago,” explained director and writer Al Schnupp, of his idea to incorporate the letters, “And they stayed with me. They are so powerful because they are real letters to people that they really cared about. I always thought at some point it would be great to conduct a show around that. In tandem, I kept thinking it would be interesting to write a play about memorials…” He went on to explain that he examined all different types of memorials, from Holocaust memorials to roadside memorials.

“The more I taught Antigone in my script analysis class, the more I thought [the letters and the story] could be linked. I found some great letters to really compliment the story.” – Al Schnupp

When casting the characters of the play, Schnupp explained that he looked for “inner strength, resilience, nerve, and inner conviction.” He also said he considered energy, posture, and voice. For the letter readers he looked for simplicity and vulnerability. “I want to see your heartache,” he added.

Ryan Austin, who plays the role Creon explained his audition process: “I read a scene between Haemon and Antigone with Ellen Jones (who ended up getting cast as Antigone)…I usually feel like I could have done better after an audition, but I felt remarkably comfortable with our read…I never actually read for Creon though – I guess our dynamic just worked.”

“The role has been a bit of a challenge. The scenes from the original Antigone are all very powerful scenes, but the action is consistently broken up by some of the Vietnam letters…so that tends to make it difficult to maintain focus. However, with that being said, often the letters reflect the emotion or the idea of the scenes they are in so I have found that rather than ignoring them, I can use the momentum of each of the letters to my advantage in terms of the pacing and emotional arc of the scene.” – Ryan Austin

He went on to discus his character, King Creon: “Creon is not just a bad guy…he is simply human he makes mistakes and his position as King allows the consequences of his mistakes to be much worse than the average citizen. His motivation is not malicious – he simply wants to keep peace in a city that has been ravaged by war.  Creon thinks he is doing what is best for his people.”

When asked what he hopes the audience will take away from the show Schnupp said, “I want the audience to be engaged emotionally in the show, to be impressed by Antigone’s courage, to understand Creon’s position and not see him as just a pure villain, and to honor the soldiers and people who wrote the letters, and to have their feelings stirred up.”

Go see “Antigone and Letters to Soldiers Lost:”

  • Date: November 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Location: Spanos Theatre
  • Tickets: $15.00, $12.00 for students and seniors

For more information or to buy tickets, call 805-756-2787 or click here.

Central Coast Radio Station Incorporates Local Music

8 Nov

Spotlight On: New Rock 107.3

  • The station
  • SLO and Dysfunctional
  • Battle of the Bands

Upon first tuning my radio to popular station New Rock 107.3, I was immediately immersed in the music of Alice In Chains, and the band Fuel after that.  The friendly voice of afternoon DJ Tristan greeted me in between, sharing a funny anecdote about his love of blue ink.

The station is commonly heard in the cars of Cal Poly students. “I listen to [New Rock] every time I drive,” Cheyne Kight, a second year civil engineering major explained, “They play good rock and don’t overplay their music.” Second year aerospace engineering major Mitchell Hart added, “They play a good mix of alternative and rock.”

While New Rock plays a wide variety of popular rock songs, local bands are featured as well. “It’s not a regular rotation thing, but we do play them,” said program director Mark Mitchell.

SLO and Dysfunctional

SLO and Dysfunctional, Volume Six

Aside from airplay, New Rock is giving exposure to local bands in other ways as well. Having a desire to promote the local music community, New Rock decided the best way was to create an album of songs by local artists. The first SLO and Dysfunctional album was born, and albums are released every spring. As of now, seven volumes have been created.

Deciding which local bands are going to be featured on the CD is no small task. “It’s a group argument,” Mitchell said, of the selection process. “This last time we got a bunch of pizza, we sat in the conference room, we had a boom box, and we listened to everything…There is a lot of fighting that goes on. People will fight for the songs they think should be on the CD. It’s pretty interesting to watch.”

In addition to sound and style, it also depends on the bands themselves. “If the band is easy to work with and you can get a hold of them – all that comes into play,” said Mitchell. Going into further detail, he explained, “We always give everything a second listen…Everyone here is really passionate about music.”

About a year and a half ago, New Rock incorporated live music into their SLO & Dysfunctional promotion with a Battle of the Bands. “We just wanted to keep growing the brand, and frankly it was getting a little stagnant,” said Mitchell. The first series took place in spring of 2009, and the second annual Battle of the Bands occurred in April and May of this year at SLO Brewing Co. Local reggae band Nada Rasta won this year, receiving a cash prize of $1,000 and guaranteed radio play on 107.3.

“Here was the chance to get the bands who were vying to be in the CD in front of people. Plus it’s more incentive for different bands to submit.” – Mark Mitchell

“We want to evolve SLO & Dysfunctional, in one way shape or form,” Mitchell said. He continued to explain that they are still in the process of coming up with new ideas for the promotion.

The inclusion of local bands can be partially credited to New Rock DJ’s BJ and Tristan, who are on air every weekday. “Tristan and BJ both are champion for the local music scene here. I can’t tell you how much they bang that drum,” Mitchell explained.

New Rock

The 107.3 New Rock buidling

When asked about the significance of featuring local bands, Mitchell said, “I think it’s really important to reach out to [the people New Rock serves]. It’s part of the makeup of the station, it’s part of the makeup of the community.”

Places to See Local Talent Around SLO

4 Nov

Here is a map of all the places to catch local talent around the city, complete with pictures and descriptions:

Josh Machamer Interview

2 Nov

Josh Machamer, associate professor and associate chair of the theater department, sat down with me to talk to me about Cal Poly theater and offer his advice for those trying to Make It Big. Check it out:

P is for Personable, K is for…?

28 Oct

Spotlight On: PK

PK

Courtesy photo by Richard Fusillo

  • Background
  • Music
  • The Future

When browsing the facebook page of San Luis Obispo-based band PK (for research purposes, of course), I couldn’t help but notice the comments. Countless adoring fans have posted comments like “You guys are amazing!” and “I love you guys sooo much,” (yes, so with three o’s).

There is no doubt these guys have made a serious impression on the fans they’ve come across. “We’ve always known that the fans are the most important part to making our band successful. So we always treated our fans as number one,” said lead singer Travis Hawley, “We’ve had exclusive parties and local CD and music video premier events, even potluck dinners to build a personal connection with our street team and had great responses with that.”

“It seems like a lot of the community enjoys getting involved with what we are doing and roots for us – we hope they feel they are a part of the band…it’s really awesome.” – Hawley

Background:

The origin of the name PK is unclear. “Many people ask us about what the name means…we really have no solid answer so instead we have fun with telling people something different each time, like Punching Kangaroos or Pretty Kevin…but most of the time everyone already has what they think it means and it’s always interesting to hear new versions,” Hawley said.

PK is made up of Hawley, Matt Depauw (guitar), Nick Fotinakes (guitar), Mikel Van Kranenburg (bass), and Kevin Menesez (drums).  They all attended the same high school, but played in different bands around town. Eventually, they joined together to create PK, and recorded their first EP in 2003. After that they parted ways, but rejoined after deciding they all wanted to continue playing music together. “This time [we] focused on doing it right and definitely took it to a more professional level,” explained Hawley.

Once the band was reunited, they started taking San Luis Obispo by storm. “There is definitely a music scene with so many great new artists and bands, and kids that crave something exciting to do,” said Fotinakes, “We love the SLO scene.  Those fans are also the ones that drive hours to see us in San Jose and even down in LA.”

“I’d say SLO is a hotbed for new talent to gain a lot of loyal fans and the venues are badass.” – Fotinakes

Music:

Their EP Casting Shadows was released in 2007, and full length album Into the Roaring followed in earlier this year. Van Kranenburg describes their sound as “catchy energetic young rock.”

“Obviously, we used to be inspired by the music we grew up with…but as we’ve progressed as a band we’ve been inspired by so many varieties of music while also shedding a lot of the imitation and started to hone a more unique PK sound…Now it’s all about the structure and getting the storytelling aspect of songwriting right,” Van Kranenburg explained, “We also think we are pretty commercial and our music seems to be accessible to all types of folks.”

“…We’ve gotten teased with the nickname Pretend Killers by a few Radio DJ’s. But hey, sounding like the Killers is a compliment!” – Van Kranenburg

This summer, PK had the opportunity to open for Aerosmith at the Mid State Fair. They entered a contest through central coast radio station KZOZ and the Mid State Fair, and collected enough votes to win. “Opening for Aerosmith was surreal,” said Depauw, “It didn’t really hit me when we found out…But it was that moment when we walked on stage and looked out to the thousands of people in the stadium that dropped all of us.”

The Future:

The band is currently working on another full length album, hoping to release it next year. “Currently, we are finishing up a few songs we started a few months ago. Then we’ll head home…write for a few more months then hit the studio again around January,” explained Van Kranenburg.

The guys are well on their way to making it big, and know a thing or two about what it takes to get there. “It depends on what kind of artist you want to be and your definition of success in this industry. Do you want a one hit wonder or do you want to have a longevity with your fans and be true to that?  Can you be both?  Such a fine line.  Clearly the stuff on the radio is selling…get a couple of hits that stick and grow from that,” expressed Hawley.

“We are also learning you have to have a good understanding of the business side of ‘show business.’ Make smart decisions and trust your instincts.  So much of the industry has changed to where bands who make it are doing it on their own with the labels support to follow.  No one is just giving away million dollar record deals anymore like they did in the 80s – 90s,” he added.

“Be unique and have integrity.” – Hawley

They are planning on playing at SLO Brew on December 11. “Downtown [SLO] Brew has been especially good to us, and every time we play there we have a blast and sell out the shows,” said Fotinakes.

More information will be posted closer to the event.

When talking about ultimate goals, Depauw joked, “In ten years I’d like to see us on a hiatus after touring the world a few times and making a few platinum records.” He then added: “I think I speak for all of us in the band that, if in 10 years time we find that we are all still friends, that we wake up loving what we do every day, that we gave it our all every time on stage, in the studio, producing albums that we love, then that’d be good enough.  Seriously, if this was my career and say I had a little studio of my own to record in and a few hundred guitars I’d call that success!”

It goes without saying that PK makes great music, which is obviously vital when it comes to success. An overlooked quality, however, is personality – which PK is full of. With the dedication and eagerness they put into connecting with their fans, I predict success will come easy, and be plentiful.

Check out the music video for the song “London” from Into the Roaring:

Still Time: On Success, The New Album, and Future Goals

21 Oct

Spotlight On: Still Time

See Still Time tomorrow at SLO Brewing Co.:

  • Date: Friday, October 22
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door
  • Click here for more information

After a 65-city national tour, local band Still Time is back where it all began, preparing to perform for their loyal SLO fan base. They will take the stage tomorrow night at SLO Brewing Co. with ZuhG and Central Currency. Not only will they be performing some new songs, but they will also feature special guest Ryan Mosse on saxophone.

Still Time

Courtesy photo by Bryan Fong

Still Time started right here in 2002 at Cal Poly, when lead singer Dan Curcio met guitar player Chris (Haircut) Arntzen in Sierra Madre Tower 1. “We all have changed a great deal since our days in the dorms, mostly in the way we conduct ourselves as professional musicians. Where it used to be about getting drunk with friends and jamming at parties, it’s become more about what we’re trying to accomplish with the music on a soulful level as well as business and fun,” said Curcio.

As the band started taking shape (with the addition of Nick Bilich, Paul Smith-Stewart, John Vucinich, and T-Bone Steak), they started playing at college parties and local gigs. With the help of file sharing in Cal Poly dorms, burned CD’s, and house parties, their music slowly started to spread. “We have put a lot of work over the last five years to make it more of a regional and then national following through social networking sites, and constant touring (both west coast and recently a four month national tour),” Curcio explained.

The band has worked hard to diversify the songs on their albums, while at the same time create a consistent sound as a band. Some of their influences include Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, James Brown, and Paul Simon. Describing their sound as “eclectic groove rock,” Curcio explained, “most of the songs have a solid groove to them no matter what sorts of genres they elude to and generally fall into the rock category.” While most of their fans are college students, they have fans across the board as well. “The inclusiveness of people is what we’re all about,” he said.

The band has shared the stage with big names like Iration, Jason Mraz, and Pepper. When asked about their favorite experience, Curcio answered by saying, “I think our favorites have been Ben Harper and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Both of these artists represent the soulfulness and variety of sounds that we are going for and their live show experience is so positive and uplifting.”

Still Time has released two albums, “Stream of Consciousness” in 2007 and “See America” in 2009. They are currently working on a new album, and have just returned from working on songs up in Santa Cruz. “We always like to switch up the scene as we create new songs to find extra inspiration,” said Curcio.

When asked about inspiration for the album, he replied by saying, “This will be our first record since our first big national tour. On the tour we experienced a huge crawfish boil house party in New Orleans which we played at, we blasted clay pigeons and drank beer and barbecued with some amazing Texan radio guys, and stayed in the heart of New York City at one of the original Vanderbilt mansions (among countless other experiences).

“The things that we experienced as a group of eight in an old RV are much more than words and stories could encompass and I think whether blatantly or subtly these ridiculous experiences will surface in the new material.” – Still Time lead singer Dan Curcio.

In the midst of success, Still Time is still able to focus on the community they came from. Meals for Moms, a community program that provides single moms with dinners for their families once a month, was created entirely by Still Time. Nick Bilich (guitarist) spent two weeks in Rwanda, and after seeing single moms with AIDS having to support their children there, he realized he could help single moms here in San Luis Obispo, simply by providing them dinner. Working with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, 12 San Luis Obispo restaurants, and volunteers, 30 low-income single mothers receive meals.

In ten years, Curcio said Still Time would “[like] to be in place like a Ben Harper, Dispatch, Brett Dennen, etc. who have had a nice mixture of commercial and grass roots success.  These kinda guys are making good money and playing to incredible crowds who are truly inspired by their music. We’d love to be at a point where we’re with a great booking agent who has us on some great festivals and headlining gigs and making enough money for us all to feel good about it and be able to have families, homes, etc.”

“For us it’s not about being rich and famous but being financially comfortable and doing what we love for a living.  This is a difficult goal but I think with perseverance and hard work we can get there.” – Dan Curcio

After their song writing trip to Santa Cruz, the guys have returned with new songs and ideas, and will be debuting them right here for their local fans. “We’re mainly looking forward to the reactions for our new song ideas,” Curcio said. The sneak peek at new material cannot be missed by Still Time Fans.

For more information about how to get involved with Meals for Moms, e-mail Nick Bilich at nbilich@gmail.com.

Below is a video of Still Time on tour, featuring the song “Come Alive:”