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While the streets of Manhattan vibrate to the rhythm of the Subway, the streets of the Bronx vibrate with the rumblings of unidentifiable music. Walking off campus, one is sure to hear a backdrop of metal guitars, their source unknown. Facebook events for Meat Shop circulate our feeds, deceiving us with their misleading name. Others might’ve heard the jam-banding companionship echoing in the wind tunnel between the dorms of Finlay and Walsh. Regardless, we know that somewhere, tucked away in nooks reserved for people much cooler than us, friends gather to play the music that bystanders experience in faint waves. Enter: The band community at and around Fordham. Aside from the occasional performance at Rodrigues (which does quite a fine job filling this niche on a micro-scale, as much as their small venue can allow for) or WFUV, the alternative music community at Fordham functions as a separate, independent entity, self-driven and self-promotional. While our on-campus coffee shop lends a stage, many of these bands consider themselves to linger “in the shadows.”
Whenever the spring weekend announcement drops, Fordham turns into a school divided, a vocal majority airing their disdain for the performance choices. (Except this year, because Matt and Kim warrants this “Yea? Alright. Word.” response. People, I assume, are finally coming to terms with the fact that they enjoy the day regardless). Still, we’re subject to to CAB’s judgement on this front, and Spring Weekend/ Battle of the Bands remains a very contained forum for bands to showcase their music. It begs the question: why aren’t there more opportunities to check out the kind of music that can be provided at Fordham? More importantly, what about the Fordham students that perform music? Member of WFUV and organizer of Fordham off-campus performances, Luke McCanna, weighs in, offering:
“I believe there is a dire need for a larger diversity of genres presented both on and off campus. We live in the birthplace of hip-hop, and Fordham has completely failed to support the genre… I would also love to see more punk and metal represented. I imagine there are musicians here at Fordham that make punk/metal/hip-hop but feel as if there is no outlet to perform, and therefore remain in the shadows. If there are any Fordham punk or metal bands out there, hit me up. Let’s put something together.”
Spring Weekend is on the horizon, and so campus will be hyper-focused on music. In the spirit of all things entertainment, we figured what better time to highlight a few graduating bands and their work one last time: Cult Vacation, Active Bird Community, and Sister James.
FEATURE BAND: CULT VACATION
They self-identify as “Five amorphous sun-speckled New York boys use sounds to distance themselves from the crushing indifference of the universe.”
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=3463405952 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small track=2051989912]
Hughes Ave residents Christian, Kelly, Jericho, Tommy, and Fordham senior Quinn McGovern, all comprise “Cult Vacation,” a band conceived in October 2014. The group’s essence is hard to capture with a single word, as their many personalities comprise a dynamic like none other. Their look, according to them, is equally anti-uniform, which is in turn indicative of their sound: a manifestation of different influences and genres, unique to each member. Quinn, for example wears unparalleled sweaters, and Jericho “ambiguously looks like a cowboy,” according to Tommy. I don’t take credit for that observation, though I will not deny it. Given this, I figured it was fair to assume that the creative process was a messy undertaking. However, I was intrigued to find that their songwriting process is heavily reliant upon a bevy of individual work. Though their techniques are evolving, they have, as of late, been presenting independent work (in varying degrees of completeness) to the band, and opening it up to team collaboration. It has a lot to do with abandoning egos, which I’d imagine is at times not the easiest of tasks. I found this point offered by Tommy particularly interesting: “it forces us to think about our conception of how our buttholes* should function within the band.” As band member Kelly sees it, the challenges of songs are sometimes more in the execution phase; learning how to infuse energy into a song written in one’s absence, and learning how to play a song that has taken on a new life as it evolved from its independent to group form.
*They did clarify that buttholes is, in fact, cool New York band slang for the word “instrument.” I suppose it services the piece much more to contextualize this and save us from all from dismissing this as a poorly-conceived metaphor, but it was kind of funny to just let it stand alone for a minute.
Beyond these minor challenges, one member of the group faces an incomparable feat (pun-intended) of his own. I just stumbled upon this page on their website, and was heart-broken to hear of the news: “Tommy Ordway, a Weezer superfan, has no shoes! Keep his feet cozy! Keep his feet clean! If you don’t give money, you’re cold hearted and mean.” Help them meet their funding goals: $60 Vans/ Converse and $750 Yeezys. Click here to find the GoFundMe page and help this noble cause.
They’re clearly fond of each other, evident in how affectionately they dismissed Jericho’s lateness to this photoshoot as a classic and endearing tendency of his.
“I think right now our biggest challenges have been recording all the songs we have so that we can show people what we are capable of and bringing people out for our shows. I think our live shows are a lot of fun and demonstrate the potential we have as a band, but it’s one thing to come to a show at the Meat Shop and enjoy our set, and it’s another to be able to put our music on your headphones when you walk to class. I also think that because we are a relatively small band, it’s not that hard to see us play live around this area, but until we have more music to pull from on a night to night basis, a big challenge is keeping it fresh for people who have seen us before.” – Kelly
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The band’s music, as per Tommy’s standards, must “sonically hit both qualifications: Cult (by nature of being weird, usually those obscure chords) but also Vacation (beachy, fun, poppy).” CLICK HERE to hear their music come to life on sound cloud.
A QUICK LOOK AT ACTIVE BIRD COMMUNITY
Active Bird Community is a NYC-based rock band consisting of four members, Carter McNeil, Andrew Wolfson, Tom D’Agustino, and Zach Slater. I got to meet with the two members of ABC pictured above, Tom D’Agustino (Fordham senior, lead singer/guitar) and Zach Slater (bass). Friends since the 6th grade, this group considers writing and playing together integral to who they are as individuals. Their creative process is driven by a collaborative work ethic, similar to Cult Vacation. Their main Fordham- associated venue was the late Tinkers, and Tom adds that:
“Tinkers is so wonderfully shitty. Dream gig is to play with Radiohead at Tinkers.”
CLOSING STATEMENT FROM: SISTER JAMES
[bandcamp width=100% height=42 track=2712605595 size=small bgcol=ffffff linkcol=de270f]
[bandcamp width=100% height=42 track=270711640 size=small bgcol=ffffff linkcol=de270f]
Sister James is a Fordham band comprised of 4 students: Ben Carbone, Quinn McGovern, Peter Morrison, & Daniel Sweeney. Side note: Quinn McGovern is also member of aforementioned Cult Vacation.
“We hope that the scene gets better with more bands and venues and playing opportunities. Play in the city! The Fordham scene is great but don’t forget that the city is right here! Even if you don’t play in a band go out and see the city! Don’t get trapped in the Belmont bubble! Live!!!! If Fordham is going to set loose all of its potential to have a niche scene, and let’s be clear–that potential is there ten fold, influential voices in the off campus community need to step up in terms of not only supplying the venue (thank you Crotona Meat Shop, you are glorious) but also the desire. Apart from that, the city is always there.”
The community of the Bronx produces some high-quality shit. Do them the favor of listening. If nothing else, donate a few bucks to get the poor kid shoes. It’s the least you can do.