A Cal Poly student’s guide to forming a band
A university is a perfect place for planning your future, attaining skills specific to your field and, for some, starting a band.
Cal Poly’s The No Shows formed inside the Sierra Madre Residence Hall during the winter quarter of this year. The lead singer of Boycott Daylight, Zane Warsen, met his band’s soon-to-be bassist, James Ernst, during the 2022 Week of Welcome (WOW). Shark Test, a ‘70s-inspired student rock band, first met and collaborated during a meeting at Cal Poly’s Music Production Union (MPU).
Several bands in the San Luis Obispo music scene formed out of connections made through Cal Poly. Read on for KCPR’s recommendations for meeting musicians and making a name for yourself in your local scene.
One thing The No Shows, Boycott Daylight and Shark Test have in common is their attendance at MPU on campus. Thomas Choboter, a member of both Boycott Daylight and Shark Test, met his bandmate through MPU.
“Go to MPU. MPU has band mixers every quarter,” Choboter’s bandmate, Jack Klein, said. “That was the day we met Thomas and he joined Boycott Daylight.”
The band Shark Test formed in a similar fashion.
“Right before Thanksgiving break, Andrew [Bernard] showed up at MPU and he said that he had been playing drums forever,” Shark Test’s bassist Liam McDougal stated. “I asked if he was interested in our band and he quickly joined.”
Student music organizations are effective hubs for performers, writers and consumers alike. They also encourage musicians to support each other through the early stages of their careers.
“MPU allows us to know when local bands are starting up and participate in helping them get a foothold in the community,” Choboter said. “It’s a really magical thing, and I’m glad that I am a part of it.”
In a college setting, there are various opportunities for creatives to put forward their work and meet like-minded artists. With DIY shows occurring almost every weekend, it is essential to take advantage of the opportunities at hand.
Shark Test’s Andrew Bernard suggested to “Check out shows and learn the local literature and bands of the scene. After a while, people will start recognizing you, and you’ll make connections.”
Once one is involved in a local music scene, there are several factors to consider before establishing a band. Local band, The No Shows argue that friendship is a crucial element in any successful band.
“In my experience with bands, I think it is important to be friends with the people you play music with,” Liam Sheehan, The No Show’s guitarist and bassist, said. “If you are friends and make music together, you will grow to become better musicians.”
“Social relations form a tighter-knit band,” he concluded.
Before finalizing a band, one should also evaluate their reasons for making music and find musicians who think similarly.
“If you are trying to get into a band, the best thing that you can do is just search for musicians. Don’t necessarily make a band with the first people you meet but instead try to remember that different people are doing music for different reasons,” Choboter said.
Showcase your talents
The No Shows claimed that their band might have never formed if they didn’t openly play music in their dorm building or talk about their passions publicly.
“Will [Broderick] was the first person jamming out in the open on our floor and I found out he was really good at his respective instruments,” Cooper Sumrall, the band’s co-singer, said. “It blew my mind.”
Collaborating in Sierra Madre became a common occurrence for The No Shows. It wasn’t until mid-winter quarter, however, that co-singer Hazle Gerson joined the band.
“Talk to people about your interests,” Gerson recommended. “If I didn’t talk to Cooper about my interest in singing, I wouldn’t have met everyone or started this band.”
Chance is a large aspect in the formation of a musical group. With that being said, KCPR suggests showcasing passions in the environments that are offered on campus and around the city.
“Have music that you are ready to play and that you are passionate about,” Boycott Daylight’s Ernst said. “If you sing and play, start posting covers of yourself. If you are multi-instrumental, put something together that you can show people.”
Whether done in-person or electronically, it is a good idea for creative individuals to display their work to potential collaborators.
Be a fan
The most important thing a musician in a local music scene can do is be a fan. Supporting bands in the scene not only gives a person a chance to network but also contributes towards something meaningful to the city they reside in.
“You have to be a fan in the scene in order to be in the scene,” Choboter noted. “It doesn’t feel like a chore, it’s all fun and builds toward creating something.”
Both Shark Test and Boycott Daylight look forward to performing at MPU’s Quarterly Show alongside bands such as Coati Coati.
The No Shows hope to play as many shows as possible and to gain musical experience during the remainder of their freshman year of college. Check out each of these band’s Instagrams at @theno.shows, @boycottdaylight and @sharktestband.