The band’s practice space- Orion Studios

May 1, 2010

Our practice space is a very important place for the band because that is where we create all of our music and where the band hangs out all of the time.

When we first started as a band, we would practice in my mom’s basement, because that is where we always played music back in high school.  We are a very loud band, and wanted to practice at all hours, so last summer when we started to take things with the band more seriously, we were looking around for a space where we could meet those requirements.

We searched for band warehouses for a few months, and the search wasn’t going well until we stumbled upon Orion Studios outside of the city.  We really liked Orion Studios because the rooms were clean and had enough space to fit all of our instruments and much more.  We also really liked how our rooms were secured and the studio was in a business district right off of I-95.  The location and features of Orion Studios were what we were looking for.

Since last July, Orion Studios has been the home for Vespertine Movement and we have had many good times and jams in that space. The band has really added a lot of character to the space and it feels like a second home to us because that is where we all go to relieve stress and do what we love, play music.

We hope to really build or practice space this upcoming summer so we can start recording music in the space.  We want to make it our own legitimate studio so we can record our music and jam sessions.  We can also work on upcoming CD’s and demos that we will release in the future.

Coming to Orion Studios has been one of the best decisions that the band has made, and any of our friends that have been in the space know how important it is to us and to our music.

If anybody is in a local band or knows someone that is in a local band that is looking for a practice space, here is the link for our practice space.


WTMD: Not your average radio station

April 23, 2010

When you turn on the radio in the Baltimore area, you are bound to hear multiple radio stations that play rock, rap, and country music.  These genres of music are dominating the airwaves, and after awhile hearing the same songs and artists over and over can get tiring. But there is one small station at the beginning of the dial that is different from the norm.

This unique radio station is 89.7 WTMD, and the music that comes from this station is far different than what you hear nowadays. WTMD has numerous radio programs that play an eclectic mix of music.

Located in Towson University’s Media Center, WTMD used to be affiliated with the university but parted ways a few years ago to become their own organization. Although many people in the Baltimore area still have no idea that the station exists, it has recently developed a solid fan base and more people are catching on to the contagious station.  John Kennelly, a musician and student at Towson University, listens to WTMD all the time.

WTMD's First Thursday stage

“I had no idea WTMD existed a few years back,” Kennelly said.  “But once I found out about WTMD, it is the only radio station I listen to and I have been spreading the word to all my friends because it is not your average station.”

On top of playing different genres of music, WTMD helps out local bands in a big way.  WTMD sponsors local Baltimore concerts and music festivals, and they also throw their own event called “ First Thursdays” which is a free concert in Mount Vernon on the first Thursday in the summer months.

WTMD also hosts different programs that play music from local Baltimore bands.  One of the more popular programs, “Baltimore Unsigned”, takes a look into some of the best local bands in the Baltimore area.  The program features album cuts, interviews, and live studio performances from these local bands. Kevin Shook and his band, The Cheaters, were featured on this popular show.
“Being featured on WTMD’s Baltimore Unsigned really helped our band out in a big way and let listeners know who we are and what we are about,” Shook said. “WTMD is such a great radio station and we owe a lot to them by helping us get new fans.”

WTMD is catching on in Baltimore and local bands have a lot of respect for the station because it looks out for the new music that is constantly coming out.  It gives local bands a chance to be heard on the radio.  If you haven’t listened to 89.7 WTMD, check it out and hear what people in Baltimore are raving about.


The recording process

April 18, 2010

Vespertine Movement is currently in the studio, working on a 5-6 song EP. We have been recording original material for a few months now, and will continue to finish the recording when school is out for the semester. We are hoping to release the EP, that is untitled right now, later this summer. We have been recording this EP at UMBC and our practice space at Studio 14. Our bass player, Owen McCusker, is studying to be an audio engineer and is working on recording our album.

Recording an album is a long and tedious process, but it is important that the album sounds good and professional because it is what represents your band and your music.  A CD is one of the first things fans and promoters ask for when they hear about a band, and if you are able to hand out a well written and produced album to people, it can really help you build your fan base and let you play at new venues.

Every band has a different approach to recording their material, and you can go in different orders, but the way our band has been doing it is based off examples of other bands and tends to be the traditional way to record.  The recording process consists of recording the drums to a click track, which makes the drums on beat with the pace of the song.  After getting a solid take of the drums, we have been recording the bass, rhythm and lead guitars, and then vocals.  It could take several attempts for each instrument because you want it to sound as good as possible, because that is what will be on the final cut which will be on the EP.

Local bands can also record their music in a live setting.  This means that instead of playing and recording each instrument one-by-one, bands get all of their members together in the same studio room and play their songs together like they would at a live show.  The final steps of the recording process are in the hands of the engineer.  The audio engineer puts the final touches and effects on the music that was just recorded and sends the material to get mastered so it can sound as good as possible to listeners and music fans.

Whether you decide to record you band’s original material one-by-one or in a live setting, they can both lead to great results.  The recording process is very important to bands that are just starting out and bands that have been established for many years.  There may be some tough times in the studio, but it is also where a band can really connect and bond over the music they are creating.

How does your band record?  Got any cool stories from the studio?


The songwriting process

April 15, 2010

Creating and writing a new song and/or jam is a very tedious and timely process, but once it is finished and all the band members know their parts well, it is one of the most rewarding things especially when you see people dancing and bobbing their heads to music and art that you created.

For my band Vespertine Movement, John, lead guitar, Owen, bass, and Guzzi, rhythm guitar, are the ones who write our songs. They all play guitar and they usually get an idea while strumming around with an acoustic guitar, and that is the origin of a new song. When we practice, we work on the song and all of the changes that go on throughout the tune.

When it comes to the drums with me, I hear the guitar and bass lines and that is where I am able to come up with a solid beat for the whole song. After we have the basic idea and beat, we all use constructive criticism with each other and decide whether we should add more elements to the song, take something out or change it any way we can to make it sound as good as possible in all aspects.

After we have all of the ideas for the song, either John or Guzzi writes lyrics and that determines who will sing that particular song. Practicing a new song or jam can get very repetitive and we usually find ourselves working on it for hours at a time, because we want to get it to the best of our abilities so we are confident when we play it live.

We try to write new songs as much as possible so our fans don’t get bored always hearing the same songs and the same set lists, especially since we haven’t been playing as long and don’t have too much original material. It is really fun getting new songs down, and it makes the band and our friendships that much closer because we are working together on music that we love influenced by bands and musicians we have been listening to for years. We, as a band, hope that one day we can be the influences on young local bands trying to make a name for themselves.

How does your local band create songs? Give me some cool stories about the song writing process for your local band.


Myspace and Facebook important for local bands

March 11, 2010

Are you in a local band who’s trying to get your music out there to build a fan base? Social networking websites are great tools to help your band with this.

Social networking websites such as Myspace and Facebook have made it easier for local bands to connect with their fans and get their music out there for free.

Owen McCusker, a local musician, has used Myspace ever since he started playing in a local band, and sees a lot of advantages in the go to website for bands.

“Myspace is really important for bands because it keeps ideas flowing back and forth between people and bands and ideas are constantly in stream.”

McCusker says Myspace has helped his band out in a big way by letting new people who haven’t heard their music find out about his band and see where they are playing around town.

Facebook has also reached out to local bands recently by letting them have their own profile page with links to shows, videos, and music. Mike Guzman, a local musician, sees just as many perks in Facebook because it lets bands connect with their closer friends and family.

“Facebook is a little different than Myspace for the local musician. With Facebook, you can connect with your close friends and your fans that already know you. You can let them know if you have new music coming out or if you have any shows coming up. It’s a lot different than Myspace where you can connect with people that you don’t actually really know.”

Guzman says that Facebook is a very effective tool because it is such a popular site and so many people are logged on everyday.

Myspace and Facebook are two out of many social networking websites that can help local bands.  To be able to have a band profile that displays music, videos, a bio and show updates is a huge benefit for bands that are trying to get to the next level.

Who knows what the next website that helps bands out will be.  For now, Myspace and Facebook are doing a great job by making local band’s lives that much easier.


Meet Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

March 11, 2010

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong always brings the party. That’s what they do, and they do great job performing that task.  Based out of College Park, Md., Pigeons has been rocking the local music scene since 2007, performing over 50 shows from basement parties to Byrd Stadium, Maryland Terrapin’s football stadium.

Pigeons is comprised of Jeremy Schon, guitar/vocals, Dan Schwartz, drums, Greg Ormont, vocals/guitar and Ben Carrey, bass. Fresh off of recording a new demo, FUNK E P, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong is working hard on building their fan base and elevating their jazz-rock sound to new heights.

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong performs at the 8x10.

Check out my conversation with drummer Dan Schwartz about the origin of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and other features about this great local band.

Q: When and how did Pigeons Playing Ping Pong form?

A: Pigeons formed in the fall of 2007 when I agreed to jam with Greg/Jeremy, who were already doing the acoustic thing. We needed a place to jam, and Jeremy knew Ben from freshman year, so we all loaded our equipment into his house and he jammed with us and the connection was made.

Q: What is the reasoning behind your band name?

A: The name is based on an actual BF Skinner science psychology experiment on using a reward system to train pigeons to play ping pong. Plus, it’s highly marketable and sweet alliteration.

Q:What are some of Pigeon’s biggest influences?

A: Our top influences right now include Lotus, Phish, Soulive, New Deal, New Mastersounds, Perpetual Groove and the entire 90’s rock genre.

Q: How would you describe your band’s sound?

A: Funk/Rock/Jazz/Dance band that Jams. We don’t want to be pigeon-holed (pun intended) as a Jam Band.

Q: What has been your biggest show to date? What made that show so special to your band?

A: Our biggest show was our CD release party in February at the Santa Fe Cafe. The night was sold out and the energy was incredible. It was a culmination of a lot of hard work we put into the album and a lot of word of mouth buzz we generated. It was great seeing all our friends get into it.

Q: You guys just finished recording your demo FUNK E P. How was the recording process?

A: We recorded the entire album as a live instrumental take in one night at WMUC studios courtesy of engineer Ilia Kobrinsky. Then, Jeremy overdubbed crucial guitar parts and solo’s and Greg did his vocals over the instrumentals. Ilia then mixed and mastered the album over the next week or so. “Couldn’t We All” started with a beat I had made on Reason.

Q: Where do you hope to see Pigeons Playing Ping in a few years?

A: Our goal is to play All Good 2011, and Madison Square Garden 2012. You gotta have big hopes.

Q: Any tips and advice for local bands through your experiences to date?

A: Develop your sound. Master your craft. Then, learn the ins and outs of the business and use your creativity to make your presence known on a local level. Most of all, make sure you can have fun doing what your doing, because once people see you’re into it, it becomes infectious.

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong will be rocking the 8×10 next Thursday, March 25.  If you want to dance and have a good time, Pigeons is the band to see. Support this awesome local band.


Open mic nights important for young local bands

February 25, 2010

Are you in a local band and trying to take your music from the basement to a venue stage?

An important step for developing young local bands is the open mic night.  Open mic nights give local bands the chance to get the experience of playing on an actual stage and to get some of their music out there to people that have never seen or heard about your band before.

When my band, Vespertine Movement, first started practicing to learn cover songs and write some original material, we were trying to get the exposure of playing on a stage but not in front of a lot of people, so we could get comfortable on stage musically.

VM played a open mic night at the 8×10, and the owner asked us to come back for a bigger show, and from there we started playing a bunch of shows in the local area building up our repertoire and fan base in the process.

Depending on the venue, open mic nights usually last about 15-20 minutes, just enough time for you to play the two or three songs that you feel the most comfortable with.  Some local venues, such as the 8×10, have open mic competitions, and if your band is the best of the night, you can advance on to the next round to possibly win some helpful prizes like recording time.

Many local bands have taken the open mic step to get some exposure.  Matt Lowe, bass player and vocalist for Towson’s The Three Tree Experience, thinks highly of open mics for bands that are just starting out.

“Open mic nights are awesome.  They’re the easiest way to get on stage and perform.  That can be pretty tough to do when you first start out.  There’s no worrying about selling enough tickets to keep the club happy, and if you don’t have a lot of material to perform it’s no big deal since the only time constraint is that you can’t play for too long,” Lowe said. “I know a bunch of successful bands that got their start playing open mic nights.  It gave them the opportunity to build their fanbase to what it is today.”

Baltimore offers a variety of venues/clubs/bars that host open mic nights every night of the week.  For bands that are just starting out, all you have to do is a little research on the different venues in the area, and head down to the place and just play your music with no worries.  There’s not as much pressure for bands on an open mic night, which can be a huge sigh of relief.

So what are you waiting for young local bands? Get out there and let your music be heard.