For this Music Spotlight, we got in touch with Scholar, a pop punk band that has been killing it recently. We met up to talk about their new EP, the changing music scene, and their zombie plan.
How did the band get started?
Jon: I’m not entirely sure, since I only joined a few months back — but I hear it involved a lot of genetic experiments…
James: Scholar has always been an endeavor between Rob (Bass) and Mike W. (drums), and I since 2003, in some way, shape, or form. We have been through many incarnations, but in 2010 we decided to pull out as many stops as possible and really try to balance a musical career within the constructs of our everyday lives.
Rob: Our love of punk rock and manly touches.
Mike: James, Robert, and I have been playing together for close to ten years. Our love for pop punk and blink 182 is pretty much how we started playing. Just going over “Cheshire Cat” and “Dude Ranch” songs for fun. When it came to a real band, we never could get a solid line up other than the three of us. Interestingly enough, though , Robert and I played with our current singer Jon a few years ago and it never went anywhere…and we never heard from him again. One day we were watching Strung Out play and noticed Jon was their tech. When Steve quit vocals, I remembered Jon and stalked him on Facebook until he agreed to sing for Scholar.
Do you have a favorite place to perform?
James: In Rochester, I really enjoy Water Street Music Hall and The Montage Music Hall — they have been around a long time and are always consistent with quality sound and execution. The Bug Jar rules, too. If we’re talking outside of Rochester, personally it becomes a limited opinion for some of us (only Jon, our vocalist, and Mike, our drummer, have toured extensively), but of the venues I’ve played – I really dig the Haunt in Ithaca, and any small venue with a packed crowd in the Bath, NY area.
Rob: I don’t, anywhere is good.
Mike: I really like Dub Land in Rochester, and The Club Side at Water Street has killer sound.
What do you think of the Rochester Music scene?
Jon: I think the bands are great and they work hard. From a promotional aspect, a lot has changed. Pay to play sucks. It really seems that a lot of kids are taking over and calling themselves promoters – thinking that posting on Facebook and Twitter will be enough – but it’s not. I remember when it wasn’t like that, and I think it can get back to good. They’re having bands sell tickets to their friends (and relying on that) instead of relying on real street tactics to bring in a head count. That aspect of it pisses me off, but the scene as a whole is full of hard working bands and people chasing the same goals.
James: I think while music scenes everywhere eb and flow with the changes that occur not only in the “it” genres, but the economy, Rochester has always been home to a hotbed of talented people creating not only ground-breaking shifts in genre presentation, but also expressing an overall sense of comradely — and family. The bands that make it happen in Rochester work their asses off, and usually have 2-3 local bands that they are happy to help out. I’ve heard several national bands come through town and praise this scene for its heart. So it really is a great city, once you make some headway into it. We’re a band full of slightly older (but still handsome) gentlemen, and people are always giving our music a chance and not just assuming that because we pass out hard candy that we are trying to lure them back into our cars. It’s awesome!
Mike: I think there is a bit of a problem, and not just in Rochester, with creating a new formula that works for live music while still embracing different models, which worked in the past. It’s awesome when we can all come together despite genres and cliques, and promote our own scene, to grow within it, together — and we really want to make that a reality. We’ve been playing in Rochester for over a decade, it’s not exactly what it used to be, but I’m hopeful that people won’t lose their drive to support local artists. I love playing music. There are kids out there (and I’ve met lots of them in Rochester) trying to fight the unraveling of live music. I don’t want to be playing drums on a webcam in ten years, so I’m going to fight with them.
You guys just released a new EP, how did the recording process go?
Jon: I wasn’t a part of that process, but I have re-recorded a lot of the original vocals for our full length.
James: Well, we released an EP in April 2012 that was untitled (it’s still available on iTunes and several other online stores and services) and we had really big plans, but our original singer decided to quit and focus on other things – so that kind of halted things, and that sucked. The recording process however, is really great. I love working with Brian Moore at Redbooth Recording because we have a history and most of us have known him for years. He actually recorded Scholar back in 2005. Our new singer, Jon Lalopa, is a very talented engineer and songwriter in his own right, so the recording process for the new stuff is going to be a little more streamlined between Jon and Brian. Which is great because that will lend more time to play with all of Brian’s Star Wars and Back to the Future toys.
Rob: Working with Brian Moore at Red Booth was both sexual, and magical.
Mike: For me, it’s usually short and simple. We were never in a room at the same time prior to tracking the first 4 songs. We practiced for a few hours before we went to the studio for the first time in a long time. Some of these songs we’ve been working on for a couple years, even though they have evolved into their final forms. I went in, did my drum parts, and drove 2 hours home. My main regret is that because we lacked so much pre-production , I was writing a lot of my parts on the spot, and then I rewrite them over the course of playing out live. Usually for better – so I love the way the recording ended up, I’m just excited because on the new stuff, we are spending much more time in pre-production. We even got a practice space that is in the city, and not in my basement 2 hours from everyone.
What’s next do you have any tours or new projects planned?
Jon: We’re working on weekend tours as soon as I get back from the road teching with Strung Out/Such Gold. We’re writing and recording for a full length. We are lining up as many shows as possible and we’re going to take the east coast by storm!
James: We want to tour badly. Jon tours with bands a lot, so he is used to driving in different cities world wide and making it happen, which is what we need. We are looking into breaking out of Rochester with several extended weekend tours, hitting specific markets and then in 2013 – we plan on releasing our full length record and touring as much as possible. As for new projects – there is always something going on. Robert is doing great things with graphic art and design – and Jon is looking to finish up his second solo LP with “Speakeasy” (Jon’s project before joining Scholar in 2012). Mike is too busy working out and selling cars, but he’s been known to rock some cover bands on the side. I travel around with my friends at 215ink Comics and help promote my friends’ comic book, BEWARE…, at most of the national comic-cons. It’s fucking awesome. Musically, I will be writing and tracking some TBA stuff with Brian, stuff that’s completely different than Scholar. But that’s on a more personal level, and Scholar is a main priority.
Rob: New songs with Jon are on the way! And perhaps a hot dog tree.
Mike: I’m working super hard to book several weekend tours on the east coast, and hopefully there will be a west coast trip in the winter, and we’re going to have a full length out by the end of this winter. And possibly a split before that, but that’s in the air.
You guys have had a lot of exposure with different press, do you think it’s hard for a local band to get out of Rochester?
Jon: It’s only hard if you don’t put your band out there. You have to work, work, WORK your asses off and play the best you can. That goes for any artist, from any city, in any genre or style.
James: We actually get asked about this a lot. I really had no clue what to expect when sending out a megaton of press emails to anyone who might be interested, and every time someone was kind enough to promote or review us – it was unreal. And, I mean anyone. We get excited about a dude with a blog in just the same way as we get excited about radio or Absolute Punk. We’ve had exposure in the UK and Canada and all this stuff without touring, and I think that really speaks to how much effort we put into the music we’re trying to give people. It’s so humbling, because it’s so fragile. There are literally a million bands out there trying to grab recognition, if you catch decent footing out of the gates – you’re still fighting to maintain relevance. As far as I can tell, it’s all in hard work and elbow grease. If a band works hard, and endures the lows – while consistently touring, word will spread.
Rob: Not if you try. Look at Polar Bear Club, Such Gold, Storm the Bay, Sirens and Sailors…etc. They aren’t out there getting rich or giving shit about anything other than their band. They’re doing that shit. Hard.
Mike: No. I think as with everything in life – you get out exactly what you put in (barring luck and timing). If you want to play one city forever, cool. If you don’t – you get your ass out there, and you do what you have to do to play your music for people all over the world. And maybe someday you can pay rent and utilities doing it. And maybe afford more than peanut-butter and jelly on the road. And, if not — peanut butter and jelly for life isn’t a tall price for doing something you love.
If a zombie apocalypse were to happen right now, do you have a zombie plan?
Jon: I’d join them and eat every ones’ fucking brains!
James: A series of treadmills, set to high, below wherever we are.
Rob: Look for a weapon and an attractive woman who will hopefully let you have sex with her.
Mike: Ha, I barely have a life-plan, and that shit is happening right now. I pretty much wing it every day. You gotta risk it, to get the biscuit.
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