Clark County natives form band, build community and keep creating
CLARK COUNTY — “Worst case scenario, we have a good time.”
That is their motto. The maxim upon which their melodical methods ride upon. They have a classiness about them, and a giddy optimism that seems to be soaked up by the porous scene around them.
They met in high school, at Battle Ground’s Cam Academy, to be exact. Well, most of them did. The rest, at Boise State University. A band was always a running joke. Never a true goal. But then, there’s always a bit of truth in humor.
“If you ever formed a band what would you call it?”
In September of 2019, the jam sessions commenced. The pooling of ideas and backgrounds resulted in an upbeat, emotional and memorable sound. That sound matured into their first EP; a demo album.
A melting pot of genres and styles with hardly enough status quo to put a label on, but nevertheless, it’s closest to Theatrical Pop, they say. Funky, groovy, step-to-it-now kind of sounds, with a clean and strong vocal leader; that’s their brand and identity.
They have nothing to lose, because they love every moment of it. Nothing will stop them from playing for us. Not even global pandemonium.
“Once we all came together as a group, it opened up a lot of doors creatively for us to be able to be making music and writing music and just kind of jamming together and arranging,” said Governors’ lead vocalist, Michael McCormic Jr. “March 9, we did our first show. Within a week, the whole world had kind of shut down. It was a good way to end I guess. I really missed the guys, I really wanted to do something with them. Let’s just do a little remote project.”
With McCormic belting out the lyrics, Daniel Sarkela on acoustic guitar, AJ Trantham riffing on the electric guitar, Patrick McCuistion playing piano, Lemuel Saputra on drums, and Carl Krutz slapping the bass, The Governors buckled up for crafting music; their way.
After building up their collaborative creativity, the band members couldn’t let even stay-at-home orders keep them down. So they crafted a virtual connection, and threw out the call for anyone to join. The result is as fun and encouraging as one might expect; something reminiscent of a Beatles-era fan-and-band unity.
The song was the first they ever played together. It’s aptly named for the times, “It Gets Better.”
“I think, you know, ‘It Gets Better,’ it’s got a message to it that I think a lot of people can feel right now. It’s got a message that a lot of people need to hear,” said McCormic. “One of the things that has kind of been important to us from the beginning is making sure that we’re using our music, that we’re using the messages that we bring, to speak for people. So to have people share their voices with us was very meaningful.”
Now, the band is separated by many miles in some cases, with Sarkela in South Carolina, and Saputra set to return to his home in Indonesia this summer. As a result, they have over 25 hours in the studio between now and mid summer.
“I was always telling him like, ‘Man, let’s start a band. Man, let’s start a band.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if I have time. I got this theater stuff. I got a girl friend,’ Sarkela said of McCormic, who he’s known for years. “I moved across the country, South Carolina. And then a couple years later, he calls me up. He’s like, ‘Hey, man, I’m starting a band.’ Like what the heck!?”
Their first professionally recorded single, “Dream,” will drop on June 5, soon to be followed by their first full album, “Power to the People.” You’ll be able to find it on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, etc.
“We’ve got rock coming in, jazz, pop. There’s lots of classical influences,” McCuistion said. “I wrote the song [“Dream”] a couple months ago, and I was working on a C sharp minor Sonata and I showed the song to my music professor who I was working with. He was like, ‘Most rock songs are not written in C sharp minor.’ So were pulling influences from everywhere and kind of pushing that all into a cohesive package.”
The group is fluid in their writing and comfortable in their own skin; never worrying about the ease of a choice or the difficulty of an idea. Sarkela’s professional music training is their compass, and their collective love of risk taking is their opus operandi.
“We try to throw a lot of funk into things,” said Krutz. “Like on ‘Dream’ that Patrick was talking about, we thought the base lines were kind of happening, but let’s add some octaves and see what happens. We did, and it worked. So they’re in the song now. I don’t think it’s limited to our tastes. I think we keep trying to expand into new areas that even we aren’t necessarily comfortable with.”
Saputra actually joined the group in January. He had, quite possibly, the fastest curveball thrown his way; having to learn the band’s feel and rhythm in a matter of two months. Not to worry though. As the adage goes for drummers, “The tempo’s whatever I say it is.”
“I’m still just amazed at how prolific these guys are with writing new songs,” Saputra said. “There was plenty of stuff for me to learn before the recording, but luckily they already had a demo. There were already some existing drum parts that I could kind of bounce off of and work with, but also kind of seeing things that maybe I would like to do differently. The process is really collaborative. My experience has been that we’re all kind of open with suggesting parts to one another.”
With the weight of the coronavirus pandemic weighing on creatives, in some ways more than most, the band has had to cope and find ways to thrive under the extreme circumstances.
“This is a really hard time to be a musician right now,” Sarkela said. “I hate this like Hollywood, introspective, like all about my journey musician stereotype, you know, because it’s not about that. It’s about playing for other people and the joy you spread when you play music, like there’s something so special about it. There’s presentational music, and then there’s participatory music. Getting the audience involved, that’s what I love about that song, “It Gets Better.” People sing along to that and now it’s not just us putting on a show anymore. The audience is there too.”
The future takes on an uncertain form, they say, but not an unsure will.
“None of us really have any intention of saying goodbye to this project anytime soon,” said McCormic, to a wave of nods and agreement.
Their collaboration on “It Gets Better” is available on YouTube, and if all goes well, their album “Power to the People” comes out this summer.
They are far from worried though. Worst case scenario, they have a good time.