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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Student Bands Trying to Hit It Big

Photo Credit: Ezra Margono


When one thinks of a famous musician, many images laced with leather, sunglasses and body guards come to mind.  Their lives are glamorous, their schedules are fast-paced and their spending is frivolous.  For some, living what most would call an ordinary life can be almost impossible.  Before they were stars, however, they were typical people: the baseball player, the pizza delivery man and the kid who sits in the back row of MAT 125.

At Stony Brook, there are many musicians attending classes on politics, anatomy and business by day, and then jamming out in front of crowds of fans by night.  Balancing school, life and the pursuit of a music career is something that members of the Long Island bands Breathing East, After Chidori and Toxin have to deal with on a daily basis.

“It’s all about sacrifice,” said Greg Bustamante, a sophomore health science major. “Some weeks you bring your books to practice and just listen to the other guys play music.  Some weeks you just do the minimum to get by.  At the end of the semester, your grades reflect if you have sacrificed correctly.”

Bustamante plays the bass for the band After Chidori.  Band practice takes place three times a week in a garage attic behind the house of their guitar player, James Marshall, 29.  The room is lined with a Styrofoam material all along the walls and ceiling in an attempt to insulate for sound.  With a sound that can be described as metal or hardcore, it is not surprising that noise would become a concern as the room vibrates from the loud volume of even the mere warm-ups.  There is even a jar of ear-plugs on the table for those who cannot handle the intensity.  The intensity of the rehearsal is similar to the vibe of a live performance, such as Rock Yo Face Case.  It is the passion of the musicians that provides this floor-rumbling power.

“We all have similar goals and like similar things,” Marshall said. “Our long term goal is to ultimately make music a career.”

Also hoping to make music a career is the band Toxin, a Long Island-based band who is set to go on tour with Bret Michaels in summer of 2011.  Toxin knows about both the academic and financial sacrifices that must be made when it comes to following their dreams of music stardom.

“Balancing school and the band is the most difficult thing to do,” said Ross Medico, a sophomore and political science and history double major.  “I have to miss a whole week of school in April to open for Bret Michaels and it is hard to talk to a teacher about missing class for band-related things.”

Medico also has to drive back to Stony Brook in the middle of tour in order to take his history final.  Even more, the financial sacrifice that all the members of the band must make is difficult to deal with.  The amount of money Toxin spends on equipment, travel expenses and advertisement is in the thousands of dollars.

“When we went to Germany for the Bang Your Head Festival, every cent from that went towards travel expenses for the summer when we toured with Twisted Sister,” Medico said.  “It is hard to spend money when you do not have it, every cent we make goes into the band.”

With all the effort that these students are putting into their music, one would wonder how difficult it still is to step into the music business.

“It’s been pretty frustrating trying to break into the industry,” said Will Stevens, a senior social welfare major.  “The Long Island music scene has become very difficult.  The main goal is to play in front of more than just your friends. Our friends and family have been very supportive but now we’re expanding and sending stuff out, but we have a long road ahead of us to make contact with a record label.”

Stevens provides back-up vocals and bass for the band Breathing East, one that is no stranger to performing right here at Stony Brook.  They released their E.P. at a recent Rock Yo Face Case show and opened up for Matt and Kim at Brookfest 2010.  Stevens accredits most their fan base to Stony Brook’s Rock Yo Face Case since the fans are mostly out east and can easily attend the shows on campus.

“My personal opinion on the event is that it is an amazing idea in that it provides unsigned bands with a venue to play and the chance to expose their music to people that otherwise would not have seen them,” Stevens said. “It is good for the bands, the audience and the campus as a whole because it gives peoplesomething to do.”

Fans prove to be a band’s greatest resource when it comes to getting noticed.  According to Medico, a lot of today’s success has to do with social networking and the Internet.  It is important for bands to get their name out to as many as people as possible so that they can gain exposure.

“Breaking into the industry is like trying to put your head through an invisible wall,” Bustamante said.  “You do not know where it is or how to do it and no one else can tell you how because they cannot see it.  Gaining a fan is like taking one brick out of that wall. It is the only way you can break it down.”

With all the sacrifices and setbacks that come along with being a musician, there is one thing that they all agree on the fact that they will never give up, even if it seems like they are not getting anywhere.  They feel that playing live and sharing their music with people is the best feeling in the world and none of them would be quick to abandon their dreams.

“You do not give up because it is what you love,” Bustamante said.  “There’s no logical reason to be in a band, but that does not make it any less amazing.”

The strength to carry on through the tough times comes from inspiration and the music.  Their inspiration comes from all different places.  For After Chidori it is their imaginations, while for Toxin it is the vast background of their favorite music genres.

“I am the more heavy-metal one of the group,” Medico said.  “Our bass player is into 60s rock and our keyboardist likes country.  It is interesting to see how all our inspirations come together to form the sound of our band.”

In the end, it is all about the music and the feeling that the artists get from playing.

“Horse the band said it best,” Bustamante said.  “‘I have the power of a million exploding suns.”

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