A group of students steps up to the senior deck. It’s the start of lunch and classmates begin to fill the quad. The group dubbed “Paly Rocks Club” prepares to show the entire school its musical capabilities. As a crowd gathers in front of them, lawn chairs turning to face the stage and lunch groups forming circles on the grass, singer Andrew Solway steps up to begin the first song. Friends join one another on the sideline, as Solway receives a round of applause for his performance while sharing something he loves—music that is different and exciting.
“Going on stage is always exciting,” senior Solway says. “[Sharing something I love is always an adventure. At the same time there’s a fair amount of improvisation involved when we solo. It makes each show we do different and exciting.”
The club reinvigorates classic songs in front of audiences that may sound typical at first but go off in an unexpected direction. There are many factors that go on behind the scenes that remain unnoticed by the public eyes as they watch Paly Rocks on stage.
The club is known for its laid-back rehearsals and constant jam sessions, which are instrumental in shaping the club’s live performances and give the young musicians the opportunity to share their passion for music with one another.
Despite the relaxed atmosphere at the rehearsals, the musicians take their craft very seriously and it shows through their flawless and energetic performances.
Paly Rocks was founded last year by former senior Respect Zhou, who created the club in 2012, but had to leave throughout the year. This year however, under the leadership of seniors Andrew Solway and Benjamin May, the club has revamped its previous image of a circle of guitars to incorporate the current 22 members with an diverse variety of instruments and positions.
The main goal of Paly Rocks, according to Solway, is to provide student musicians with the opportunity to play music in a low-pressure environment.
“[We like to just be] ourselves and jam and have a good and time,” Solway says. “To share our love for music with everyone in school. That’s what I hope to get across: that it’s fun.”
Junior Mostyn Griffith, a guitarist and vocalist, says the reason he decided to join was so he could further pursue his love for music.
“I play rhythm guitar so I help everyone else. I keep the rhythm together, like not really showing off but keeping it in the back,” Griffith says.
Patrick Stormer, a drummer, wanted to join the club because of his love for “hitting things,” according to Stormer. This musical affection has been molded through inspirations by bigger names.
“My inspirations are [musician] Marilyn Manson, [vocalist] Anthony Kiedis, [musician] Kim Deal, and [club president] Andrew Solway because they are absolutely wonderful beautiful people and amazing musicians.”
Stormer is also inspired by his drum teacher Roger Kidd (a musician unassociated with Paly), and believes that drums are a crucial tool when it comes to keeping the band in sync.
“The drums do more than just help keep the time,” says Stormer. “They add accent and make a song more solid.” This role has made Stormer feel a part of the eclectic ambiance of Paly Rocks community.
Another important function of a proper rock band is the bass and guitar players — and this is exactly what Paly Rocks has in order to achieve an active support in the kind of music they play. Without band members Beau Edwards, Shyon Lewis-Steck, Edward Kwiatkowski, Gabe Galang and Ben Cook, the club argues that their music would simply feel empty, and almost incomplete.
No one agrees with this more than Galang, who is a lead guitarist of Paly Rocks and joined the club to reach his goal of improving his techniques and song writing ability. Galang, after joining, has found that Paly Rocks fosters support for individuality and empowerement.
“I believe that without the bass and guitar in song, it feels empty because each part plays a part in a role,” Galang says. “It’s like a body; the bass are the lungs that push the notes like air, [while] the guitar is like the backbone since it holds the song together and provides structure.”
In the process of building the structure of the group, Galang has found that he is now closer to reaching his goal.
“The way I play lead is mainly used as a hook to draw attention from the audience to me and the band,” Galang says. “I try to make the song memorable with the solos, riffs, and licks that I play while keeping the melody steady and readable.”
When it comes to musical inspirations, Galang has many. “Chuck Berry, Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, [are among a few],” Galang says.
However among his idols, Andrew Solway is at the top of his list.
“The Boss-man’s [Solway] skills really inspire me to be a better musician,” Galang says. “I can honestly say he’s the best out of all of us.”
Shyon Lewis-Steck, one of the other guitarists, says that one of the unique aspects of the bass is that it brings the rhythm of the drums to the guitar and keeps the entire rhythm of the song in check. He also believes that his instrument is capable of so much more than people would expect, being an expressive instrument of itself. If given the chance, Lewis-Steck would like to explore a different kind of instrument: the mandolin.
“I personally think it’s one of the greatest instrumented ever created,” he says. It is this kind of creativity and dedication to the wide spectrum of music that helps build Paly Rocks into what it is.
Solway heavily participates by role-changing constantly to fit the band’s needs instrumentally. He holds several positions in the club: he sings, plays the piano, and is also a talented guitarist.
“I play the keyboard, I sing sometimes, I play the guitar sometimes, whatever the group needs. I play the keys and sing the most,” Solway says. “By playing the piano, I hope to contribute rhythm and to be a good backbone to the group.”
Despite the range in personal inspirations, Solway says the groups’ goals are to create music in a low pressure environment. By interacting musically and growing as a group, the club is driven to improve and meet new precedents.
“The purpose of the club is to perform in front of our peers,” Solway says. “Next year, some things we would like to do include playing in benefit concerts, performing more in quad, and raising money to buy equipment. [All the while,] increasing involvement.”
The members have all conquered their initial nerves of performing in front of their fellow students and now continue to strive to share their passion. At this point, the club is proving to be successful in offering young musicians the opportunity to do what they love most, and hopes to continue rocking out on the quad.
As the group finishes their final piece, the afternoon drags on. As members slowly begin leaving, the others keep playing in hopes of tuning their inner expressions.