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Ordinary music for the peoples

Sarah Vabulas | Friday, October 3, 2003

Friday night at Legends promises to be a night full of energy and spunk. The Ohio hip-hop trio Ordinary Peoples will perform a two-hour set beginning at 9 p.m. Ari “Scraps” Goldstein, the emcee of the group, Gerard Garrelts, who plays drums and dishes out samples, and Ben Levels, who plays the keyboard and does most of the vocals, make up the band Ordinary Peoples. A guitarist, Pat Edwards, recently joined Ordinary Peoples which the band hopes will add more flare to their style.

Scraps and Garrelts met in 1998 during their sophomore year at Ohio State University, coining the name Ordinary Peoples. In 2001, Scraps graduated with a degree in communications and Garrelts graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. The group needed a keyboard player for some shows after establishing themselves. Ben Levels was the resolution to this predicament. He joined the band prior to a large run of shows through Ohio and made his place with Ordinary Peoples.

“It was a learning process to find people to complete the sound we were going for,” Scraps said. “We had a guy who played saxophone for O.A.R. and guitar for us, but he left after we decided what was best. We are all about the future.”

Ordinary Peoples is based in Columbus, Ohio has traveled throughout much of the Eastern United States, playing various venues on and off college campuses, but their main audience remains mostly college students.

The trio has been hoping to play Notre Dame for a while. “Notre Dame always seemed like a great place to perform. It’s a great thing to have the opportunity to do play there,” Levels, who handles most of the public relations, said.

Levels has also contacted WVFI, the student-run Notre Dame radio station to see if they would play any Ordinary Peoples music.

Ordinary Peoples has three CDs out, but Scraps said, “Urban Sprawl, our most recent, is the best representation of us. We don’t really sell the other two anymore.”

The CD “Urban Sprawl” has a great sound with a lot of energy. Each track has a different feel for it, using many different instruments and methods in creating catchy music with potential.

“We are an urban band with a hip-hop feel,” Levels said. “We use different elements of our background and our music rules as urban rockadelic. We have a big hip-hip, reggae rock influence.”

The band uses both acoustic and electronic instruments to make their distinct sound.

“I play a combination of acoustic and electronic drums. With the electronic drums, we have a lot of energy with a clear, crisp, banging sound,” Garrelts said. “The computer runs live while running samples and loops to give out sound a lot more body. It helps to flatten up our sound a lot. I’m half-man, half-machine up there.”

Ordinary Peoples finds inspiration from all over for their music. “It is really just random. Inspired by other music. We get inspiration from watching the news, watching everyday life,” Scraps said. “My most recent purchase is the new OutKast album. But we also find inspiration from Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, the classics. Even Salt ‘N’ Pepa. The new thing is this emo hip-hop music.”

The name of the band, Ordinary Peoples, explains the band’s view on their music. “We’re tying to appeal to the masses,” Garrelts said. “Something they can latch onto. Ordinary Peoples means just for the people.”

Ordinary Peoples is working hard to continue breaking out of the Midwest area. “We’re getting a lot of national attention,” Levels said. “We are on a soundtrack for a new movie coming out, ‘Winter Break.'”

Scraps has performed with the reggae and roots-rock jam band O.A.R., also from Ohio, on a regular basis. O.A.R. has become national known with albums quickly selling and concerts highly populated. His most recent tour with them was on their Spike Tour.

Ordinary Peoples has been establishing relationships with all sorts of bands from all over to continue their venture into the mainstream music of young America. They are beginning to gain interest from various labels and companies, pushing them to become a larger scale band.

“It’s a matter of deciding who we’re going to go with,” Scraps said. “We’re trying to get on a national tour.”

Their current record label is GAB records, their independent label. Ordinary Peoples writes and produces the album on their own. “We do all the stuff ourselves,” Scraps said. “We always seem to do just as much, if not more, on our own. We go that extra length to get it done.”

Levels admits that the band draws inspiration from all sorts of genres of music. “We are all into The Roots and Black-Eyed Peas. We also draw from Bob Marley,” Levels said. “Those were the initial things. I also like listening to a lot of classic rock like Jimmy Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Simon and Garfunkel, The Doors and Peter Frampton. I’m drawing from the rock of the ’60s and ’70s.”

Ordinary Peoples tours mostly independently. Scraps and Garrelts splits up the duties of booking the shows. They have shows planned in Morgantown, W.V.., along with a slew of Ohio dates. Their biggest show will be at Ohio University. “We do a lot of stuff with fraternities and organizations,” Levels said.

They spent a week on tour with O.A.R. and have local bands they have linked up with occasionally, “It’s just us doing our thing,” said Scraps. “We’re working on a New York show, but the place we used to play shut down, so we are finding a new place to play.”

“The show is going to be energetic and high energy. Our music is danceable. Most of the songs people will hear and sing along. It’s a fun time,” Levels said. “It’s an exciting thing. A big party. We play good music. We are a great, energetic band with music you can dance to.”

“We take [the show] to a different place. It has a good vibe. The music is cool. The music is accessible. We plan to get the crowd involved. There is an essence of hip-hop. We do spontaneous jams and vibe on the crowd. We freestyle. It’s a fun show. It’s a party.”

Ordinary Peoples plans to play songs from their newest album, but also play some new material not on an album yet. “We might even play a few covers. We’re not sure what we’ll do for this show. We might play some John Lennon, The Fugees, Snoop Dogg and OutKast,” Levels said. “We will definitely include some freestyle both musically and lyrically. There is structure about it, but at the same time, we just let the spirit take over.”

The band loves to play for a lively crowd. Touring gives them a boost of energy and brings them joy. “My favorite thing ever is when we’re playing a live show and the look on people’s faces is that they are having the best time of their lives,” Garrelts said. “They are just living in the moment.”

Ordinary Peoples will play at Legends tonight. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the band goes on at 9 p.m. Admission is free for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students. For further information about the band, visit the Ordinary Peoples official Web site at www.ordinarypeoples.com. For more information about the show, or for a list of upcoming events at Legends, visit the Legends Web site at www.nd.edu/~legends.

Contact Sarah Vabulas at [email protected]