Notre Dame Band Scene
Allie Tollaksen | Sunday, February 2, 2014
“This is about you, you yuppie nerds!”
Garrity McOsker yells into the microphone, pointing to the pumped-up crowd at Legends last Thursday. McOsker’s punk band, Sober Sinners, played an impressive hour-long set at the club’s “Student Band Night.” Fans and friends came out for the show to hear the student group’s original music, and McOsker’s exclamation, said (mostly) in jest, provided the perfect snapshot of Sober Sinners — a smart punk band at Notre Dame with lyrics that may not always jive with the larger student body but a sound and sense of humor that could get any audience going.
While it may seem from Sober Sinners’ hilarious mid-set jab or musical genre that the band isn’t interested in their Notre Dame home base, the opposite couldn’t be truer. In fact, McOsker, lead singer and band founder, has been trying to get other on-campus musicians to start their own bands and write their own music.
“I try to get people to start bands all the time. I let them use my equipment … We support on-campus musicians and go to their shows too. I want to encourage more people to do that,” he said.
Sober Sinners certainly know a thing or two about the process of writing original content. Among a group of on-campus musicians who mostly perform covers and play occasional live sets, Sober Sinners stands out by putting an immense amount of time into writing, recording and touring.
“We get together, practice all the time, write our own music and record. We are super active, and it takes a lot of work … I know a lot of student musicians have had their frustrations, but I decided a long time ago to stop talking about those frustrations about the music scene and go ahead and do something about it,” he said.
With a now-untitled album on the way, Sober Sinners was able to perform nine original songs from their upcoming album on Thursday. The band also completed a Midwest tour last year and plans to continue to tour this semester.
“We did a tour in the fall, and we’re trying to go to Boston and out east this semester, meeting new bands and making connections,” McOsker said.
Started by McOsker, now a junior, during his freshman year, the band has seen many changes along the way. Thursday’s Legends set featured a lineup of McOsker singing lead vocals, Alex McDermott on guitar, Patrick Samuels on drums and Brennan Jacobson on bass.
One important resource the band found during its formation and subsequent changes was the South Bend punk scene. Though Sober Sinners has seen frustrations and speed bumps during their career at Notre Dame, the local punk scene has been supportive of the group, providing venues, recording space and guidance along the way.
“I’ve really been interested in the South Bend punk scene for a while. They get good bands to come through here. I’ve become good friends with guys from shows, and it’s just turned into sort of, a friendship with these guys in town. They’ve shown us the ropes, gave us recording time and it’s been good. It’s all about building those connections,” he said.
While McOsker and the rest of Sober Sinners may have found the music connection between Notre Dame and South Bend early on during their years of hard work, they’re also participating in a new project at Notre Dame, called the Bridge Project, focused on building more connections between Notre Dame and South Bend.
The Bridge Project was started by a group of students and is aimed at fostering a connection between the arts in South Bend and Notre Dame. One of the project’s first events featured another impressive performance by Sober Sinners, as well as several other student musicians, at an off-campus venue called The Pool last Friday. There, a diverse group of Notre Dame musicians met a South Bend audience in an intimate showcase, and The Bridge Project’s vision began to come to life.
Along with Sober Sinners, student artists Bandajour, John Schommer and the Cute Townies, Hill & Murray and Rednight all took the stage Friday night. They were also joined by South Bend group Anival Fousto Band, which undoubtedly left with a group of Notre Dame fans after a wonderful performance.
Will Murray, a musician himself (making up one half of Hill & Murray) and one of the founders of The Bridge Project, spoke about what else he envisions for the Notre Dame and South Bend communities, describing the disconnect between students on campus and the growing art scene in South Bend.
“There’s a huge crowd at Notre Dame who are either underage or dissatisfied with the dorm party scene, and this is a way to set them up with an easy way to explore the talent that South Bend has to offer that no one really knows about,” Murray said.
The project hopes to help “bridge the gap” between the two communities by facilitating attendance of live music in the city and helping establish connections between like-minded students and South Bend residents.
“Music is a great force for unity. But eventually, we want this to expand into a full-on connection between the city and campus,” Will said.
The show at The Pool on Friday was one of many South Bend live music performances, and The Bridge Project’s mission is to open up Notre Dame students and South Bend residents to these kinds of performances. Students heading the project hope to do this by using skills from their majors and on-campus resources and collaborating with friends in South Bend. Sean Fitzgerald, a computer engineering major, is working on creating an app that will help Notre Dame students and South Bend residents take advantage of the bus system to connect them to local music venues. Another version would help coordinate carpools to events in South Bend.
“I’m writing an app for South Bend and Notre Dame, a collaboration. One of the things I love about this is that in order to get people together, you need public transportation … The app will have a cultural aspect to it. In order to get times of a stop, you tap the stop, and it will have a tab that will include venues on stop and upcoming [shows],” Fitzgerald said.
Whether it’s The Bridge Project aiming to connect Notre Dame students to the arts and music South Bend has to offer or musicians like Sober Sinners working hard to put out new music at Notre Dame, exciting things are happening with Notre Dame’s music scene. Events both out in South Bend and on campus and groups like Sober Sinners and The Bridge Project show that there’s an interest from both sides.
“We’re trying to establish an interpersonal connection between the communities,” Dan Courtney, another musician and Bridge Project member, explained. “We’re working on bringing South Bend bands to campus and having people from South Bend and students meet on campus. It’s very much bidirectional.”
It’s clear that both South Bend and Notre Dame are involved in these changing tides, and it’s up to the student body to take advantage of the talent our school and city have to offer.
“The thing about this is that literally anyone can help,” Murray said, “All you have to do is go on the calendar and share an event. You can go to an event, take a picture and share it with your friends, and it’s just going to spread like wildfire.”
So start a band, see a show or just help out by supporting your local musicians, on and off campus.
“I’m very enthusiastic about The Bridge Project,” McOsker added. “Now we need to make the music.”