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Arts & Culture
The 2019 cohort of the Youth Reporting Institute and their work.

You either DIY or You Die

Rose DeConto
A stage presence workshop with Ian Horlbogen, Cooper Statile, and Noel Greene.

Starting a band is hard. I would know because I’ve been in four at this point. It’s hard enough to get people to show up for rehearsal – and it’s even harder when you’re under 18. People sometimes don’t take you seriously. They’ll assume you’re not good at playing, or they’ll take advantage of you.

We're not getting the respect we deserve and whatnot. So we decided we were gonna start a label and promote ourselves. -CJ Sierra

CJ Sierra is 19. He’s a drummer in the band Student Health. A few months ago, he and his bandmates got pushed around by an older band they played a show with.

“And the whole time we played, I was just angry,” CJ said. “I was just hitting my drum kit as hard as I could. And I was actually bleeding from my hands while playing, cause I didn't know what else to do.”

But, there was something he could do. About a month after that show, CJ got together with members of three other teenage bands. They were planning a show.

“We kind of all realized that it's really hard to get four relatively young bands on a single bill at a lot of venues locally,” CJ said. “So we were like, ‘We’re not getting the respect we deserve and whatnot. So we decided we were going to start a label and promote ourselves.”

Working Together To Lift Each Other As Performers

They call the label 85 Split. Together they can book gigs, release music, get things on social media, promote each other’s shows.

“Many bands nowadays...they're doing everything themselves,” he said. “They're promoting everything by themselves. They're recording their own music by themselves. You know, they're getting art done from someone by themselves. And it's really expensive."

Members of the collective pool resources. They share gear, and they help get each other recorded.

“Everybody plays with everybody. Everybody comes out and sees everybody else,” said Ian Horlbogen, 16, who plays bass in the band Orphan Riot. “We all work together.”

Recently, he got tips from Cooper Statile, the singer of Some Antics, another band in 85 Split.

“Okay, so cool, that should be a tempo where you really attack those notes doo doo doo doo doo doo doo…” Cooper said. “Don’t be afraid to really go at them…  you gotta bring the heaviness.”

Orphan Riot plays 4-5 shows a month. On this night, they played in Greenville at BackDoor Skate Shop. They’re playing a show with 85 Split labelmates Jimmy.

I hope that these younger bands will grow up and look at the bands behind them and say, 'I was helped. Now it's my turn to help you and whatnot and just ... keep it going. -CJ Sierra

“Oh look it’s Orphan Riot,” Jimmy said. “What up legends?”

Each band played a thirty minute set, but they all stayed until the very end.

“I talked to the bassist from Cell Rot, trying to get some tips on how to move while playing because… right now I kinda just stand there… and I don't like that,” said Ian. “I wanna… add more energy to the set.”

It’s been almost 6 months since 85 Split started. Bands say booking gigs is easier, and more people are coming to their shows. They’re releasing a compilation tape soon, and because all the bands are connected, more people are finding their music.

“We've had a lot of older bands come to us as well because they see what we're doing,” CJ said. “And they're like, ‘Oh, I want to be a part of that now’.”

CJ wants to build something that will last, to make sure nobody starts at square one.

“It’s important to show a lot of younger people, ‘Hey we’re here, let us help you’,” CJ said. “And then as we age out of 85 Split, I hope that these younger bands will grow up and look at the bands behind them and say, ‘I was helped. Now it's my turn to help you and whatnot and just… keep it going’.”

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