Final Post: Local musicians disappointed with lack of student awareness and interest

Heads and Tales is a local UNH indie-rock band that dreams of someday making a career out of its music. It’s members, Ian Sleeper (guitarist), Tom Sattler (bassist), Cory Persson (guitarist), Charlie Weinmann (drummer) and Sam Johnson (singer), are all dedicated musicians who have played instruments since they were young.

Garret Finn, an electronic musician who calls himself Rhyot on stage, has similar goals. Finn has only been playing electronic music for a little over year, but he already knows that he wants to pursue a career in music.

Despite the differences in genre, Finn and Heads and Tales share the same ambitions. However, they also share the same roadblock: finding venues on campus to play their music.

Neighboring towns, like Portsmouth and Newmarket, offer plenty of options for bands to perform live and showcase their new music. The Pressroom and The Rusty Hammer in Portsmouth, and The Stone Church in Newmarket, are just a few of the places that offer live shows regularly.

But playing in towns outside of Durham prohibits artists and bands like Finn and Heads and Tales from reaching their primary target audience: college students.

UNH offers two large events for bands to play. At the end of each academic year, WUNH hosts its annual Hi-Fi Music Festival, where bands are welcome to perform live on the Thompson Hall lawn. The university also arranges the May Day Parade, which sets up a small stage for musicians to perform in the middle of the carnival.

Heads and Tales performed at The Grind on Friday, Nov. 30. The Grind is one of the few opportunities that local bands and musicians have to play their music.

Heads and Tales performed at The Grind on Friday, Nov. 30. The Grind is one of the few opportunities that local bands and musicians have to play their music.

The Campus Activity Board (CAB), organizes The Grind, a concert series designed for local musicians to play in front of students.

Aside from these organized events, most of which take place at the end of academic semesters, there are few alternative options.

“We’ve tried all the bars in downtown [Durham], and they all said no,” Johnson said. “As far as downtown Durham and this campus, the music scene is limited to none.”

Heads and Tales has played over 10 different shows since its creation, but most of the venues have been off campus. In fact, one of its most recent performances was even out of state: the Wicked Music Festival in Worcester, Mass.

Sattler believes that UNH over-advertises for other campus events and doesn’t advertise enough for music events like The Grind. All the members of Heads and Tales agree that the musical awareness in the Durham area is extremely low.

“I think people have different priorities,” Sattler said. “People want to go to a frat or an apartment instead of listening to music.”

Ironically, the fraternities and many of the apartments on campus often ask Finn to DJ their house parties.

Finn, who plays a very distinct style of music, said that he can find plenty of venues to DJ, but finding a venue that asks specifically for electronic music can be challenging.

DJing, which only requires to the artist to mix songs and tracks that the audience knows, is much different from composing original electronic music. Even though Finn is able to regularly perform, he said that he has not gotten many chances to strictly play electronic music.

Some believe that the campus’ low musical awareness isn’t just restricted to local music. Sean Riley, the music director of WUNH, thinks that UNH students lack any awareness in general, therefore affecting the number of events that the school hosts and the number of attendees at performances.

“We help the local music as much as we can. The problem is the overall music taste at UNH, frankly, sucks,” Riley said. “It’s a real challenge. We’ve had to focus our efforts to off campus things.”

WUNH currently works with The Stone Church in broadcasting live music. When the church has live performances, the radio station has permission to play that band’s music. Sometimes those bands come from UNH, but the fact of the matter is that they aren’t playing on campus.

Riley said that WUNH’s relationship with The Stone Church has been successful, but he still wishes that there were more opportunities for local bands and artists to play on campus. In addition to low awareness, he thinks that student interest in music is severely lacking.

“I have no idea why nobody on this campus wants to go do anything. It’s something we’ve discussed in trying to create shows of our own,” Riley said. “It’s a swing and a miss overall doing things on campus because no one is really interested in it, unfortunately.”

WUNH has been trying to listen to what students want, in hopes of increasing both awareness and interest. DJs were added to last year’s Hi-Fi roster, but, according to Riley, the attendance level did not increase in the way he had hoped.

Heads and Tales has recognized that this is an issue that has to be resolved. The band hopes to form a student organization with other local groups that promotes and puts together different performances for local musicians.

“We are fairly disappointed with the local music scene at UNH,” Johnson said. “We would like to see it changed during our tenure here.”

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Garret Finn, otherwise known as DJ Rhyot

I recently had a chance to sit down and talk to UNH senior Garret Finn, a local electronic music artist. Known as Rhyot on stage, Finn has only been playing electronic music for a little over a year, but already knows that he wants to pursue a career in the industry. In our interview, Finn talks about how his interest in music started with drumming, and how he hopes to escape the mainstream title of being a “DJ”. Finn also describes that finding venues to play electronic music is much more challenging than finding venues to DJ.

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WUNH blames lack of local music support on low student interest

WUNH, University of New Hampshire’s student run and only radio station, is known for playing genres and artists that are underrepresented in mainstream media. This means that many of the songs the station plays come from local and Seacoast area bands and musicians.

Despite its dedication to serving lesser-known artists, WUNH’s music director, Sean Riley, shares similar views with Heads and Tales about Durham’s music scene: there really isn’t one.

“We help the local music as much as we can. The problem is the overall music taste at UNH, frankly, sucks,” Riley said. “It’s a real challenge. We’ve had to focus our efforts to off campus things.”

Every year, WUNH hosts the Hi-Fi Music Festival. It celebrates the end of the academic year by brining in as many local bands as it can to play hours of live music.

But this is the only on-campus event that the radio station hosts. WUNH is currently working with the Stone Church in Newmarket, N.H. When the church brings in acts to perform live, the station has permission to occasionally broadcast the performances.

Even though the station has to focus on neighboring towns in order to be successful in promoting local music, Riley wishes that the campus offered more opportunities. He blames most of the lack of musical awareness on the students low interest level.

“I have no idea why nobody on this campus wants to go do anything,” Riley said. “It’s something we’ve discussed in trying to create shows of our own.”

WUNH has beent trying to listen to what students want. DJs were added to the roster at last year’s Hi-Fi event, but according to Riley, it barely raised the attendance level.

“It’s a swing and miss overall with doing things on campus because no one is really interested in it, unfortunately,” he said.

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Heads and Tales disappointed with lack of local music support

Since its transition from The Sam King Band, Heads and Tales has performed 10 shows at different venues, many of which have been bars in Portsmouth, like The Thirsty Moose. While the members of the group have been extremely satisfied with their success and the progress they have been making, there is one thing that still bothers them: they rarely ever get a chance to play on the UNH campus.

Aside from big UNH events like the May Day and Hi-Fi festivals, and smaller events like The Grind, UNH doesn’t offer many opportunities for local bands to play on campus.

Heads and Tales performed at UNH's The Grind on Friday, Nov. 30 in the Strafford Room. The Grind is one of the few outlets that the band has to perform its music on campus.

Heads and Tales performed at UNH’s The Grind on Friday, Nov. 30 in the Strafford Room. The Grind is one of the few outlets that the band has to perform its music on campus.

Neighboring cities and towns like Portsmouth and Newmarket offer multiple opportunities for local bands to perform. In Portsmouth alone, there are nearly 20 different open mic nights in the entire month of December being held at a variety of venues. Places like the Gas Light Pizza Club, The Press Room, and The Rusty Hammer are just a few of the places in Portsmouth that are offering open mic nights.

While these venues give local bands chances to showcase their music, it doesn’t give them a chance to play to their target audience: college students.

“We’ve tried all the bars in downtown, and they all said no,” Sam Johnson, Heads and Tale’s lead singer, said. “As far as downtown Durham and this campus, the music scene is limited to none.”

Ian Sleeper, one the bands guitarists, blames Durham’s lack of venues on its low musical awareness. Tom Sattler, the band’s bassist, agrees.

“I think people have different priorities,” Sattler said. “People want to go to a frat or an apartment instead of listening to music.”

In order to gain more awareness, the group plans on making a student organization sometime during the spring semester. The members hope that by brining in other local bands, like Pants are a Myth and Gretchen and the Pickpockets, music awareness will increase in the Durham area.

“We are fairly disappointed with the music scene at UNH,” Johnson said. “We would like to see it change during our tenure here.”

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From Sam King Band to Heads and Tales

The Sam King Band, a local UNH music group, was formed last year by members Sam Johnson (vocals), Ian Sleeper (guitarist), Cory Persson (guitarist), Charlie Weinmann (drums), and Alex Philbrick (bassist). Since then the band has transitioned from a blues cover band to an indie-rock group, changed their name to Heads and Tales, and recruited freshman Tom Sattler as the new bassist.

The Sam King Band was initially formed by Johnson.  After seeing Weinmann, Sleeper, and Persson perform at UNH’s The Grind, Johnson decided that he had to get together with the talented musicians.

Despite his sudden urge to play music, Johnson didn’t have any desire to form a band when he cam to UNH as a freshman.

“I had no intention of making a band,” he said. “I was originally a chorus and choir kid. I even wanted to be a doctor.”

After officially meeting up and recruiting Philbrick as their bassist, the five musicians decided on their name at the very last minute before the show. By taking Johnson’s middle name, King, The Sam King Band was born.

(Clockwise from top right) Sam Johnson, Ian Sleeper, Cory Persson, and Charlie Weinmann formed The Same King Band during the 2011-2012 academic year. Alex Philbrick (not shown) played as the band's bassist.

(Clockwise from top right) Sam Johnson, Ian Sleeper, Cory Persson, and Charlie Weinmann formed The Same King Band during the 2011-2012 academic year. Alex Philbrick (not shown) played as the band’s bassist.

Weinmann, Persson, and Sleeper all started out as blues musicians. Johnson, who is an indie-rock fan, showed the other band members some of his favorite music, and they were all instantly hooked.

The Same King Band originally played outside of the popular UNH convenience store, Wild Catessan, after a performance at the UNH Prom. The members started seeing immediate popularity, and even found that they had “groupies”.

They eventually wanted to seek larger venues, and were able to perform at UNH’s Hi-fi festival and May Day parade.

The band members admitted that they were very pleased with their first year together, but they decided one night that the name Sam King Band focused too much Johnson.

“It wasn’t my intention by any means,” Johnson said. “I actually didn’t really want the name.”

While discussing the name over a campfire, they all agreed on the name and Heads and Tales, inspired from lyrics from “The Scientist,” by Coldplay (“Chasing our tails…”).

After the 2011-2012 academic year, Philbrick moved to Nashville, Tenn. and enrolled in Belmont University to study music. Sleeper decided that his friend, Sattler, would be a good fit for the band, and asked him to join.

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Ian Sleeper of Heads and Tales

Ian Sleeper is one of the first members of the UNH student band, Heads and Tales, and is one of the two guitarists. In my interview with him, Sleeper explains that his first instrument was a saxophone and he originally played blues in high school. Playing with Heads and Tales is his first time playing in an indie-rock band.

Ian Sleeper, one of the guitarists for the UNH student band Heads and Tales, was originally a blues musician in high school.

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Charlie Weinmann of Heads and Tales

I recently spoke with Charlie Weinmann, Head and Tales‘ drummer. Weinmann, a sophomore journalism major at UNH, began his music career in third grade. Originally wanting to sign up to play the saxophone, he ended up taking drum lessons and has been playing ever since.

Charlie Weinmann, Heads and Tales drummer, has been playing the drums since third grade.

To hear more of our conversation and how he ended up joining Heads and Tales, listen to the sound file below:

I also had a chance to speak with Ian Sleeper, one of Head and Tales’ guitarists. Our conversation will be up within the next day, so stay posted.

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