I was nervous, worried about interviewing nine people. A whole band (literally) of strangers and just me–that’s intimidating. Trying to block out the negative thoughts threatening to overwhelm me with anxiety, I reassured myself: “They’re only people, that’s all–just like me–mostly college students, nothing to worry about.” Still though, when I arrived to meet Sly Chi, there was a pit of anxiety brewing within and I was wrestling it for control. Attempting to seem confident, I timidly entered the apartment and sought out my contact Tyler Stanley to no avail. There were a lot of people around. The three-story apartment was a living entity, pulsing with the energy of those housed within. Beginning to introduce myself I was welcomed by curious gazes and warm handshakes. Nobody seemed aware that I was coming. They obviously had less anxiety about this meeting than I had.
Aside from the front room, which appeared to be Sly Chi’s practice space, the apartment was a typical male dwelling. Tapestries and posters adorned the walls, bottles and cans dressed the tables. Becoming conscious of my presence, Jay Desormeau and my contact Tyler Stanley, who appeared moments earlier blurry-eyed from an afternoon nap, hurriedly removed a few empty bottles in an attempt to tidy the place.
Claiming a couch as my quarters, I settled in to embark upon the official investigation. Desormeau and Stanley acted as spokesmen, chatting easily about the history of the band. At this point, the comfortable atmosphere seeped into my being the way I imagine osmosis works. My anxiety diminished.
These guys weren’t scary–they were chill and relaxed. While we sat chatting, several band members worked on a new song in the music room adjoining the living room.
Curious about the creation of a song, I questioned the process. Brian Pierce, the lead singer and one of two trumpet players, described it as a “collective composition.” Somebody comes in with a basic idea, and from there, each musician writes the part they’ll play. Do all bands write music this way, I wonder.
Stanley rose, deciding it was time to practice a little, and I was left with Desormeau who eagerly recounted his immersion into music. Soon Desormeau rose as well and there seemed to be a kind of unspoken mutual relocation going on. Several band members emerged from the basement where they were playing foosball. Sitting with Katrina Maliski a friend of the band, I suddenly discover how difficult it is to talk. The band had officially begun to practice as a whole unit, and where there was various strumming and tooting before, now there was a full song in the works. “They start off in different ends of the house and end up all together playing suddenly,” said Maliski. Indeed that seemed to be the case. With seemingly no plan and little instruction, they wound up together banging out a tune.
Maliski and I became acquainted in the time before the band broke again and other members joined us to chat. Rafael Keilt-Freyre, eager to practice the new tune he had been working on, sat on the adjacent couch, seemingly defeated. “I’ve been wanting to get this tune down forever,” he said when I questioned his disposition. Most of the band retreated to the basement to regroup for foosball, and there didn’t seem to be much hope left for further practice time. Somebody asked Keilt-Freyre what his song was all about. “Nothing heavy,” he replied. “It’s about the relationship and energy between the crowd and the band. It’s gonna be about funk.” Heads nodded appreciatively.
Although it was never declared officially, practice was over and I made the rounds saying my goodbyes. Everybody thanked me for coming and attached my name to the goodbye. It felt sincere rather than obligatory, and upon departure I was content with my evening with Sly Chi.