The MASH: Interviews with Good Morning CT, Bonanza, and Johnnie Gilmore ’18

The Mash at Wesleyan University, Sept. 9. (Photo by Caroline Kravitz)

As you probably know by now, there is a fun event coming up this weekend called The MASH. The MASH is a performance event that happens every year during the first week of classes. It provides spaces and resources for different bands, singers, and artists to share their talent. Shoutout to Harrison Nir ’19, the student intern who has done a ton of work to make this event happen this year, and also Hanna Orovec, the staff member in the CFA that oversees the event. Give Josh‘s post a read if you want to know more about how this all came together. All of the groups that perform are Wesleyan affiliated, whether it be alumni bands like the one Michael Roth ’78 is in, faculty artists, or new ensembles like Good Morning Connecticut (GMCT). Below are some short interviews of student bands, including the aforementioned group GMCT, and another called Bonanza. We’ve also got some words from bassist Johnnie Gilmore ’18.

Good Morning CT: 

Who are you? 

GMCT is Sam McCarthy ’20 on guitar and vocals, Ava Thornton ’20 on vocals, Cal Mirowitz ’20 on keys and vocals, Gabe Leeman ’20 on bass and vocals, and Will Jacobson on drums and vocals. So a lot of vocals.

When did you meet and decide you wanted to play music together? 

Cal and Gabe began playing music together when they were about 12, and became a middle school hit with their cover of “One World” by The Police at the 8th grade talent show.  Since then, they’ve continued to play everything from Hiatus Kaiyote to  James Brown, and hope to bring their funky and wide range of music tastes to Good Morning Connecticut.  Sam and Will were both stars of their respective garage rock high school bands, but both of them have eclectic tastes. Shuffle their library and you’ll find Isaiah Rashad, Grizzly Bear and John Coltrane next to each other. Ava’s saintly voice has appeared everywhere on campus, from acapella groups to musicals, and she and Will were thrilled at their shared love of Frank Ocean and Homeshake. P.s. their cover of Self Control made them big time superstars at the Nics talent show, mimicking the success of Cal and Gabe’s police cover.  Together we hope to create a unique sound from all of these influences.

Gabe and Cal first met when Gabe became the New Kid at Cal’s elementary school. At first, there was some tangible tension between the two sprightly 8-year-olds wannabes, but eventually the tension dissipated when Cal realized that all perceived conflict was fabricated, and that beneath Gabe’s flowing golden locks lay a curious mind and a magnificent set of trumpet-playing lips. At that point the two began to hit it off. Since then, Gabe has lost his luscious blonde mane and his trumpet playing abilities, but the two have retained their soulful chemistry. When Gabe and Cal got to Wes they met Sam, Will, and Ava, and they all decided to play music together, for fun!

How have your performances changed over time, and how have you changed as band?

We’ve only played two shows together as a band, but because our first one was battle of the bands in April last year, we were definitely able to chill out a little for the second show and play a longer set.  This allowed us to play some more covers and original songs, get tighter as a group, and let our personalities come out a little bit during the show! Which is either good or bad! We’re definitely still in the early stages of playing live, though, and hope to focus on more originals and finding even more of a group sound moving forward.

Who are you most excited to see at the MASH? 

GMCT is thrilled to see the all-star lineup of Saint Something make their debut! We are also looking forward to Sloane Peterson, MEG, LAZ, and the one and only bass (and tambourine) virtuoso Johnnie Gilmore.

What do you think MASH stands for? 

We can only imagine that the MASH stands for Make America Sing Happily :)

Bonanza:

What are you backgrounds? Who are you? What kind of music do you make? 

Matt Forker ’19 has been playing music for most of his life. He went to a conservatory high school and majored in trombone but soon grew tired of it and, like most other angsty teenagers, gravitated towards guitar. He started the band Ginger and the Snaps (which

played at Music House the first weekend of second semester last year) in high school. Improvisation is so central to Matt’s love of music that he would never want to be a solo artist because a group’s capacity to collaborate and create something together is much greater and more unique than his ability to attempt the same thing alone.

Lily Landau ’18 wants to be a rock star when she grows up. She got her first guitar at the end of 8th grade and has been playing on and off ever since. Upon meeting Matt in 2015, she brought her guitar up to Wesleyan for the first time after fall break so they could make music together. She has very little actual scholarly knowledge of music and is the only non-music major in Bonanza.

AJ Girard ’18 was born and raised in New York and identifies as African American / Jamaican. He’s been playing the drums since he was three years old (!!!) and began by playing church music. He is still discovering what kind of music he wants to make.

Aïli Arakida-Izsak ’19 was born in NY and raised in Paris and identifies as Japanese, Hungarian and Israeli. Her musical background includes classical cello and voice and she is still figuring out who she is as well as what kind of music she wants to create.

Jeremy Freeman ’18 has been playing music since he was ~6 years old and got his start playing classical piano. In middle school he studied drums and guitar and began messing around on his friend’s bass in high school. He occasionally dabbles in the mandolin for fun and aspires to learn the cello (hint, hint Aïli!). He plays rock music because that’s the genre that sparked his passion for music, but he loves experimenting and playing various kinds of music.

We make adventurous, groovy, flowing, acrobatic, fizzy, frisky music ;)

When did you all first meet and decide you want to perform together? 

Bonanza Performing at what was formerly MuHo

Matt & Lily met in Dynamic Earth in fall 2015 and started the now extinct Dinomanic because of their mutual love of dinosaurs and funky tunes. Also in the fall of 2015,  Aïli and Lily both lived on the same hall in Westco and were assigned to be each others’ “friend-co.” Lily slipped a cute note under Aïli’s door and the rest was history. The lovely Alison Silverstein ’18 brought Jeremy to us because she knew he had a lot of music in common with Lily and thought we’d enjoy playing music together. Matt and AJ met in a Jazz class and decided to explore other genres outside of an academic setting. We all spent *a lot* of time in the Usdan practice rooms where we played old songs, wrote new songs, and celebrated a few birthdays.

What are some differences between your first performance together, and your most recent performance? How have you changed as a band? 

Our first performance was at the end of 2016, just before winter break. We were running late because Matt had a Jazz Orchestra concert which ended right when our set was supposed to start, so he ran from Crowell to (the space formerly known as) Music House. We played our entire set waaaay too fast and finished ~30 minutes of material in 15 minutes.

We’ve grown a lot as a band since then. We’ve opened for some of our favorite off campus bands (Delicate Steve and House of Waters) and Aïli has decided to dedicate herself to singing in lieu of playing cello. However, much has remained the same. Jeremy still performs only in sleepwear and AJ still keeps us sane. Live performance is important to us because of the spontaneity of it, which is manifested in the raw energy created by connecting with the other performers on stage.

We’ve got a new single dropping September 8th, but check out “Clementine” on bandcamp here!

Who else are you excited to see at the Mash?

Sahil Singhvi ’17, Purple Windsounds, North college visual artists, specifically Virginia Johnson ’17! We’re ultimately excited to see bands we haven’t heard before and get a general taste of what’s going on in the Wes music scene this year.

Any thoughts on why it’s called the Mash? 

When life gives you potatoes, make them into mash!

Find Bonanza’s FaceBook page here.

Johnnie Gilmore ’18:

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a bass player and songwriter from Boston, and a senior at Wes this year. Previously I was in Rui Barbosa, a jam-band in which we wrote songs about obscure historical figures and played full shows of Disney covers, and a Balkan-funk band called Nice Driveway. I’ve also played in five musical theater pits and many Espwesso jazz jams as a student here!

When did you get started performing? What was that like?

I think the first time was when I sang at an all-school assembly in first grade. (I have no idea how that happened, I still can’t sing to save my life.) It was terrifying, I had never been so nervous before.

Who are you excited to see at The MASH?

It’s a great lineup all the way through this year, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Tasty Desert Creatures, Good Morning Connecticut, LAZ, Savannah Jeffreys, Quasimodal, Bonanza, and Jess Best.

Why do you think it’s called ‘The MASH’?

…Making A Scene Here? Music And Social Hub? Or maybe it comes from “mashing” all these different Wes bands together on one big bill? XD I have no idea.

Let us know what you think MASH means! Have fun watching all of the amazing performances, including these wonderful bands! Go out and support some Wesleyan work.