Come together: Pittsburgh bands form collective, record label


Courtesy of Delicious Pastries

By Emma Maurice / Staff Writer

WPTS Radio is teaming up with Golden Magnet — a collective of four Pittsburgh-based bands — to show college kids that there is more to music than what’s playing on the Top 40.

Golden Magnet is musical support group, a record label and a collective made up of bands Delicious Pastries, Sleep Experiments, Mariage Blanc and Host Skull. The collective will play its first show together — a free, all-ages event co-sponsored by WPTS — in the Assembly Room of the William Pitt Union at 7 p.m. Friday.

Kayla Greygor, a Pitt senior and the promotions director at WPTS, said interest in local artists has taken a hit in Pittsburgh as people shy away from the local, $10 shows, opting instead for more expensive and popular shows at larger venues.

“I think the problem is that most people don’t search for new music. The music scene is there and it’s cool but most people just listen to the radio,” Greygor said. “Not a lot of the local concerts have the turnout that they should be pulling.”

Interest in the local music scene in Pittsburgh fluctuates between “peaks and valleys,” according to Jesse Ley, drummer for Delicious Pastries. All four bands in the collective are working to reinvigorate listeners, even when it seems like Pittsburghers’ music interest lies elsewhere.

“Thriving would not be the best word to describe [the music scene], but it’s certainly trending in the right direction,” Ley said. “Every day it seems like it’s growing and getting a little bit better, but there’s always room for improvement — there’s always room for growth.”

Greygor said Oakland’s music scene in particular suffers because it lacks a prominent music venue, filled instead with smaller garage, punk, indie and even hip-hop house shows. In surrounding neighborhoods — including South Side, Bloomfield, Lawrenceville and Polish Hill — most of the residents are old enough to drink, allowing venues such as Club Cafe, Rex Theater and Smiling Moose to cater to a wider audience.

Courtesy of Sleep Experiments
Courtesy of Sleep Experiments

Matt Ceraso, the guitarist and half of the songwriting team for the band Mariage Blanc, said the closure of all the Oakland music venues — for instance, the Decade Lounge — has made it difficult for local bands and artists to connect with the college demographic.

“Oakland has always had a thriving scene of house shows, which is great, but our goal is to try to expose people to other things that are happening in different parts of the city and encourage students to become more engaged,” Ceraso said.

The collective released its first single, called “Pygmalion Cantations,” by Delicious Pastries in August 2016. The single, like the rest of the band’s music, is psychedelic rock, with a prominent drumbeat and distorted vocals.

Golden Magnet, as a record label, gives the bands another platform to share their music.

“We wanted to establish a formal channel that allowed us the opportunity to document our individual and shared projects, while simultaneously having a means to deliver and promote these projects to the largest possible audience,” Ley said.

Though the collective glues the four bands together, each group has its own distinct sound.

Phil Johnson, guitarist for Sleep Experiments, said all of the bands were already familiar with each other’s sounds from being in the Pittsburgh music scene for about 10 years.

“We all gravitated toward one another because none of us are particularly ‘bar bands.’ Our music is not background music for a Friday night out — it’s meant to be paid attention to,” Johnson said.

Courtesy of Host Skull
 Courtesy of Host Skull

Each of the bands brings something different to the collective, from Mariage Blanc — nostalgically melancholy indie rock, with harmonizing vocals, heavy bass and acoustic guitar — to Delicious Pastries’ grungy, acid rock music.

Host Skull and Sleep Experiments both sit in between the two ends of this spectrum.

Host Skull pulls from indie rock and classic rock with innovative guitar riffs, an emphasis on syncopation and nearly erratic drum and vocals. The songs are held together in a loose,whimsical way as if each component fell into the same verse to make beautiful, but happenstance, music.

Steady bass anchors the wavy electric guitar and ethereal vocals in Sleep Experiments’ music, placing it solidly in the category of dream pop.

Since the collective formed, the bands haven’t yet had the chance to bring their varied music together at a show, according to David Bernabo, who sings, writes songs and plays guitar for Host Skull.

“This is our first big showcase as a collective. It’s the first chance for a public audience to see all four bands at once and get a feel for the variety of music that is encompassed in the collective,” Bernabo said.

Courtesy of Mariage Blanc
 Courtesy of Mariage Blanc

Though there isn’t one common musical thread tying the bands together, Ley said Pittsburgh’s vibrant arts community has a way of assembling like-minded individuals. Inevitably, musicians will start to see many familiar faces at shows, art openings, poetry readings or dance parties.

Friendships and camaraderie began to build as the musicians ran into each other over and over. The sheer amount of shared experience among the artists in the four bands led naturally to the formation of the collective in 2016.  

But without any facetime between local bands and the residents — mostly students — in Oakland, the neighborhood has lost interest in Pittsburgh’s music scene.

“What I want from this concert is to forge a healthy relationship between the University population in this area and what’s happening in their own backyard in regard to the arts community — whether it’s visual artists, performing artists, bands, theater, comedy, whatever it is,” Ley said.

Johnson of Sleep Experiments said the collective gives each individual band an added note of legitimacy — people tend to pay more attention to musicians that are part of a collective, label or organization.

“We’re looking to see what we can do with each other. [The collective] is a place where we can bounce ideas off of each other and try and stress the ideas of what you can do with music — how you release it and how you perform it live,” Johnson said.

The collective gives the musicians a creative spark and a collaborative space. The bands want to expand their reach and impact on Pittsburgh’s music scene, and are looking forward to showcasing their talents in Oakland.

“The goal of this show is to have an amazing party,” Ley said. “We want to let the student population know that we’re here and there’s a lot of great things like this that happen all of the time.”

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