What do you get when three high school students from Airdrie’s St. Martin de Porres form a band? Why, The Martin Project, of course.
The band’s members attribute Rick Simon, the school’s now-retired social studies teacher, also a musician, with its creation.
“He knew the three of us separately, and said we should play together,” says guitarist Dallon Frunchak. “We didn’t know each other, but we said, ‘Hey, what the heck, why not?’”
The band’s name is a tribute to the school.
Frunchak, 20, Jason Bennett, 21, and Vincent-Ayanda Ngwenya, 19, have become close friends, and are the creative fuel that ignites this listenable and energetic alternative rock band. Their inspiration may be the likes of Blink-182 and The Strokes, but they have their own distinctive sound.
One of their songs, Out of Time, released on the band’s debut EP last year, has been getting a lot of airtime, Frunchak says.
The song is a high-energy protest to the shortness of life. The lyrics are strong, driven by Ngwenya’s deep and powerful voice. He plays bass, and writes the lyrics to most of the group’s songs.
“My writing comes from a lot of different places,” he says, laughing. “I’ve probably written three songs while doing the dishes.”
Doing mundane things frees Ngwenya’s mind to envision how the music and vocals should sound and work together.
“He tells stories,” says Frunchak, pointing out that another of the EP’s songs, I’ll be Damned, is about war.
“I stay away from relationship songs, though,” chuckles Ngwenya.
The Martin Project’s creative process is organic.
“He comes in with a song, a guitar part,” says Frunchak of Ngwenya.
“He,” Ngwenya points to Bennett, who plays drums, “just starts jammin’ it.”
“I start jammin’ on it,” Frunchak jumps in, “And then, ‘Oh, hey, we gotta have lyrics.’”
They all laugh.
After graduation, the musicians took a break to pursue education – all three are studying business. They recently returned to practicing and writing.
“We’re not playing shows every night,” explains Frunchak, “But it’s something we want.”
Ngwenya has had an interest in music since he was a child, when his mother bought his first guitar.
“My family isn’t musical, but I love it.”
Frunchak credits his father with an interest in music, while Bennett comes from a musical family.
The trio record in Bennett’s basement, using an online midi tool to mix and finish tracks. They’d like to have another EP out, but their real passion is in playing gigs.
“It’s high energy,” explains Ngwenya.
“If you see us live, we play very simple,” says Frunchak. “(Ngwenya) plugs straight into his bass amp, (Bennett) has a simple drum kit, and I plug my Gibson right into my amp.”
“We just set it up, plug it in, and play,” says Bennett.
“Simple just sounds good,” observes Frunchak.
It’s this pure, straight-up sound that rocked the crowds at Bert Church Theatre during the annual SLAM on AIR songwriting contest last September.
“We didn’t win, but we had lots of fun,” says Frunchak, adding that their onstage energy left them sore the day after.
“Even if there isn’t a large audience,” adds Bennett. “We just have fun.”
For now, the trio is balancing school and music, but playing professionally is not far from their thoughts.
“It’s scary, but I would love to,” says Ngwenya.
“I would open up my own recording studio,” says Bennett.
Frunchak agrees, but: “Realistically, do you get a business degree, or take a risk and really push for the music? I don’t know. For now, we’re just having fun with it.”
For an EP, visit soundcloud.com/themartinproject