by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Anthony Stassi & r & (Drums, communications) & R & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & "D & lt;/span & id you black out?" Brian White asks Anthony Stassi, drummer, communications major and relative vagabond. "Uh ... yeah," comes the reply. Most nights, that's the end of the story, but on this occasion, the blackout was just the beginning. Following the wake-up, painfully early the next morning, Stassi sat down and wrote a 30-minute persuasive speech. Afterward he seemed cautiously optimistic about the results. "It was a disaster ... it went fine." Cautious optimism is Stassi's M.O.
A major in communications is what he came to by process of elimination. "I was in journalism for a while, but I said, 'Screw it,'" he recounts. "I was a music major," he continues, "but that didn't really work out. [Music] theory killed me." He illustrates how hard such music is by pointing to the band's resident musical savant: "It even kills Brian." At this moment, guitarist Brian White happens by in the hallway. "Hey Brian, I'm telling Luke how I got my ass bruised by theory." There's some vague grunt in the affirmative and Stassi concludes, "The professor actually insisted that I drop it." Each dropped major ends with a big smile and laugh.
Though he's critical of communications, he does admit to enjoying the class load. "It's like, 'Serious, we're going to watch videos all day?'" He laughs like it's too good to be true. "Basically all I do is watch videos."
That applies to the prospect of living in Spokane after graduation as well. Stassi says things like, "Spokane's just as rad as Seattle," with no trace of irony. "I'm excited about becoming a Spokie, excited about wasting a year here just working all day." He'll be happy to be where he is for as long as he stays. And when he moves on, one gets the sense, he'll be happy there, too.
"He's just not the kind of person who's bothered by things ..." says Geoff Doolittle. "He's the kind of guy [on graduation day, with no plans] who's going to be laughing his ass off while my life is epically crumbling."
That's not to suggest, though, that Stassis's complacent. The band's one-year-and-out suicide option was his idea, and he remains its most vocal proponent.
Geoff Doolittle & r & (Vocals, keys, philosophy) & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & "I & lt;/span & 'd love to be a writer or an artist, but that's such a bad, romantic dream," Geoff Doolittle confides as we wait in the lobby of Gonzaga's Music Annex for a string quartet to clear the practice space. "I've been thinking about just going hard into business for a while and just learning some things. Then, like, whatever I do, that experience would aid me. There's no way to escape business." For now, though, he's in a rock band, studying philosophy and taking vocal lessons.
At most shows, Doolittle rocks flannel, slacks and the kind of shower slippers you get at Rite Aid. He hops around behind his keyboard with his hands above his head, looking like the intersection of a Kundalini video and Kerouac playacting the Bodhisattva, all on a couple cans of Sparks+.
It's strange, then, to watch Doolittle in this setting. So comfortable and magnetic on stage, he looks uncertain, almost sheepish, in this tiny music room. He maintains steady eye contact with his instructor, Marjory Halvorson, as she warms him up: "Tuck that tailbone under and lift those ribs." She then has him grab a tuft of his own hair and lift it upward, to open up his chest.
Doolittle has good vocal range -- he's a baritone who could, Halvorson says, "do some tenor just fine." When singing the songs of Renaissance Britain, he affects a bit of an English accent. Halvorson accompanies him and critiques his vocals. She says all sorts of things vocal coaches say, the kinds of things that are indecipherable to the uninitiated. "Don't chew it," she says, or "No glottals in there," or "Remember, this is Renaissance: lots of mode."
"You're such a good musician, Geoff," she says reflectively at one point, as he struggles with a lilting French tune. It's earnest and warm, but the implicated end of that sentence, obviously, is: So why are you screwing this up so bad?
He does all of this -- the philosophy, the piano lessons, the vocal lessons, the drop-out year spent in South America -- in service to his art, certainly, but also to the greater aid of his personal growth. Doolittle's intelligent and highly reflective but still searching for that thing he's passionate about.
"I'd love to do grad school or something, but I need some time off first. I feel like I did college because college is what I was going to do, you know? So it has to be something I'm doing because I feel it."
He looks down at his feet while he walks, mulling things over. He takes a few more steps, trodding in the grass between the street and the sidewalk along North Addison before adding, "I think college is the new high school."
Jack Sheehy & r & (Bass guitar, math) & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & ost days, Jack Sheehy seems like a phantom. He doesn't live with the rest of the band, and isn't often physically present, but his specter is always felt. "Yaaaarrrrgghh," might come the cry from Anthony Stassi at any time, "Sheehy stole my lighter!" This happens often, says Stassi: "He's always walking off with stuff." A phantom who steals lighters, perhaps, but also one with amazing powers of calculation who stalks your children's dormitories at night to make sure they aren't drinking, A mathematics major and residence advisor for Gonzaga's Chardin Hall, he's got a lot more going on than Stassi does, and his work is less immediately transferable to the band than the others. (White and Doolittle have tough schedules, but a lot of that is music-related.)
"He's an R.A. He's into that R.A. deal," says Doolittle. That's code. It means that he believes Sheehy isn't as committed as he needs to be. When Sheehy missed the band's toughest test yet, a gig at the Comet Tavern on Seattle's Capitol Hill, feathers were rankled. It wasn't the "R.A. deal," in this case, but the Modern Geometry deal, a 300-level math midterm he had the morning after the show. "I wouldn't even consider asking that professor for an extension," Sheehy says matter-of-factly. There's no remorse there; he's doing what he has to do to keep himself on schedule, which is to move back to San Francisco immediately upon graduation in spring of 2007. That plan jibes fine, in his eyes, with the plans of the other members. "There's a chance that our immature friend Brian might put himself on the three-and-a-half year plan, which would mean that the band could move to a big city a semester after I graduate."
In the immediate future, Jack seems to be making concessions to prove his dedication to the band. He's agreed to shack up with Stassi and Doolittle in their (sketchy-sounding) new crib way off campus next year. Gonzaga will have lost an R.A., but Seaweed Jack will have a little more certainty in their rhythm section. And someone who can do hella integrals.
Brian White & r & (Guitar, music) & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & here isn't much room on this crowded half-balcony covered in folding chairs and Old English tallboys. Below, Brian White hops on his bike and tosses a glance over his shoulder before booking off down the street; drummer Anthony Stassi, taking this idyllic scene in, hollers, "Bring home A's, Brian!" before taking another listless drag from his Parliament.
White's the guy they jokingly mock for his musical zealotry and work ethic, but he also seems to be the person who inspires the group. It was White's insane rock axemanship that fueled the band's whirlwind first album.
Right now, though, in the Monaghan Mansion, GU's music building, White -- guitarless -- is singing his Do-Re-Mi's, clapping tempos and making jokes about musical movements. In response to a sultry alto sax coming from below the classroom, he says, "You gotta love that smoooooth jazz." To which his classmate remarks, "Under Stalin, saxophones were banned in Russia ... I find that humorous." White, right now, is in music-major heaven.
More than the obvious benefit his training gives to his guitar technique, he draws inspiration from the vitality and risk-taking of classical music. "Some classical composers are more experimental than anything in rock," he says, "I can see why my professors go crazy for it." His is a singular drive to reconcile the rock and classical traditions, and it's a project that consumes much of his time and all of his effort. "I haven't even registered for next year," he says. "There aren't many music majors, so I'll get into all those classes, but I haven't even thought about my core classes."
The only thing that even approaches White's passion for music is his passion for, believe it or not, juicing. "It's seriously a lifestyle," says White -- a lifestyle for which he's found a comrade in Stassi. The two claim to have been on a diet of cheap beer and gourmet juices for months now. White, for one, says he's never felt better.
"I'd love to be able to eat good food, but organic is so expensive." So in lieu of that, there's juicing. The two talk about it as wistfully as they talk about the band, mocking up business plans. "We'd like to open up a juice bar," says Stassi, a plan that White is sure there's a market for. "Huckleberry's is the only place in Spokane that does high-quality juices."
Stassi agrees, "And their shit is so expensive ..."
But it's worse than that, adds White, "...they give you all that foam."
Which leads Stassi to their ace in the hole: "Yeah, we have a defoamer."