We all need role models. Depending on what we’re introduced to early on in life, we find our heroes in unusual places. Sometimes it’s family members who defeat struggles with brave confidence. Other times it’s classmates who go about school in a way you’ve never witnessed before. Usually it’s celebrities in the media, folks who grab our attention through a TV set, cinema screen, or magazine page, their words speaking volumes. Luckily for Boston, there are plenty of creative geniuses to look up to, especially if you’re eyeing music in specific.
In a selfless act of bridging old and new, East Boston youth nonprofit ZUMIX hosts a series of concerts aimed at introducing Boston acts with some of its own after school bands. Naturally, it opens space for a younger generation of musicians to play alongside, talk with, and learn from local musicians who, more often than not, are role models of their own.
On Friday, Aug 26, ZUMIX will host a performance by Allston rock staple Pile. There to open are three of ZUMIX’s own bands: the emotionally intricate Wild Painting and two of its current Rock Ed class groups, Submarine and Generic Dogg.
At the start of this year, 17-year-old guitarist Mario Duenas and 17-year-old bassist Juan Gutierrez approached 15-year-old singer and synth player Angelina Botticelli to ask if she was interested in forming a band. She couldn’t have given a more enthusiastic yes. With 16-year-old drummer Mario Jarjour at their side, the four formed Wild Painting, a synthpop band full of surprisingly powerful soul and intricate melodies. As the group comes to a close on its mixing sessions for its debut EP, Emotions, Wild Painting looks to the future and all that it holds, especially for a band still in its formative stage.
“It took a while for us to actually start rehearing,” says Bottecilli. “After a few practices of learning cover songs to get a feel for playing together, we wrote our first original, ‘Distractions’. It began as a jam session between Juan and Mario, and I started writing lyrics on my phone. Since then, we found how we wanted our sound to be, kind of like a mixture of ambient indie synthpop and rock with punk and jazz influences from each of our musical backgrounds. Writing originals is something really special and important to us.”
Initially, the band’s encouragement stemmed from ZUMIX, given that’s where it formed. “There’s an undeniable sense of love, friendship, and family at ZUMIX since I’ve been coming here for nearly nine years,” says Botticelli. “It’s like when you dream of somewhere that has everything you love and lets you do what you want to do in life and supports you. That for me would be ZUMIX. Hearing about a place in my community that was filled with people who had the same passion as I did and wanted to support me? That was something I couldn’t let slip away.”
“My first instrument was drums, and my teacher at the time, Mike Calabrese of Lake Street Dive, was someone who didn’t really allow me to say I couldn’t do something,” she continues. “There were many obstacles, of course, but he would never let me leave them as obstacles.”
Now the band is breaking down those barriers, including the fear of opening for a band the members look up to. “Since we’re a pretty fetus band and this will only be like our fifth gig, we want to make a good first impression and show people what we’ve created,” Botticelli explains. “Our drummer, Mario Jarjour, is seriously obsessed with Pile, so getting this gig is a really big deal for him. I don’t think we want to say we’re nervous, but we all secretly are. I mean, we aspire to be where Pile is in the Boston music scene right now, so this is crazy.”
As easy as it is to look up to Pile, the band itself doesn’t struggle to recall its early days. Back then, it accepted the safety of modesty, and now, as it becomes a musical role model for many, Pile still takes the modest route.
“It was difficult to convince people to come out to shows when I first started playing out,” says frontman Rick Maguire. “Somebody saying, ‘Maybe I’ll go’ translated to ‘I’m definitely not going’ and ‘I’m definitely going’ translated to ‘Maybe I’ll go.’ But acknowledging that it’s a privilege to be able to play music in front of anybody at all helped me to realize that I’m not entitled to anyone’s attention, and it allowed me to just be grateful that I can express myself by playing music with my friends.”
As it prepares to begin playing around the Boston area, Wild Painting breaks down the pros and cons of the city (“I think what separates the Boston music scene from those in other cities is how eclectic it is and how inviting, exciting, and accepting it is to all people and music tastes,” says Botticelli). Naturally, Pile has advice as a veteran of our area. The words are simple and effective, the type that bear repeating: “Enjoy yourself, be respectful, pay attention, and don’t try to be famous.”
Even for someone who’s technically still a preteen like Bottecilli, looking at early years reveals plenty of takeaways. “I’ve learned from other musicians that there are no boundaries to your music,” she explains. “You can sound however you like and you don’t need to conform to societies standards of whats “good.” One artist that really inspires my songwriting is Lorde. The way she writes her songs taught me that it’s okay to be upfront with your feelings, that there are more things in life to write about than romance and heartache.”
Pile and Wild Painting exchange information, suggestions, and advice before the show arrives, and as they do, one thing becomes clear: The line between young and old isn’t one that matters, nor is it much of a line at all. “Both the community and industry of music are chock full of people who either are children or who act like children,” explains Maguire. “They remind us to do or not to do all kinds of things.”
Some things need to be asked, though, and for Wild Painting, the question on the tip of its tongue is simple: What does Pile do before and after gigs?
“Before we play, I usually set up all the stuff we have for sale and wander around with a gallon of water, compulsively drinking as much as I can,” says Maguire. “After we play, I usually try to peddle some merchandise and then start packing up.”
Not the usual advice, but then again, Boston isn’t a city of usual musicians. That’s what makes shared advice all the more special, not to mention a shared bill.
PILE + WILD PAINTING + SUBMARINE + GENERIC DOGG. FRI 8.26. ZUMIX, 260 SUMNER ST., EAST BOSTON. 5:30PM/ALL AGES/$10. ZUMIX.ORG.