Celebrating musical independence

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First Posted: 6/24/2014

Nick Van Wagenen is not only a big supporter of the local music scene – he was destined from a young age to be a part of it.

“My father was in bands and stuff before I was born. Just from a really young age, I listened to rock music from both of my parents. I was raised on KISS and Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and Ozzy (Osbourne) and everything. My dad brought me to my first concert. I saw KISS when I was 8 years old and just from then, that’s when I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Music has just always been a huge part of my life,” Van Wagenen explained.

“I actually started a band in high school and did the talent show kind of deal, and then after I graduated, I formed a real band. I’ve just been doing that ever since.”

The 24-year-old Clarks Summit resident formed the Scranton-based band Silhouette Lies in 2010 with guitarist/vocalist Raf Pimentel and guitarist Eric Manley, learning a few covers and playing an impromptu acoustic show at a billiard hall in Dickson City.

“It clicked really, really well. We really liked working together, and we got a good response right from the first show,” he recalled.

From there, they asked drummer Dave Frable to join the group, then Nick Savinelli rounded out the lineup later on bass and vocals. Taking their name from a Thrice lyric, the only band they agreed on musically, they seamlessly blended their differing tastes together.

“The outcome was kind of a mix of everything. We have people tell us that we have Thrice influence, we have Deftones influence, so we never really tailored to sound like anything. We just started writing music and people started liking it,” the vocalist said.

“Right from the bat, people never know what to expect with us. There’s something about the chemistry that it always sounds like us, no matter what it is – if it’s an acoustic piece or if it’s the heaviest thing we’ve ever done, it still sounds like us. People really like that, and it’s nice for us because we don’t have to think about it. We can just write and let it flow. It’s been fun.”

Van Wagenen and Pimentel pen the lyrics, which also draw inspiration from many different sources.

“I write a lot about fiction. I’ll have my own take on a novel that I read or a movie that I saw, and Raf will be more literal, maybe talk about politics a little bit, maybe talk about life a little bit. Then both of us have that middle ground, like the common ground. Both of us can write songs about maybe a relationship or things like that, so it runs the gamut from what we write about. It interests people who like metal music and people who like indie music. There’s kind of something for everybody in our stuff.”

With a five-song EP under their belt, they’re hoping to record a full-length album within the next year, but Van Wagenen’s primary concern as of late has been building a local fan base and music scene. While coming across Breathe Till Dawn online one day, a band from Toledo, Ohio, he was inspired by the independent financing of their album to start his own independent music festival, dubbed Independence Fest.

“I thought that was cool. A lot of bands are doing it, but at the time, they were one of the first bands I saw that made me realize, ‘Hey, this band is doing everything completely by themselves and they’re actually putting money into the promotion of it and trying to get as many people as they can to hear it,’ so I checked it out and I was impressed by what I heard, so I contacted them and found out that they were doing a tour right around this summer, and I decided to start setting things up,” he said.

“I wanted to get them in here and kind of build a show around it, so we decided to have them come in, and they have tourmates called The Promise Hero that are a little bit more acoustic. I think they have a full band live, but recorded it’s just one guy with an acoustic guitar, a really good songwriter from what I can tell,” he continued.

“I feel that Scranton has a really, really good scene, and I would like all bands that are even close to this area, if they’re coming through, I want to show them what we have. I wanted to show them that this area really cares about independent music and original music.”

Not only is the festival one day from Independence Day, it’s also just before the Vans Warped Tour comes to town.

“I wanted to do it right around the Warped Tour Scranton date for 2014 because I used to go to Warped Tour all the time and would like to go to Warped Tour, but I see so many kids every year get so excited about Warped Tour, and they’re dropping $50 on a ticket to go see one band that they like play for 25 minutes when none of these kids come out and see six bands play for $5 for an hour a piece right next door in Scranton. And it’s not because they don’t like these bands – it’s because they don’t know that they exist. They have no idea, or I think that there’s kind of a stigma, like, ‘Well, you’re a band from Scranton. You’re playing in Scranton bars. You’re not as good as this band playing Warped Tour,’” he noted.

It’s only $7 to get in, and attendees have the chance to win a pair of tickets to Warped, though Van Wagenen feels many of the bands playing at The Vintage on July 3 could fit right in on the annual tour.

“I want kids to come out and realize that this is where these Warped Tour bands, these touring bands, this is where they start. You might be able to find your new favorite band right next door. Maybe not, but you never know. So many people don’t even realize that this scene exists, so I think it’ll be cool just to raise awareness for the music scene as a whole,” he emphasized.

“They can come out and see this band every other weekend and get to know the members and follow everything they do, and it’s a much better experience, I think, than just following somebody on Twitter.

I’m hoping people come out and people have a good time and support these bands that are touring on their own dime. Eye On Attraction is actually leaving the next day for their first tour. … I’m hoping that it’s going to be a big event.”