Midcoast not defined by genre

By Sam Malone

DeKALB — In an ornate house, down some carpeted stairs and into a basement with Beatles posters plastered on the walls, Marshall amps stacked in corners and cords haphazardly strewn about, four musicians from distinctly differing backgrounds come together to create the indescribable sounds of Midcoast.

They are: Shayla Chaichalad, Justin de’Caneva, Brett Meyer and Brandon Marshall.

The band does not want to be defined by genre.

“We’re developed, and we’ve gotten into a grove, but we don’t say ‘this is exactly who we are,’” Marshall said.

“I hope we never do,” Meyer said, rocking his weight back and forth as he sits cross-legged on the floor of their practice space.

Meyer, the group’s drummer, never stops moving. His drumsticks are glued to his hands, and the group agrees he is the peacemaker. Even as the rest of the band sits around him, Meyer drums on the carpeted floor.

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His drumming style is influenced by heavier bands, and he has been playing since fifth grade. When he plays, his eyes lock with Marshall’s who stands just in front of Meyer’s drumset, off to the left.

Marshall adds a Jimi Hendrix vibe to the mix, tossing between rhythm and lead guitar with de’Caneva.

Scaling the neck of his burnt yellow guitar with ease, Marshall, a ball of energy that cannot be contained, bounces around as he plays. It’s his guitar that will indicate the start of the band’s new single, “Taboo of Talking,” released Monday.

A fusion of classic rock, blues, R&B and jazz can be heard subtly bleeding through as the band rehearses for its recording session of the single. The song builds from Meyer’s hits to Marshall’s strumming as more sounds are added, inviting de’Caneva’s guitar into the conversation.

de’Caneva is the band’s ascribed “pretty boy,” Chaichalad said. Wearing his blue and white flannel and standing tall, de’Caneva joins in on the song, appearing as relaxed as can be. His eyes are glued to his fretboard as he adds in some blues-based licks. His orange sunburst guitar resembles a sunset, and he plays low notes, adding a clean and dramatic layer to the song.

Despite having different influences, as Chaichalad begins to sing and play her blood red bass, it’s as though her and de’Caneva are dancing with one another, playing off each other with ease. Her high tones and love for R&B seep through the seams of the song, which she said has emo-inspired lyrics.

“[Chaichalad’s] the voice of the band — the brand,” Marshall said.

While “Taboo of Talking” began with a riff from Marshall, Chaichalad added the lyrics, giving meaning to the music. She said the song is about the contradiction of people asking what’s bothering others but not wanting to truly listen to what the problem is.

In the confines of their practice space, Meyer’s cymbals shake from the reverberation of sound being projected from the amps and speakers. The music can be felt bouncing off of bodies.

Meyer and Marshall were the first to hit the studio to record their parts for the track, released Monday as the band’s latest single.

Currently, Midcoast can be found on Spotify, Amazon Music, iTunes, Facebook and Twitter. The group has 33 monthly listeners, according to Spotify and 156 Facebook likes. It’s a modest beginning, but the members are dreaming of something bigger.

After recording and relasing “Taboo of Talking” a full-band single, the next step for the band is a self-produced acoustic EP and then what they call their “official” full-band EP. Until then, they’re hoping to gig more, gaining fans as they go.

“And then take over the world,” Meyer joked, bouncing his drumsticks on the floor

“Nothing stops Midcoast,” de’Caneva said.

Chaichalad, the only member still earning her college degree, travels 45 minutes to the practice space every Tuesday coming from DeKalb where she is wrapping up her junior year studying environmental science at NIU. Marshall, Meyer and de’Caneva, who received their bachelor’s degrees from various universities, all work full-time jobs in addition to being in the band.

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Having only been together for roughly a year, the band started gigging in June.Hosting house shows and collaborating with other bands in the local scene is a big part of how they gain support, Chaichalad said. 

It has proven to be effective as the band sees its streaming numbers skyrocket after playing a gig.

de’Caneva said streaming services have made the music industry more accessible but have also watered down consumers. With so many bands out there, many simply become white noise, he said.

By pulling from so many different musical directions, Midcoast stands out, Marshall said.

“By playing with each other and not trying to change our individual sounds, we fill a cool niche other bands don’t,” he said, crossing his left leg over his right and leaning back in his chair. “It’s against the grain, so we’re different.”

Chaichalad, who is sitting with her legs notched on a faded blue couch, leans into the conversation.

“Think about the most iconic people,” she said. “None of them are normal. They stand out because they’re weird.”

While each band member could go on about their favorite musicians or the style of music they learned to play in, de’Caneva said they inspire and influence one another. For him, Marshall is his inspiration, an ironic twist to the duo’s relationship as Marshall said de’Caneva originally taught him much of what he knows.

Sometimes songs simply “click” for the band, as its members play impromptu parts inspired by one another, fitting them together like a musical puzzle piece. These moments can go on for five or ten minutes with Marshall and de’Caneva throwing the lead back and forth, Meyer driving the rhythm forward and Chaichalad pulling lyrics from thin air. Separately, the parts can each be defined, but together they create something uncategorized.