When incoming first-years Daniel Asanov and Tomer Goldhagen started looking for suitemates, their search was based on a common interest: music.
Fueled by the excitement of starting college and being surrounded by like-minded musicians, their suite decided to start their band, Gum Box, almost as soon as they moved in.
Asanov posted on the UNC 2024 Instagram page in April, and a group of musicians gradually came together through social media and the UNC housing portal. They spent the summer getting to know each other on Zoom, and they hit it off right away.
When creating the roommate group in the housing portal, Asanov spontaneously named the group after the collection of gum boxes sitting on his desk, and the name stuck.
Just weeks after they arrived, the members of Gum Box — along with thousands of other students — were moving off campus again. Instead of having impromptu jam sessions in their hallway or doing homework to the sound of a saxophone solo, the group is now facing a semester of Zoom calls and carefully planned recording meet-ups.
But these musicians have no plans to let the distance stop them from writing and recording music together.
Becoming a band
After such a brief time on campus, it could’ve been easy to table the idea of a band entirely and to wait for a traditional, on-campus semester. After all, Gum Box technically hadn’t even had its first full-band rehearsal yet.
But Goldhagen said the group gained momentum simply from coming together to share what they loved, and they were eager to continue what they started. Creating their own band gave them a sense of musical freedom they hadn’t always had in high school.
In high school, band teachers and ensemble directors chose the repertoire, Goldhagen said, but now the group is free to explore the genres that interest them most.
“You’re suddenly bombarded with all this freedom and there’s a realization, like, 'Oh shit, I can play whatever I want to play, I can make whatever music I really want to,'” Goldhagen said. “It’s impossible not to have that carry over past when you go home.”
Currently, seven suite members are in the band, but they plan to eventually expand and add a vocalist. All of the suitemates have varied musical backgrounds, and they hope Gum Box will be an opportunity to blend all these interests, from jazz to pop to rock.
“We’re all super stoked about the prospect of creating some original content together,” guitarist Harrington Shaw said. “There’s just sort of an excitement amongst all of us that’s making us want to continue.”
Planning what's next
The past few weeks have been consumed with moving, but the group is already making plans for the rest of the semester. The band members are spread from Wilmington to Apex, but they’re prepared for the challenges of distance. In some ways, the distance could even have its benefits.
“It’s a little difficult to justify all of us getting together and not creating or recording if we’ve put all the effort to get together,” Shaw said. “It means you have to get stuff done when you get together. It means this is our time that we have to work on this and finish this and get it polished because everyone’s going to leave and then it’s going to be difficult to come back and do it again.”
The band is making plans to meet for its first recording session, in preparation for its first livestream performance. Gum Box will be recording a 15 to 30 minute set that will be streamed as the November installation of Arts Everywhere’s First Fridays concert series. The set will include the text of a few well-known poems set to original music written by the band members.
With the exception of this performance, Shaw said the group plans to focus mostly on writing and recording original music for a while as they get on their feet.
“We’re just in the theme of write it, record it now, and if we get to play it live in the future, we’ll figure it out when we get there,” saxophonist George Wasson said.
The bandmates agreed that they’d all miss their spontaneous jam sessions in the suite or on the sixth floor of Craige Residence Hall, but they’re optimistic about the opportunities the semester holds.
“In a way, it’s sort of changed the creative process,” Goldhagen said. “It’s definitely weird not being able to be in the same space — it definitely changes the way you have to think and communicate about the music.”
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