By Felicia DeInnocentis, Brooke Nowakowski and Lauren Tsai | Contributing Writers
The odd English poetry assignment might be the end of the road for the typical teenager when it comes to creative expression. But in an age where one can broadcast their work with increasing ease, aspiring garage band artists and amateur songwriters are a flourishing breed- even within Johnson’s walls.
The student band members of “First Heal” came together for the love of alternative rock.
“We’re just three guys who love to play music,” junior Matt Rodriguez said. “We’ve been together probably about a year and a half. This is our third summer working together.”
Guitarist Rodriguez and his band have found an audience at the White Rabbit, where they are compensated for their performances. For bands playing the local stage, income depends upon fan following.
“If you bring in fifteen people, then you can get fifteen dollars. If you bring in more than twenty people, it’s two dollars after that,” Rodriguez said. “So, let’s say you can bring in 50 people; then, you can make 100 dollars. It’s a pretty decent amount of money.”
Making it to the stage has been a journey for the band, dotted with milestones that continue to this day.
“Well, we played at SACC’s Battle of the Bands freshman year, and kind of just picked up from there,” junior and drummer Ty Dillon said. We just started writing songs and we just started playing our music. We actually have our EP coming out in another month; probably less than a month now, and it’s pretty cool.”
First Heal does not have their own producer or record deal, so much of the work of creating an EP rests in their own hands.
‘We’re not signed, so it’ll probably just be through ourselves. We’ll probably have a releasing show at the White Rabbit or somewhere like that. There’s kind of a lot of local bands doing that, just pressing themselves,” Dillon said.
The most popular (and an important) way for a band to market itself is through a demo CD, featuring tracks that express their musical breadth. Such marketing is integral to getting the word out and building an audience. In the digital age, Facebook joins merch and music as a conduit of publicity.
“It’s not just given to you. You actually have to get out there and advertise for the band,” Rodriguez said. “Facebook and Myspace are definitely the best. Put your music on there; you can have different announcements on the web, it gets out to different people.”
“Really, all you have to do is play shows and hopefully someone will see you. And you just gotta keep working your way up the ladder from there. Hopefully you’ll get picked up by somebody,” Dillon said.
Although the band has a marketing plan and performs frequently, they still have difficulty in drumming up numbers for their shows.
“First, you gotta get a following. That’s been a real problem; trying to get a bunch of people to go to the White Rabbit. They go to Johnson High School, and not a lot of people go down there,” Dillon said.
The band has their own sound, but a lack of definitive genre usually leads them to perform with a variety of groups.
“There’s not a lot of actually legitimate rock bands in San Antonio, so we either get stuck playing with pop-punk bands like Not So Lucky, or bands like them, or we’ll play with metal shows, because we don’t really fit with either group,” Dillon said. “A lot people ask us if we’re a Christian band. We’re all Christians in the band, but we’re not a worship band.”
The members of the band, though varied in interest, are united by music.
“We all have our different goals. I want to do music for the rest of my life. And, I know that our lead singer Riley wants to do something with this band,” Dillon said. “We’re going to try to stay together as long as we can. And do something with this, and if not, we’ll all go our separate ways.”
Although they are not a totally placid entity, their group dynamic remains strong and brotherly.
“A lot of people argue, obviously. I just try to stick to what the Bible says; kinda make peace. Sometimes it’s really stressful, trying to compete with what the others want to do, but we’re all best friends, and it’s going to stay that way,” Dillon said.
Watch First Heal in action at their Youtube account, and stay tuned for more on Johnson’s undercover artists.