In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chapman musicians have been adjusting to the loss of live events and the rise of at-home producing. Photo provided by Paul Gutierrez. Edited by Julianna Mitchell.

It’s a Friday night in 2019: the lights are flashing, the vibe is right, and heads everywhere are bobbing to the original sound of a Chapman musician. Maybe it’s someone from your creative producing lecture or even someone from your English class.

Regardless, you’re having fun soaking in the joys of live entertainment.

Flashforward to 2021: you’re sitting on your bed, watching concert after concert being postponed and thinking, I miss live music. 

Junior Zoe Tanton is one of many Chapman students grieving the loss of the live music scene–especially when it comes to Chapman musicians. As an attendee of the winter 2019 showcase by The Co11ective, a creative-collaboration club on campus, Tanton highlighted this concert as a core memory of her sophomore year.

“I was just so in awe of how musically talented all of the students at Chapman were,” Tanton said. “I got to see artists like Tommy Guala, who’s great. ‘Suburban Delusion’ is a banger.”

Maplewood, a Chapman rap duo consisting of Kamari Pope and Sule Murray, performing at The Co11ective’s winter 2019 showcase. Photo provided by The Co11ective.

Senior Adriana Ferrari was an avid Chapman concert attendee as well, prior to the pandemic. Whether it was watching her friends play in the dorms, off-campus housing, or small venues, Ferrari always made time to relax and enjoy the music of her peers–specifically, the band North Morlan.

“I’ve actually been a fan of North Morlan since my freshman year,” Ferrari said. “I loved watching them play at parties, bars, and other venues…I totally miss live music.”

The music scene at Chapman once was a weekend staple at house parties, small-venue concerts, and maybe even in the hallways of a dorm. Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, what once were fun, music-filled Friday nights are nothing but a memory. And with Chapman musicians thrown off of the stage, your favorite local bands have taken the plunge into the world of stay-at-home studios. 

North Morlan (the cool kids call them NOMO) is a Chapman music scene staple that has been adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions. After getting their start in the North Morlan dorms, Seniors Jack Kimber, Jason MacMillan, Ethan Ganouna, and Chapman alum Naveed Farhadi have been playing music together all over the O.C. for the past 4 years. Typically seen rocking out at house parties and touring regionally, the indie-rock band shifted its focus from live music to recording their album over the quarantine.

North Morlan reviewing tracks in the studio. Photo provided by North Morlan.

“Thankfully since we live together, we were able to write and arrange everything in our garage,” NOMO said in a collective statement. “As much as time away from the stage sucked, it gave us the ability to focus on ourselves, redefine our goals, and really hone on our recorded sound, which we dub ‘Alternative Groove Rock.’”

NOMO’s debut album, ‘Tanline,’ will be released on all streaming platforms May 15th.

And unless you were living as a hermit pre-pandemic, the name “Tommy Guala” may ring a bell. This junior creative producing major and member of The Co11ective is a staple in the Chapman music scene. And while “Tommy Guala” may not be his real name, Paul Gutierrez’s dedication to his craft has stayed authentic throughout the pandemic.

Last spring, Gutierrez was gearing up for another live performance following his first show at Chapman in December 2019. However, a day before the show was supposed to take place, Chapman’s emergency order was enforced, canceling Gutierrez’s show. And, in turn, he was sent home to Denver, Colorado.

“Even though I was back home, access to resources wasn’t really the problem,” Gutierrez said. “I get super in my head when I release music because it represents me, and during quarantine I was a bored, stagnant version of myself. So, most of what I was making was uninspired.”

Tommy Guala (center) performing his song, “Suburban Delusion” at The Co11ective’s winter 2019 showcase as fans jam out with him. Photo provided by Gutierrez.

However, Gutierrez overcame his creativity block upon returning to Orange. While quarantining, Gutierrez was flipping through old demos and rediscovered a beat he had made several months prior. From there, Gutierrez took to his at-home studio and repurposed the track into his new single, “turntables.”

“I spent my first fourteen days back in California writing and recording the various vocal layers of the track,” Gutierrez said. “I record everything in my room or garage, and produce it myself. It’s a slow process, but it works for me.”

“turntables” and other music by Tommy Guala can be streamed on all platforms.

Another Chapman artist Ella Martine, a senior screenwriting major, has also taken the extra stay-at-home time to work on new musical projects. After Chapman’s classes shifted to online, Martine moved to Los Angeles full-time to make music with her five roommates–all of which are music producers.

However, after seeing the “Harry Potter” movies trending on TikTok, Martine decided to put her own spin on the viral phenomenon: creating an album inspired by the classic films from the comfort of her own bedroom using–wait for it–Garageband: a free, entry-level program by Apple.

Martine, a guitar player since high school, incorporates a homely, acoustic vibe into her soulful, personal music. Photo provided by Martine.

“I think for a while I got lost in trying to make it in the pop industry rather than making the music that I love,” Martine says. “And I regained that during quarantine by making music with people that really listen and understand what I want out of my songs.”

As of May 2021, Martine’s album “until the very end” has amassed over 1,000,000 streams on Spotify. Her newest single, “Love Bomb,” is set to release on May 28th.

And as these well-known Chapman musicians have been continuing to keep their fans’ (and peers’) playlists happy, the door has also opened for newer musicians to take the (virtual) stage.

Having performed at Universal Studios Hollywood as one of the featured “frog choir” singers in Harry Potter World, Jason James’ life was flipped upside down when California announced theme park shutdowns in March 2020.

“The pandemic flipped the floor out from under me,” James said. “ But more than just me, the whole live entertainment community was really suffering.”

James performing as the Ravenclaw frog at Universal Studios Hollywood, pre-COVID. Photo provided by James.

With James’ ability to perform live halted, he took to his Anaheim apartment’s closet and recorded his first single, “Apocalypse Tune.” As a film music minor, James used his knowledge of mixing and mastering music to create a hilarious, timely song inspired by his love life during the pandemic. And cannibalism.

“The girl I wrote the song about, she and I actually wound up releasing a music video for the song,” James said. “It was nice that the song I wrote about missing her turned into something we could work on together.”

“Apocalypse Tune” is available on all streaming platforms.

James’ makeshift recording studio: college apartment closet style. Photo provided by James.

And with this rise of new, musical content, Chapman music lovers like Tanton and Ferrari are in luck. On May 6th 2021, the Co11ective announced an “open air art mixer” at The LAB Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa on Friday, May 15th (masks required). The musicians featured? No other than North Morlan, Tommy Guala, and Ella Martine, along with other Chapman students Jaeden Camstra, Mitch Austrian, and Will Tulip.

And yes, both Tanton and Ferrari will probably be there too.

“I’m pumped to finally see some live music,” Tanton said. “They have such a fun line up. I can’t wait!”

So, whether they’re making music in COVID-safe studios, DIY-garage setups, dark closets, from the comfort of their own bed, or small, COVID safe concerts, the musicians at Chapman continue to entertain the student body with their dedication to their craft. And with really good music, too.

To hear what these Chapman artists–and others–have been creating, check out our curated playlist here of Chapman’s finest.

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